Social Media monitoring and the spectrum of online relationships

1 Oct

I got talking to the COI the other day about online PR, Word of Mouth and Social Media and the conversation turned to the problems of ROI and monitoring.

I’ve sat in too many Social Media presentations that promise a bit about ROI at the end but instead of a practical approach just mention “the power of conversations”, list a few free tools and then mention one of the larger monitoring services.

Unfortunately despite people intuitively knowing that the social and consumer-centric business approach is the future for marketing and communications, this won’t convince a CFO or the global board. They like models and numbers.

So off the back of this I took an earlier post based on some of Mike Arauz’s thinking and started to try and categorise the numerous, different monitoring techniques out there to make comparing like with like more possible.

Anyway here goes…

An approach to Social Media Monitoring and measurement based on the spectrum of online relationships

Increasingly the value of an idea is not in its initial direct exposure, blog mention or spot/insertion in a publication, but in the value or social currency it provides to the audience. This social oxygen value enables the idea to spread socially.

Social Media campaigns are uniquely measurable but not all measures are equal and indicate true effectiveness. Different social media actions or online conversations have different values and influences upon consumer behaviour.

Multiple metrics, from number of followers and fans, to positive or negative sentiment, to reposts and influencer mentions, can be difficult to distinguish from one another. In effect we can become trapped in a state of analysis paralysis where there is too much social media data and too little understanding.

An agreed industry standard is needed but, until a consensus arises, we have developed a structure to categorise the value of different monitoring tools/metrics and start building an measurement and tracking model.

Fig. 1

fig. 1 – Spectrum of Online Relationships

By classifying social media conversations into three categories – Exposure, Engagement, Collaboration – based on the Spectrum of Online Relationships that underpin them (fig 1), we can group their associated metrics and monitoring approaches (fig 2). Then by examining the overall performance of the activity in each category we can begin to establish the effectiveness and conversion rate of social media campaigns and ongoing activity.

The idea is to simplify all the different effectiveness measures out there so comparisons/trends can be made and then these can then used alongside true Social ROI calculations.

Fig. 2 - Social Media ROI Metrics and Measurement Techniques

fig. 2 - Social Media Monitoring, Metrics and measurement tools by category

Categorising social media activity this way means it is possible to take a holistic approach and use aggregates of the different monitoring techniques – and metrics that will vary according to the nature of every campaign and its platform type – to compare the performance between each category and hence work out the relative success of the social media activity. The ultimate goal of this approach is to be able to compare the effectiveness of different social media campaigns when comparing like with like is often difficult.

Using this structure means that the results of the Exposure, Engagement and Collaboration categories can be compared to identify performance and trends.

I’ve arrange an example of this way of thinking as an equation (which is sure to attract the wrath of Anna O’Brien who rightly points out the falseness of the different social media “ROI metrics” and silly equations out there) but it is not meant to be a magic bullet or mathematically sound – it is a visual way of structuring thinking about the principles at play.

For example, one measure of a social media campaign’s momentum – Social Media Traction – would be to compare the ratio of Engagement performance to Exposure performance (Fig 3) where a +1 would indicate success and social media momentum as people moved from being merely exposed to a campaign to becoming more engaged.

Any measure/inputs of Exposure or Engagement (or even Collaboration) would differ for each campaign and organisation – as I said earlier the idea is to simplify the different effectiveness measures and monitoring techniques so comparisons can be made and trends identified.

fig. 3 – A way of thinking about a campaign’s traction by comparing performance in the Exposure and Engagement categories

fig. 3 – A way of thinking about a campaign’s traction by comparing performance in the Exposure and Engagement categories

Equally using this approach to define Social Media Conversion and Advocacy would require a focus on activity and metrics within the Collaboration category. Indeed, the ratio between Engagement performance and Collaboration performance could be seen as being an indicator of people moving from discovering, sharing and “playing” with content to acting upon it – whether making it their own passion or hopefully even changing purchasing behaviour.

Ultimately this proposed approach to Social Media monitoring/measurement will need to be linked back to ROI. Can we prove whether good results in either category – or a good Social Media Traction or  Social Media Conversion and Advocacy score – can relate to a lower Cost per Acquisition or an increase sales?

This will require someone much better at maths than me but I believe that some agreed structure and model is vital to proving the long term value of social media and the real web to the board and CFO.

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22 Responses to “Social Media monitoring and the spectrum of online relationships”

  1. elizof October 4, 2009 at 12:04 am #

    I concur. Once the fog clears and businesses start to demand serious stats on ROI for their connections, we might see a shift in the conversation. My sense is that the returns could be massive for certain types of industries and less so for others. It would be fascinating to get some hard data on the results over time. Excellent piece. Thank you!

  2. Joakim Vars Nilsen October 7, 2009 at 1:02 pm #

    Hi David!

    Great post and thank you for sharing knowledge! I have some novice, and perhaps blunt, questions to you:

    1. What do you use as default setups/docs/tools for setting up baselines?
    2. How would you describe in detail the process from start to end? I.e
    a) Setting up MeltwaterBuzz
    b) Setting up Google Reader RSS feeds from Technocrati, Blogpulse, Twitter Search
    c) Setting baselines based on webtraffic, conversion rate, engagement ratio, sales, traffic to store and based on results from a)
    … etc

    3. Are you familiar with the works of http://www.webmetricsguru.com/archives/2009/09/a-social-media-scorecard-based-on-digital-footprint-index/

    4. How do you measure all the data in fig 2 column ” Social Media Metrics and Measurement tools”. Do you have a default scorecard? What do you use?

    5. How do you measure “Google Reader Views”? What is STAF? What do you mean with “shared/passed on placements”? “HVCs”? “Net Promotor score”?

  3. marc campman October 8, 2009 at 9:53 pm #

    There will always be the divide between finance and marketing. Finance expecting ROI and marketing trying their best to justify the cost. And whatever we marketeers do, there will always be the softer benefits that prevail. But I do believe the approach explained in this blog post is something unique. But the key is where the spectrum meets the dollar sign.

  4. Michael Whitlow November 15, 2009 at 2:54 am #

    David: Like the post a lot and am impressed with the detail of the thinking regarding the levels of social involvement. I’m not sure of the equation, but let’s leave that to the math and science types. We do need better ways to measure, but that’s been the case since forever. The CFO dilemma you suggest is true. So, the CFO has her measures (financial), the Chief Counsel has his (law and regulations), CMO has sales, and they all feel good because they’ve got a grip on outcomes! While they continue to search for ways to get deeper in their measures, they are much too pre-occupied to take a look at your subject. Too bad, but those who made up their “professional” languages first and got much of what they do put into columns related to law, regulation or vital signs (sales) get to continue to run the show. It will take very enlightened management indeed to raise this above a “who cares?” issue for companies. I blogged about GEs new work to do a better job of listening – Friday on The Buzz Bin – http://www.livingstonbuzz.com – Comments?

  5. MotivatedProcrastinator January 10, 2010 at 12:38 pm #

    Interesting post. Here’s an individual take: Your post will help me reevaluate my role in social media. Longterm, I know that social media can help but, I’m skeptical about how much and the outcomes of worth. As a result, I don’t engage as much as I should, in fact, my own entrepreneurial goals are actually tied to social media however, I find that I was MORE involved than I thought. Looking at SM from this perspective helps me to rethink the process and outcomes of social media and I will try to measure its role over time. I think your article will encourage further understanding of SM for those who may or may not have taken the dive to be active and those who may not see its implications. Multiple perspectives help to encourage inclusivity and productivity. Thanks again! Great post!

    twitter: motivprocrast

  6. KDPaine February 25, 2010 at 12:10 pm #

    I like the concept, and it basically follows my logic of the five levels of engagement. I worry about your metrics however. I’m not sure the average marketer or social media person will know how to interpret. I also spotted a few very bad and inaccurate metrics in your list that need to be property evaluated. Alexa and Technorati are two that have been thoroughly discredited in my book.

    • davidjcarr February 25, 2010 at 2:51 pm #

      I’ll agree about Technorati and Alexa (and probably add ComScore on occasion to the “not entirely trust/believe” pile). The metrics and measurements listed are not designed to be exclusive or all to be used for every client/campaign, they are meant to be indicative of actions/responses taking place within a relationship category so some interpretation or judgement will always be required. Thanks for your feedback, much appreciated.

  7. Charlotte Britton November 24, 2010 at 4:51 pm #

    Wonderful article :-) I do see this as the outline of how Google will be monitoring engagement within your circle of influence. It won’t be about the number of followers you have on Twitter or fans on a Facebook page but the degree of social traction you have.

    There was a great article on E-Consultancy about Magners Cider this summer which stated that their search engine rankings increased when they had more social conversations around the brand happening. So using this social traction model – it would equate that they had more social traction which positively impacted the search engine listings.

    Real food for thought!

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