The argument went something like this: Since social media is (or should be) a pervasive element within organisations, then measuring it as if it were a mere marketing tool is foolish, because it (social media) touches every element of a business; it is impossible to quantify every aspect of an organisation’s activities, and some of the most profound activities, that produce significant results, are intangible and unquantifiable.
There is some truth and logic to this. But it is also a lazy way out of the argument, because as any business owner will tell you, what isn’t measured rarely improves.
Similarly, regarding strategy, there was a view that since social media channels were so quick and inexpensive to set up, the ‘strategy’ as such should simply be, “throw it out there and see if it sticks.”
This may have been applicable in the early days of businesses exploring social media (circa 2004-2006), but is certainly not applicable now. The dominance of Facebook, the power of YouTube and Twitter, all this and more demand that organisations approach these social channels with their faculties sharp and their senses attuned to the zeitgeist.
So in 2012 the savvy organisation recognises that it must think seriously about what resources it puts towards social media, and what those resources are to do.
Useful Social Media’s 2012 report, The State of Corporate Social Media, gives some interesting insight into how seriously the business world is taking social media.
Corporate use of metrics seems to still be in its infancy. ‘Web traffic’ is the predominant metric used as a KPI, but that is frankly too simplistic a measure to be of any real value. The ‘number of followers in social accounts’ is a slightly more useful metric being used, but it is also near-irrelevant to say, “we grew our fans by 100,000 this month” when there is no tracking of what that increase in follower number actually means from a business perspective (conversion to sales, for example).
The third metric that respondents to the survey reported using was the far more interesting—‘Engagement’. It’s disappointing that it languishes down in third spot—after all this time I would have liked to see it at number one.
Of more interest are the metrics that practitioners would like to be using but aren’t, the most popular being Activity, Increase in Followers, Conversion to Sales, Web Traffic and Conversion to Leads. It is the ‘Conversion’ metrics that to my eye would yield the greatest benefit if used more.
But the respondents to the survey were also asked if the metrics they were currently using were up to the task and unsurprisingly nearly 80% of the respondents reported dissatisfaction with the current metrics—it seems that there’s a deep desire for more meaningful metrics to emerge for tracking social media impact.
But make no mistake, corporations are using social media to solve real-world business problems. Here’s some statistics from the report:
· 93% of companies say social media is becoming a more important part of their marketing;
· 57% of social media teams are part of the marketing department;
· 56% of companies are currently using social to deliver customer service;
· 70% of B2C companies will see a budget increase for social media in 2012;
· 76% of companies plan on using social for reputation monitoring this year;
· 41% of Europeans can link revenue to social media activity.
Clearly, corporations are taking social media seriously and measuring it accordingly; it’s just that some of the metrics used are from the early days of the internet and there are better metrics around, if the organisation is committed enough to tracking all facets of its processes.
[Extract from forthcoming Ark Group report: Social Media ROI]