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Social media measurementDespite widespread measurement, many organizations remain uncertain about the business value of social media, reveals a new study by Alitmeter Group, “Beyond ROI Unlocking the Business Value of Social Media.”

Out of the more than 400 social media leaders interviewed, 84 percent track and measure the effectiveness of their efforts against defined goals and objectives, yet 29 percent are still trying to prove its value.

The Shortcoming of Measuring Only ROI

“A strict ROI approach, while highly credible, does not capture the value of interacting with customers over time and across multiple channels and timeframes,” writes Altimeter analyst Susan Etlinger.

More than twice the number of companies measure the impact of social media at the awareness stage (71%) than at the acquisition stage (35%). Tracking customer acquisition remains challenging, but 84% say it presents opportunity to better leverage social for social selling and social commerce.

Measurement decisions tend to be driven by what data is common and available rather than by business strategy. Thirty-seven percent of respondents use metrics because they are standard metrics and because they are included in the technologies they use.

While social data is widely available, the skills to derive insights from that data are scarce. Nearly half the interviewed executives say their organization lacks the skills needed to work with social data sets.

While an average of 75% of respondents say they have access to social data, only 26% reported using metrics that tie to business objectives.

Recommendations for Improving Social Media Measurement

Alitmeter offers these recommendations:

Connect with other teams who are seeking to prove the value of digital initiatives. Then find the area with the greatest sense of urgency in the organization. Proving a small use case first can mean a much easier time justifying budget later.

Target top business objectives for social. If impact on customer experience is important, propose how social media can improve customer value throughout the customer journey. Associate “activity” metrics (like mentions, impressions, website visits) with journey stages (awareness, consideration, etc.) to paint a more strategic picture.

Evaluate metrics based on strategic impact and ability to measure. Look at measurement holistically to establish business value. Seek to measure the impact of social media on business goals, whether they are related to time to market, customer loyalty, employee engagement, brand reputation, customer acquisition or simply insights gained.

The Ongoing Social Media Measurement Challenge

Measuring business results of social media and especially linking activities to ROI has been a continual challenge for marketers. Only 41 percent of social media marketers say they can measure their social activities, according to the 2016 Social Media Marketing Industry report from the Social Media Examiner. These are some more tips to help measure results.

  • Follow a few key metrics consistently rather than shifting between different metrics, which hampers analysis and wastes resources.
  • Invest in analytics, such as in-house staff, agencies, tools and technology, models and customer databases, to better understand the impact of social media.
  • View metrics through a single dashboard rather than trying to track metrics through different sources. An integrated dashboard of results saves time, provides real-time access, displays a comprehensive view of performance, and makes it easier to analyze and interpret data.
  • Understand mentions. Not all brand mentions are positive. At least some are negative. A social media listening service with sentiment analysis can determine if mentions are positive, negative or neutral and grade mentions for overall sentiment. The best sentiment analysis systems combine automated software analysis with human analysis.

Bottom Line: Proving how social media improves the company’s ROI remains the Holy Grail of social media measurement. Meeting that goal can win plaudits from executive leaders, yet it’s often difficult to accomplish due to the many benefits of social media across multiple channels and different stages of the customer journey. Accomplished marketers can find other ways to demonstrate the value of social media other than reporting just ROI.

William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.