Proving social media value

Yesterday Headstream spoke at Brand Republic’s ‘Driving and Proving Social Media Value’ event (#SMVevent).  Here’s what grabbed our attention…

Social media measurement – are we nearly there yet?

Consensus on how to measure social media’s effectiveness remains some way off amongst UK based marketers, if yesterday’s Social Media Value Event in London is a guide. Despite this ongoing, we’d say perennial, challenge there was undimmed optimism around the power of social media to reach people, and achieve interaction in new and unexpected ways.

Dan Brooke, TV veteran and Channel 4’s Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, neatly summed up this dichotomy. He eulogised social media as the “stairway to heaven” for Channel 4, where heaven is “viewers watching and engaging with our programming”. Taking examples from the Purple Cow Udderbelly user generated video campaign, and the Black Mirror spoof campaign, he outlined how C4 is using Facebook for pre and post transmission awareness, and using Twitter to engage during shows. However, when it comes to putting a definitive figure, or value, on the effect of this activity Brooke’s view was – “It’s hard to say”.

Channel 4 are tracking some interesting metrics. Of all UK Tweets about television programming C4 reckons 20 to 30% are about programmes on its channels, which is ahead of its 11% viewing share. Brooke has also commissioned an econometric study to examine ROI of social media. While this showed that ROI was “very high” (due primarily to comparison with higher cost traditional paid media activity) the figures are too low to be statistically significant. So, for the moment Brooke continues to believe in, and invest in, social on the basis that “in our bones we know it (social) is a fair trade wind for us.”

What’s inevitable in his view is that “TV is going to move closer to social, and social is going to move closer to TV” through innovations like Zeebox and Samsung Smart TV and their successors. As the social TV experience becomes increasingly integrated Brooke believes it will help his industry “analyse the cause and effect of social.”

Across the course of the day the desire amongst brand budget holders for a consistent and widely understood way to measure social’s effectiveness was apparent. But the conclusion, as summed up by Brooke and other speakers, was that anyone looking for a quick fix is going to be disappointed.

Baastian Ellen, Director of Social Media at Hotels.com, said that for him the challenge is to evolve current analysis methods that focus on ‘last click wins’, and create ways to track a customer’s online journey all the way along the sales funnel, and determine how social media contributes each step of the way. This is a common goal, particularly amongst online only businesses.

So what is Headstream’s view? We believe assessment of social performance has to become more rigorous and forensic, focusing on the strength of interaction, rather than scale, buzz or reach. We have established a methodology to do this across a brand’s overall social performance, through our Social Brands 100 initiative.

For specific pieces of social marketing and communications activity the key success factor is establishing the right objectives at the outset, and not confusing outputs e.g. increased following, Retweets, with outcomes e.g. product sold, brand recall/awareness improved.

Starting with a clear understanding of the marketing communications objective that is being pursued, and how it links back to an underlying business challenge is key. This can then be turned into a campaign goal which is SMART (Specific, Measurable, Realistic and Time bound). Only when these fundamentals are established should the creative concepts and tactics be developed.

As the concepts and tactics are being created the appropriate metrics and KPIs that will enable us to tie the activity back to the SMART goal are agreed, and appropriate tracking tools and benchmarks established. This approach avoids the common mistake of making a ‘metric’ e.g. conversation rate on FB, number of Likes, an objective in its own right. This means you can report back to your board that the activity created xx of sales/consideration/leads, contributing to an underlying business goal, all proved by appropriate metrics and tracking. This is going to have much more impact than reporting that Facebook fans have doubled (!), and will build the case for further social media activity.

What methods have you used to prove the effectiveness of social media within your organisation? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

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