In a recent Wall Street Journal editorial, Bill Gates discussed the importance of setting clear goals and selecting measurements that will drive progress towards those goals as a way to create a virtuous feedback loop and solve the world’s health, education, and agricultural problems. If the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is tackling the world’s biggest problems with this simple insight, perhaps it could help solve social media ills as well. Maybe by measuring the right things and tracking our progress (or lack thereof) organizations could improve the effectiveness of our social media investment. In Social Media ROI, Olivier Blanchard postulates the need for a similar feedback loop to improve companies’ return on their social media program.
The first step is to establish “listening outposts”. Determine what channels are important to monitor. Where are your current and future customers hanging out? Establish a presence there and begin to listen. Begin to sort and organize the data into categories that will help you drill down to more finite measurements.
In this step you will need to define the metrics that will be tracked. The best way to begin is to do as Steven Covey says, “begin with the end in mind”. Make sure to “measure what matters”, by starting with your organization’s objectives and working backward to develop metrics which support these objectives. Also, seek to understand the amount of influence each measurement has on the behaviors you are seeking to modify. Establish baselines for your measurements so that you have a beginning point for future measurements to be compared against. Remember that once measurements are established, they are not static. They need to continue to evolve as new tools or better algorithms are developed that yield more precise or better measurements.
All the data in the world is worthless if you can not distill it into insightful information which you can use to spur new actions or change existing ones in order to increase the probability of meeting or exceeding your objectives. Create a narrative tracking specific financial investments in your social media program (e.g. $25,000 spent for new facebook company page) into non-financial outcomes (e.g. new facebook followers, more click-throughs to website on-line store) and back into financial results (e.g. increased first quarter sales generated by new facebook customers). Documenting the return on investment for each social media investment, will make it easier to know where to make future investments in order to maximize your investment returns.
Reporting needs to be “efficient, timely, clear, and to the point”. Start immediately with the basics and use a continuous improvement process to expand your reporting as needs dictate. Remember that a “picture is worth a thousands words”. Using the right graphics and charts can convey your data much more effectively than a mass dump of indecipherable data. Keep your reporting structure simple and intuitive so that important trends stand out and are quickly grasped by all.
Test, Measure, Learn, Adapt, Repeat
Finally, remember that improving your social media program is continuous learning effort. Continue experimenting and incorporating your learnings into your next iterative cycle. Always continue to test, measure, learn, adapt, and repeat! You may not solve world hunger, but you will improve the return on investment for your social media program.
How do you tie your social media program measurements into your corporate objectives? What have you learned through this process?