Think “Over Time,” Not “Point In Time”

ROI-graphA hypothetical scenario for you: your communications director comes to you and tells you that thanks to their department’s activities, there were 200 mentions of your brand online, of which three quarters were positive in tone.

Is that good news? Is it bad?

My answer: I have no idea.

Why? Because there’s no context.

Context, please

As social media begins to mature as a communications opportunity, the pressure to demonstrate measurable results will only increase. However, that measurement needs to have context.

Having three quarters of conversations about you be positve may actually be a bad thing if 80 or 85 per cent are usually positive. Two hundred conversations may actually be a drop in volume compared to the norm. Without context, you have no way of knowing.

Telling me that our online outreach increased the proportion of positive conversations by 15 per cent to 75 per cent means a lot more than just the number alone.

What’s your baseline?

People often talk about social media being a long-term proposition. We need to think about measuring social media in the same terms. That means setting baselines – investing a small amount of effort to draw a line in the sand, from which you can measure your results. Sometimes the baseline may be zero, but in most situations that won’t be the case.

How do you draw that line? Here are a few options:

  • Do a conversation audit – use free or professional listening tools to look at online metrics over a period of time
  • Conduct some market research – commission a few questions in an omnibus poll to measure how things stand
  • Analyze your website statistics – traffic volume, sources, conversions, etc

The way you measure your baseline is up to you. The most important thing is that you do it.

For communicators to justify their budgets, they need to show the delta – i.e. the difference between before and after. Without “the before,” you have nothing.

Make sense?

(Image: Shutterstock)

25 Responses toThink “Over Time,” Not “Point In Time”

  • Great point Dave.

    Many people that sing the praises of social media (myself included) always talk about the importance of the brand conversation but without this context we are just flapping our gums.

    Thanks for the talking points.

  • Funny that we were just talking about this today in the office. For the last couple of years everybody has been talking about “just having a conversation” but those days are gone and you do indeed have to have context like you say. All businesses know there is a conversation going on now and it is how the brands engage that matters

  • Good talking points Dave, context is definitely key with the analysis of any data (including that of social media). It’s also important to look further into the qualitative aspects of social media data; where were the comments made and who were they made by (I.e. If a negative comment was made by the editor of a big publication then this is obviously a larger issue than if a fairly anonymous blogger decides to post a short negative article). Looking at the traffic volume for each ‘mention’ means you can build up a more useful picture of the overall negative vs positive exposure of your brand.

  • Dave –

    What I think you’ve hit on here is what we tend to lose sight of when we’re debating social media measurement — while the metrics for traditional and social are different in many instances, the process by which you determine the metrics are not. It’s a process of benchmarking, determining measurable goals, developing your strategy, implementing your strategy all while measuring/tweaking along the way. I agree with the three things you’ve outlined above to get started, but would argue that all of that is necessary. Social monitoring, while powerful, is only one piece of a broader data “pie” necessary to make the best decisions you can make when developing your strategy.

    Thanks again for the quality post.

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