SMC Book Club: Social Media Analytics

Data geeks unite! If you like to torture numbers, identify what you’re doing right (and wrong) then you know that identifying, tracking and trending social media is a moving target. It varies from client to client and changes with availability of tools which rely on the API’s which are available. Essentially, social media professionals are breaking into two camps over the issue of ROI and measurement of social media. The first camp believes that defining metrics is possible and practical, if not perfected. The second camp believes that not only is measuring ROI in social media impossible, but a waste of time since its the conversation that matters. How can social media professionals be so wildly divided on this issue?

As the author of this book, Marshall Sponder points out, unlike other forms of media, there is no single, widely accepted methodology for social media analytics. As an industry, we just haven’t settled on that. Indeed, its quickly becoming the holy grail. But the other camp has a valid, if purist argument: measuring the value of conversation in itself is impossible. Its true that there are numerous qualitative benefits to social media that don’t fit nicely on a spreadsheet.

But for those who have clients or stakeholders who are in need of results-oriented information, the book Social Media Analytics (affiliate link) is a fantastic place to start. Sponder begins his book reminding readers that setting up social media analytics requires significant time and research to implement. There are several areas that can be researched before determining what KPI’s will be applied. As someone who works with clients regularly on this issue, I particularly appreciated the way the author values the set-up process and identifies tools that are available for various tracking types. Included in these tools is a complete range of options with some case studies and practical advice about which tool may work best for you. From Radian6 to other lesser known options. There are not many measurement recommendations which have palatable price points for small business, although some do exist.  Understanding that it isn’t always practical, its worth stating that starting out with a quality measurement tool from the beginning will enable you to have baselines from which to compare future growth. If businesses aren’t measuring from the very beginning, measuring mid-stream will present its own set of challenges. Using a solid measurement tool from the very beginning also enables businesses to help identify the KPI’s that will be part of the social media growth. I’m in the camp of if you’re going to do social media right, it will at the very least require an investment in time and its worth it for businesses to understand how to measure and refine the efforts. I find that many businesses don’t know what to track in social media and investing in analytics software from the beginning will help in determining what is important to track depending on business’ objectives.

Another portion of the book I particularly appreciated was acknowledgement of debate over how to measure the value of a Facebook Fan or a Tweet. In addressing this topic, Sponder uses several case studies and quotes several “thought leaders” on the topic. What we see is that there is no one true value of a Facebook Fan or a Tweet, determining those values is dependent on a number of factors and if that’s a number that you or your client wish to track, then there are a multitude of considerations to take into account.

While there are numerous choices for methodology identified in the book,  the author gave an example in weighting different types of content and responses. I use a weighting model similarly when measure social media results and it was great to see another weighting strategy that might be employed.  The book sticks strictly to measuring social media, which I find slightly limiting because social media effects multiple areas of business including PR, Marketing, Customer Service and even Product Development. That said, by using a weighted scale of value, you could extend the benefits of social media to these other areas and this book gives markerters a good baseline from which to start.

Further along in the book, Sponder makes recommendations and gives examples on creating social media and implementation scorecards. Again, while the exact scorecard for a particular business or project may vary, the examples put forth are practical and useful. Included in the book are example scorecards from such well known companies as Ogilvy PR which measures what they call Conversation Impact. Essentially Conversation Impact seeks to quantify the value of particular messaging using 15 different metrics, but while its great information, as Sponder points out, its a benchmarking rather than analytics tool. Other models are presented as well including one for Share of Voice and Social Influence.

What the reader learns from this book is that they will have to choose which type of measurement will work best for the specific client or company and that there are a variety of options. No matter what phase of social media you or  your client is in, from beginning to strategic, something can be learned from reading this book. Its offerings and case studies are thoughtful and useful and the book itself is easy to read for data geeks as well as the uninitiated.  I suspect this book could be rewritten every 6 months as social media is a dynamic field, but much of what is contained in the book will continue to be useful for many years regardless of tools or changing philosophies of measuring the effects of social media.

SMCHI will be giving away a copy at our October 18th event on Social Media Analytics. In addition to my presentation on the topic, we’ll hear from some insight from the other camp of social media ROI presented by Gwen Woltz of Wahine Media and possibly even some others that we are working on! It should be a great evening! SMCHI is also in the midst of planning a panel on the topic for the Social Media Summit Hawaii, please use promo code SMCHI when you register for a $20 discount on ticket price.  So, if you’re interested in this valid discussion of social media analytics and ROI, please join us for any and all of these events for insight, lively discussion and different viewpoints on this very hotly debated topic.


PSSST: If you are a member of SMCHI, you are invited to attend a free webinar hosted by the Author of Social Media Analytics, Marshall Sponder. Register here: SMC Book Club Social Media Analytics

For more conversation on this topic, please follow” @smanalyticsbook on Twitter


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