By , Communications Executive, IAB
The debate about social media measurement has been running for as long as we in the IAB Social Media Council can remember (which either means that it’s a significant industry issue OR our excessive dependency on social networks has destroyed our long-term memories, I’d go for the former).
The on-going discussions are based on a number of key questions. Can social media activity be evaluated in the same way as other, more traditional techniques? If yes, which aspects should be measured? What measurement tools are available? Is it expensive? How time consuming is it? Once I have these results, what do they even mean? Difficult questions to answer, and perhaps a lesser group might flee at the prospect of attempting to bring some meaning to the measurement debate, but not the IAB.
The IAB social media council measurement sub group have launched their first initiative of 2011 – a guide to social media measurement and intent which addresses some of the hottest topics within the area and providing further insight on the IAB measurement framework, why it was created and how it works. The guide has been put together by council representatives from TMW, COI, Outside Line; We Are Social, NMIncite and Market Sentinel.
The document really emphasises the importance of objectives in social media, and how concrete intents are essential to bring about meaningful measurement. Inside, we offer an explanation on the differences between earned, owned and bought social media activity, the importance of social media monitoring and why you need to take the time to get to know your audience and your competitors. The guide also breaks down different types of social media focusing on the one size DOESN’T fit all ethos and that different brand/campaign objectives can mean there is a need for a different social media strategy approach to fit within these aims. It also offers a dedicated section on what’s happening within customer services and social networking? offering suggested objectives, benchmarks and metrics to consider before embarking on customer service activity.
The guide has been written for both advertisers and agencies, and like any IAB Social Media Council initiative, we hope it evolves over time, so greatly value your feedback.
One of the biggest ‘hot potatoes’ right now is how to measure social media activity and whether it’s possible to apportion ROI. It seems every man, woman and dog has an opinion on the matter!
And for good reason.
The days of whimsical experimentation have long gone. Nowadays, marketers have to justify every budget line with robust KPIs, solid business cases or definitive break-even/ ROI analysis. Not so easy when it comes to evaluating that ‘fluffy social media stuff’ but if we genuinely want this to be taken seriously it’s imperative we start making it much more accountable.
More accountability, more standardisation
But for this to happen there really needs to be a degree of standardisation across the industry so that we’re all talking the same language (or at least singing from the same ‘karaoke machine’!) But the truth is there’s currently too much inconsistency in the industry to draw any salient or meaningful conclusions. As it stands, it’s almost impossible to benchmark our respective activity as everyone is measuring performance differently. This is compounded by the fact that social media is so versatile, diverse, complex and multi-faceted, spanning many disparate objectives and many different platforms - no wonder we’ve struggled to find a common methodology which works across everything.
A step in the right direction
What I’m about to share with you may not address all these challenges but will hopefully move us in the right direction. TMW have been working in close consultation with the IAB Social Media Council to develop a new measurement framework to help practitioners evaluate their social media activity more effectively and consistently. It’s not rocket science. In fact, it’s a very simple framework, designed to be flexible enough to be applied across a broad spectrum of social media platforms, whilst at the same time giving practitioners the freedom to use their own experience and expertise to choose the most appropriate KPIs.
Rather serendipitously, the measurement framework we’re proposing shares the same acronym as the Internet Advertising Bureau, so at least it’s dead easy to remember!
You can view the full presentation of this approach below.
The presentation talks through each step of the process from establishing up front your intent, assigning the most pertinent KPIs according to the 4 As – Awareness, Apprecitation, Action and Advocacy – and consulting other benchmarks in order to draw meaningful comparisons.
There’s an array of KPIs which one can assign to each of these 4 As. As a starter for ten we’ve provided a selection to choose from but this list is not exhaustive by any means. Which KPIs you choose to apply will fundamentally vary according to the intent you define, the platform you’re using, the tracking you have in place and the internal expectations of various stakeholders and whether they demand hard financials as well as soft metrics.
Defining some hard financials
Ultimately, I believe we all need to be working towards some hard financials which over time will become established as industry standards. I’ve deliberately steered away from ROI per se – that’s a debate for another day – but instead would favour the four financial KPIs in line with the 4 As (see table below). How we calculate these KPIs is still to be defined but the principle of having one or more of this hard financials to evaluate or benchmark our activity could be extremely beneficial in my view.
The Council plans to officially promote this framework to the wider industry in a couple of weeks, but it would be great to get some feedback to ensure this is a collaborative effort. What we’ve outlined may not suit everybody but we believe it’s a step in the right direction and would encourage as many practitioners as possible to adopt it where they can. The more aligned the industry becomes, the more accountable social media will become and the easier it will be for all of us to digest the complexities of social media measurement.
Surely that’s something worth striving for?
By Iain MacMillan, RMM and the IAB Social Media Council education sub-group
When considering how to make best use of social technologies and media, it can be hard to know where to start. Making an organisation’s interactions amongst its employees, customers, enthusiasts or prospects more social can have numerous benefits -and can be achieved in many and various ways.
With this in mind, we believe a broad framework of social media activity types would be most beneficial – not only for those who lack experience in this area, but also for people for whom a simple check-list might be a useful aide memoire.
We’ve devised a list of six ways in which brands can use social technologies to impact upon a business’ marketing function.