September 24, 2010

Social media ROI: The metrics and strategies

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WWT 2010: Social Media ROI
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Guest post by Ryann Miller

Ryann-MillerLast week I attended the Women Who Tech TeleSummit. One of the most anticipated sessions was the session with blogger Beth Kanter and Lauren Varga of Radian6 and moderated by Roz Lemieux of Fission Strategy.

I’ve long admired and respected Beth, and I’m a fan of Radian6, a social media monitoring service. The session covered a lot of ground for a fairly contained topic and I was impressed with the depth and breadth of the presentation. Beth and Lauren discussed both strategy and tools, tips and metrics, leaving little ground uncovered. The focus was around the return on investment: how to think of the value of social media, the things you need before starting any campaign, and how to measure, analyze and sell campaigns. Here’s a recap:

Part I: A guide for your social media adventure

Let’s say you want to get started using social media. Where? How? While this session wasn’t a primer, Beth’s four ‘I’s, plus the discussion on objectives and SMART analysis, are a fantastic starting point.

The philosophy and definition of ROI

Beth’s four ‘I’ terms are a contextual lens through which to look at social media ROI. She said she takes a broader definition of ROI, to include:

  1. Return on Insight: this is about harvesting intelligence about what works and what doesn’t, to apply to the future. Listening, learning and adapting – sometimes called an iterative process – means that you take a longer-term view of the project, that sometimes a culture change within your organization is necessary to make room for reflection, and that you’ll find success and know what it is when you find it. If you find that tweeting about the hard-hitting emotional stuff seems to get the biggest reaction every time, apply this to remaining communications for this medium even if it means going back and changing agreed-upon communication pieces. Beyond that, remember it for future campaigns.
  3. Return on Interaction: it’s about engagement and relationship building with your audience. The goal is to set people on the ladder of engagement to become donors/members/lovers of your cause. But before you get there, how are they engaging with you? What are they saying? How do they treat your brand? This has to be monitored in order to be evaluated.
  5. Return on Investment: investment is about value, and measuring the relationship between what you’ve done and what it costs. Some tangible indicators are: fundraised dollars, new activists or email list growth, new volunteers,
  7. Return on Impact: this is about our big goal – to effect social change. Sometimes impact is different or more than just about investment. If you can use Twitter to stop a company from doing something, or vote for something, while that may be hard to quantify, there is a return on impact.

These four ‘I’s are valuable as a starting point for any organization looking to dive into social media in a concerted way. I’d recommend a discussion around these four ‘I’s by any team about to start a social media campaign, because it’ll help you to be thoughtful and reflective, and therefore more strategic, as you get started and get comfortable with social media metrics and measurement. I think Beth’s underlying point here is: Do this thoughtfully and with goals and guidelines.

Start at the beginning: Define objectives that you can measure

To follow up on the idea of what you need before getting started, one of the main points by both Lauren and Beth was to have your objectives mapped out prior to any campaign or project. Beth discussed using a SMART Analysis: all objectives must be specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and timed. if you could only take away one point from this presentation, that should be it. With these objectives determined, you’re as prepared as you can be going in, and you’ll have tangible metrics to do proper analysis on your way out. Only after you have your objectives should you start looking at the technology itself.

Part 2: What are you seeing and why does it matter?

What to measure, besides dollars raised: With that theoretical primer under our belts, it’s time to talk measurement. Lauren discussed the usual suspects regarding measurement metrics: volume, engagement, sentiment, share of voice and share of conversation. (Quick distinction here from me, not Beth or Lauren: share of voice refers to your brand mentions (in blog posts, tweets, videos, etc.) compared to your competitors within your issue or sector, while share of conversation refers to the degree to which your organization is associated with the issue/problem that you want to fix/resolve/improve).

Share of voice is a critical metric and organizations should consider measuring SOV based on critical keywords outside of any specific campaign.

What you measure has be decided in part by the objectives and goals you have. Want to grow your non-donor file? Measure the quantity of new supporters, based on what engagement in what time frame, and what issue they came in on. Want to raise money? You might then be less concerned with the quantity of new names and more focused on the quality. Have they taken any actions sent to them, such as sending to a friend, signing a petition? Sentiment might be very important if you’re trying to build loyalty and engagement, but not if you’re trying to stop a bill from being passed.

I think share of voice is a critical metric and organizations should consider measuring SOV based on critical keywords outside of any specific campaign. In this age of hyper-competition, a savvy organization is one that knows where its brand reputation stands for any given month. The value is that it’s the outside world telling you who you’re up against and by how much, not what you think, and not market research. Who owns the dialogue? How are you distinguishing yourself and claiming ownership of the issue? How are your competitors drawing attention? None of that is intrinsically obvious without ongoing measurement of your share of voice within your sector or issue area.

Do’s and don’ts of social media ROI

Last, a solid collection of do’s and don’t-do’s when assessing social media ROI:

  • Track the essential keywords regarding both your organization and your campaign.
  • Don’t do drive-by analysis, take some time
  • When identifying benefits, remember that some will be quantitative while others while be qualitative. For example, increased loyalty, sentiment and engagement are valuable benefits.
  • Link metrics back to results and avoid “metrics as therapy” – the condition whereby you’re gratified simply because you have new followers and they seem to like you.
  • “Spreadsheet aerobics”: only collect data that works for you, that makes sense, and that you make actionable. Keep spreadsheets thin and trim. You should spend less time on the spreadsheet than the project itself.
  • Be low risk, be simple, don’t overdesign any test or campaign.
  • Think about what results you want to communicate: Be concise, show the overall value and how you measured that, not every minute detail and metric. Don’t forget this is both storytelling and a business case.
  • Better that you start with a small and successful test, rather than a large and unsuccessful campaign.

Useful links (the metrics guru)

I took away a lot from this session, from the theoretical to the practical, from the small to the very large. While the parts seemed somewhat disconnected, Beth and Lauren know their material inside and out and did a great job of distilling everything.

Ryann Miller is the director of nonprofit services for Care2. This article originally appeared at frogloop.
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4 thoughts on “Social media ROI: The metrics and strategies

    • Thanks! I couldn't make the Women Who Tech TeleSummit, but Ryann did a nice job capturing the high points.

  1. Great post and I really love Beth's different definitions for ROI, all are relevant and good for companies to think about.

    Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos