This blog post is the first of a three part series in which I am going to attempt in deconstructing the hype of social measurement and give some guidance on what you may want to focus on and why if you wish to be successful in tracking your social engagement efforts.

That said, here we go with part one.

The more you want to measure and the more accurate you want to be, the harder it is.  That is a simple fact.  Why?  Interdependent variables.  Meaning one thing impacts another and you have to take into account the effect each part has on the others, as well as, the whole.

Think about it.  How long does it take you to drive 300 miles from point A to point B on I-75 driving at 70 mph?  Simple math, right?  Throw in a few variables like driving with two kids, one of which needs a bathroom every 150 miles or so and another that gets carsick and needs to stop once about every 200-300 miles depending on the day.  How many stops and for how long?  Not exactly sure, but based on past experience you might have an idea.  So your simple math just got a little more complex right?  Miss those variables, as well as, factoring in their likelihood of happening and your metric can be off by a country mile.  If your second number is 35% off from your first number, is this a lot?  If the expected results fall 35% short of expectation, is this a lot?

This is the point I want to make with this series.  Right now, my blog feed is full of pundits saying measure this, KPI and ROI that.  It’s gotten pretty noisy on that bandwagon.  Some really do get it, as well as, how to do it.  However, the majority only sort of get it and don’t get how to do it, which is really the issue.  Problem is, many of us are measuring the wrong stuff and many times, the reams of dashboards created mean very little in terms of delivering real insight and actionable business value to the business enterprise.

What this means is there is an opportunity to improve.

What this means is a number of decisions being made based on attempts to measure social media are wrong.  Money is being wasted.  Loyalty is evaporating.  Market share shifting.

Don’t believe me? Would you stake your job today on the sentiment score your listening engine provides you?

So why are your collecting all those metrics in the first place?  What’s the purpose in all those man-hours invested in creating dashboards?  Simple.  You want to increase your effectiveness.  You want to be more relevant.  Guess less be right more.  Right?  Likely, the way you are measuring today won’t get you there.

Generally, we as marketers look for the cause and effect that is the result of a set of similar data streams (such as web trend data).  Here’s the problem.  I don’t know any social activity in which outcomes can be tracked by looking at only one or two things, moreover,

I can’t think of any social scenario where you can look at where ‘motivation’ and ‘opportunity’ don’t play a huge role in the outcome.  Like tracking how long it takes from getting from point A to point B, unless you include the right (or even representative variables, you will be off by a mile).

Motivation defines why something may happen.  Opportunity is the key for motivation to move from intent to action.  If, in a community, I am designated as a SME and I have the tools to increase the scope and impact of my status within the community, if that is important to me and I have the opportunity to do so without unneeded hurdles, I am likely to do so.

Social engagement is complex.  We don’t need to start with traffic metrics or listening tools, we should use them as part of the feed to ensure we are on track, but they only provide a piece to the puzzle.

Instead, we need to start with why are we wanting to do something?  Then we look at who we want to do it for-the customer.  So who exactly are they?  What is engagement to them (hint:  it is not just one thing, it is a spectrum)? Then, what are the range of things (venues, tools, programs and content) that will drive and sustain this engagement?  Can we (as a brand) do it well and consistently?  Begin with your business objective.  Define your KPI’s here.  Build your social strategy from this.  Then, define the scope of your program’s operation & who the engaged and active team will be comprised of

Then you group and bundle.  Activities and metrics.  Activities ladder to your social strategy and metrics support your KPI’s and everything needs to be tied to the objective.

Yes, easier said than done, however, I will be a broken record.  Successful social engagement , or measuring it is not easy.  Anybody that tells you this doesn’t understand it or is not telling the truth.

So don’t just measure social media.  That is a small piece of a much larger puzzle. Focus on the puzzle’s picture and all the pieces, not just the one in your hand.  Only then, will your programs work the way they are supposed to.  Just like a pain pump that delivers medicine out of the box each and every time.

Steve Hershberger

Steve Hershberger