I’d be willing to bet dollars to doughnuts that every brand out there starts off looking at measurement in the same way: Measuring ROI of their social programs. In fact, brands get so consumed in this one particular measure, that they forget about what’s really import: Measuring the social engagement of your customers. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for measuring ROI and I think it’s important that brands know exactly what they’re getting for those social media dollars, but it’s important to create an approach that measures each phase of the buying cycle and not just the bottom line. This is the only way that you will ever create a business intelligence tool that will allow you to react to the marketplace, and not just report out.

Now that we’ve acknowledged the elephant in the room, let’s take a look at how you should approach accurately measuring a social media program. The answer isn’t scary if you follow these six steps.

Step1: Identify all of your social media channels.

Start by making a list of all of the social media channels that you are currently using to engage your customers. This would include Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, branded communities, partner communities, etc.

Step2: Create a list of data points.

Once you have identified all of the channels, evaluate each one and create a list of all of the data points that you can easily get from each.

Step3: Define the KPI that you need to measure.

Be specific here. Do not limit yourself to something generic like “support” or “community traffic.” Define a KPI that you feel confident justifying to senior management. This will also help you define the correct data points you need in the next step. For example: “decreasing the cost of online product support” or “increasing product awareness” are much more targeted KPIs that everyone can understand and support.

Step4: Select metrics that tell your story.

Go back and look at your list from Step2. Pretty comprehensive list, eh? Don’t worry; we’re not going to use all of them. In fact, your first task is to eliminate 50% of the metrics. Then, select six to eight metrics (out of all of the channels) that you feel will prove out your KPI.

Step5: Build the dashboard.

Start simple. Create a template in PowerPoint or Excel that you can easily insert data into and generate graphical reports. Set a time once a week for you to pull the data and populate the dashboard. This can be a manual process at first, but eventually you will need the assistance of an automated tool.

Step6: Evaluate and react.

Now that you have all of the relevant data in a single dashboard, share it with your team and set a recurring meeting to discuss your results and set next steps. It’s important to right the ship immediately if you are trending downward, but it’s just as important to evaluate what’s working and how you can leverage it in the future.

Granted, social media measurement can be a little daunting. Just Bing or Google “social media measurement” and look at all of those results. Most of which tell you absolutely nothing at all expect a few stats of what Facebook and Twitter are currently measuring. By following the steps above you should have a firm grasp of what it is that you’re trying to measure and how to create a process to accurately measure your social media program.

How are you currently measuring your social media efforts?

Brian Costea

Brian Costea