Social Media Measurement – are we really doing enough?

Social – what’s the value, worth?

What does a like, follower, share, mention, re-tweet, pin etc actually mean? What are they worth? How do all of these social interactions affect sales and retention, and how the hell do we compare an action on one social media platform versus an action on another? Should we? Can we?

All of the above are extremely valid and pertinent questions within the marketing industry, and to be honest, below are reasons why I think we are still a distance from having the real, or truly accurate answers.

This post isn’t to give you the reader another ‘Social Media – Return on Engagement’ equation, there are too many of them about. It’s really a discussion on how I believe the focus on ‘social media metrics’  is a little too siloed, and what I believe needs to be done about it.

What do we know?
With so many digital tools in the marketplace (the software, not the people!), there is no lack of social measurement data. Be it native Facebook insights, Hootsuite analytics, to Radian6 analytics, Wildfire monitoring, and the thousands of other off-the-shelf and bespoke tools out there, between them they all give us the user, useful and varied data insights.

– Reach (Organic & Viral)
– Impressions
– Total Likes / Followers / Mentions & movement within a given time
– Demographics
– Clicks / Actions
– Geo Segmentation of the above
– If social ads are being used then the usual suspects which are found in Digital Marketing

The more effective tools give you:
– Sentiment / Vibrancy
– Conversations started
– Influence / Key Influencers (Another debate – here is a past post on this)

Is the above data enough? It is being used properly? Is it being integrated/combined with all marketing and customer touchpoints?

Is the data above really supporting and representing brands social media efforts and getting real acknowledgement from a board level? 

Is this data enough?

In my opinion, for the majority of us the answer to the above is no.
If we want to work out engagement purely in silo within the largely fenced social media network like Facebook, then sure these metrics are brilliant.

But really, are we selling our efforts a little short here!?

Wouldn’t it be great to get accurate insights into how a single positive customer experience via social media may positively affect that customers future response to an email marketing campaign, or their response to display campaign?

I would argue a lot of us are pretty blind if we wanted to know and confidently discuss how social media has really affected the following outside of social media;

  • Brand
  • Advocacy
  • Customer service
  • Sales / Acquisition
  • Listening and insights

With Facebook ever changing it’s algorithm and trying to monitise its platform, I believe too many people are over obsessed with the silo engagement metric, and with those goal posts ever changing, it’s not an apples for apples comparison. Don’t misunderstand me, this is important and social media plays a very important role in commerce and brand positioning, but to really understand things, we need to reach outside of the networks and centralise all of the data we have; and to be honest we are a way away from this.

It’s all about centralising data

The power of digital is firmly rooted in the accountability (data) element, the problem however is that a lot of the data available to a marketer comes from multiple sources, resulting in disparate and silo insights. There are respected professionals that claim they have the answers, or an equation that gives you the magic ‘return on engagement’ metric that can be stuck into another Power Point presentation to keep the Senior Management team happy, or another ‘How to calculate your Social Media ROI Guide’ popping up in my inbox or RSS feed, but really……it’s a valiant effort at best.

I have read / experienced very little that really convinces me that the social media industry has mastered social media measurement in terms of actual return on investment. By investment, I obviously mean $, but also other metrics like time, brand awareness, retention etc. My point is, it’s an area of debate for sure.

I believe we are still in the learning stages. Caveat – I am a social advocate and want us to crack this. Too many social/marketing professionals are looking at this with a silo approach. This simply will not yield the most accurate results and learnings. For social (and all marketing) to be really understood, then all marketing and customer relations should be driven from and into one centralised database, where learnings (data) are built up over time on customers / prospective customers across all brand touchpoints. In some ways, this can be described as Marketing Automation.

Without this holistic look at all of our data it’s difficult to really set accurate social KPI’s, monitor how effective our efforts on social really are, and accurately sell the real value of these efforts/results to senior management.

So why aren’t we all jumping on-board with this?

I think there are three key reasons for this:

1 – Technology
2 – Time, effort, cost, perceived return
3 – Skill-set

1. Technology
Technologically, I don’t think we are quite there yet for a complete centralised data solution, but technology is very close. Dynamic CRM and database software are ever evolving their technology to create the blue sky ideal of having a central CRM and marketing data pot, where we can fully understand both the holistic and granular elements of all of our marketing and customer interactions.

With Social Media networks such as Facebook going public and the ever increasing pressure to deliver revenues for shareholders, networks themselves know giving marketers the tools to ensure accountability is key to marketing dollars being spent with them. Universal tagging of multiple touchpoints is already being made available. Think Facebook insight tagging of your website, DSP tagging across online media, CRM integration into Marketing Automation tools. These tools will only evolve and become more accessible to the masses, and more compatible with one another.

Although the technology isn’t there collectively, companies are buying other specialist companies to make this happen and achieve the goal of centralised data.

A few examples:

  • Salesforce (CRM) bought Radian6 and Buddy Media (Social Media analytics and monitoring) as two acquisitions adding up to about $1 billion Read
  • Marketo (Marketing Automation) bought Crowdfactory (Social Media analytics and monitoring) – Read
  • Twitter bought Bluefin labs (Social TV Analytics) – Read
  • Oracle bought Eloqua (Marketing Automation) for $871 million – Read

2. Time, effort, cost, perceived return 
Changing a companies database infrastructure is a big deal and a huge hurdle marketers and business owners need to get over. It costs money, it takes time and resource, and it can be disruptive. It can be an even bigger effort to get sign-off and investment on it, when the investment can be fairly substantial, and the return may not be immediate, nor immediately obvious.

3. Skill-set 
Whilst there is no doubt there are some very knowledgable people and thought leaders within our industry, I do think there is a bit of a skillset / experience void for some in basic overarching digital marketing and data analysis. It’s not all about social media, it’s about data analysis, and digital marketing techniques.


Facebook introduces Graph Search, Twitter recently buys analytics analysis company Bluefin Labs for $100 million, YouTube is owned by data junkies Google, Salesforce buys Radian6 and BuddyMedia collectively for almost $1billion. Social Media is growing up, and quickly, it is really becoming about the data. The more we understand this data, and how this data truly fits with the other marketing and customer data we have, the greater the value we can put on our social media efforts, and the more relevant we can be.

Takeouts are:

  1. Current social media analytics and insights are extremely useful and should be used, but we shouldn’t obsess with these, they are just a part of a bigger picture.
  2. Social Media is an important part of the marketing mix, but it is a part, not the whole. With multiple customer touchpoints on and offline, and growing pressures from senior management to get that magic ROI metric. Integrated and centralised databases that plug into our CRM systems  is what we should be looking at and striving for.
  3. Three key reasons why marketers as a whole aren’t jumping on board
    1. Technology
    2. Time, effort, cost, return
    3. Skillset
  4. Technology – Even though the blue sky database solution is not yet completely available, social networks know that data and accountability are the key to marketers spending money with them, this is why they are all making some hefty purchasing of specialist analytics companies.
  5. It’s takes a lot of time, effort, resource and money to change the database infrastructure of a big company. For this reason, marketers need to plan ahead, be clear of the objectives and benefits, understand the ramifications, and get buy in that it is a longer term strategy.

We need to move away from the obsession with silo social network metrics and focus more on the bigger picture. Convergence of data is happening people, and those who will succeed are those that understand this, are focusing their time and efforts on how to make this possible within their company.

A few questions to leave you with:
  • Is our industry prepared for the convergence of our marketing and customer data? 
  • Will we understand what to do with it?
  • Should our industry focus and invest a little more on internal education from the ground up?
  • Will the big companies be able to move quickly or does this present a bigger opportunity for emerging companies already emersed in digital and database best practice? It’s harder and takes longer to turn a big ship…
  • Are we a long way away from this ideal, and therefore shouldn’t worry about it?
I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Thanks for reading.

About the author
Si Muddell is a Digital Strategist who has worked extensively both agency and client side. Si is fascinated about marketing, psychology & what motivates people, and loves guitar, surfing and travelling.

Get connected with Si on TwitterLinkedIn &

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