What’s the Deal With Data?

So you’ve collected your social media data using online tools and research, but now what do you do with it?  This post will discuss what to know about your data and how to use that data to improve your organization.

First, know your data and know it well.  According to Katie Paine’s 10 steps for making data your bitch, you must know your data “backwards and forwards, inside out and upside down.”  This way, when constituents want facts about your organization, you’re ready and willing to give the most up-to-date information.  This also boosts your credibility, and can turn your executives into experts.

According to Paine, you must not only be well versed in the good data about your company, but also in the bad.  Your mistakes are where you can learn the most about your company, and Paine says it’s important to see where your competitors are beating you in the data rat race.  If you’re fixing the problems, then you can show real improvement in the numerical data the next time you take measurements, and leverage your organization above the competition.

Here’s Paine’s example, from that same blog post, of a data collection chart that references “your organization’s” social media metrics data and compares it to “the competition’s.”  She refers to it as a spider chart, and explains that its innovation and comparison shows off much more about your organization than a traditional pie chart.

Second, according to Razorfish’s Actionable Analytics, you must bring together your disparate data for an overall view of your company.  This involves comparing data from different channels over time, including your social and traditional media outlets, and bringing together the most important trends in the data. This can also mean bringing together data from disparate agencies.  While your organization may have relationships with numerous media outlets, investors, etc., it’s important to maintain similar products and advertising.

Analyzing the data can show you where your disparities lie, and help you build custom solutions that are appropriate for each channel and agency.  According to Razorfish, customizing your data by viewing all the channels and agencies and how they’re specifically affected allows you to see what aspects of your social media strategy are the most influential in achieving your goals.

Third, according to Tom Webster’s article about social media marketing, it’s not enough to merely look at your data. You must ensure that you’re listening to every angle from every social media outlet and constituent, and that you aren’t closing your eyes or ears to any commentary. You can then categorize the data into detailed groups. Once you’ve analyzed and categorized, you must go straight to the source: your constituents.

According to Webster, it’s now time to re-engage your constituents based on their responses collected in your data.  Webster suggests coming up with a list of standard questions for each group you’ve categorized, and then responding with standard answers. This allows you to compare quantitative data from each response, and start to understand where and why responses vary.

This re-engagement makes constituents feel like they’ve really been heard, and lets them know their opinions weren’t just lost somewhere in the Web.  Creating this kind of relationship with constituents can help distinguish your organization from the competition, and improve the quality of your reputation and image.  It’s also another great way to use measurement to make improvements, and to help your organization do its business better.

Free Tools for Social Media Measurement

If your organization doesn’t have a huge budget for measurement, or if you need a quick measurement fix, here are a few free online tools for getting results. The tool suggestions come from Jeff Bullas’ post about the 13 essential social media monitoring tools on his blog, Rob Gonda’s post about free social media monitoring tools on Take Me To Your Leader, and Tom Walker’s post about 10 social media monitoring tools on WebDesignBooth, but I compiled a list of the tools on each website that I thought worked well for measuring the metrics I’ve discussed in my previous posts.

For Blogs:

  • Technorati. From Jeff Bullas’ post. The most widely known and comprehensive measurement tool for measuring blogs is Technorati. Technorati has a database of all the top blogs and categorizes search results for your organization and its constituents.  Use it to find out where your company ranks in the blogosphere, and to find out what topics are worth blogging about.

For Keyword Search:

  • GoogleAlerts: From Jeff Bullas’ post. This alert system notifies users when online information in Google searches matches the keywords used in their social media. Use it to help your organization target key words to enhance SEO, and help search ranking and overall influence.

For Page Ranking:

  • PageRankCheck:  From Rob Gonda’s post. Simply type in your organization’s URL and this tool will show you your Google page rank. Use this to measure how visible your strategies are, and how big of an audience you’re reaching.

For Social Networking Sites:

  • TweetDeck: From Tom Walker’s post. Integrates Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, Google Buzz and FourSquare.  Not only can you monitor how you’re doing, how often you’re being searched and how your keywords are used in these networks, you can also simultaneously update your activity on the sites.  It’s available on your desktop, IPad, IPhone or Android phone so your organization can stay updated on the go.

Extras:

  • Bit.ly: From Rob Gonda’s post. This site lets you shorten long URL links, share your links, and manage the clicks on your links.  It can show you the number of clicks, who clicked, where they clicked from, and how often they clicked.
  • Addict-o-Matic: From Tom Walker’s post. This site brings together information about your organization and its keywords all over the Internet.  It takes information from your video sharing websites, blogs, social networks, picture-sharing sites, and can even get information from your traditional media.  Users can create their own page with information relevant to the keywords and content within their organization’s social media.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all of this new social media information, don’t worry.  You’re not alone, and organizations, as well as constituents, are still learning together.  Here’s a video that I felt would be a welcome break from all of these text-heavy posts.  Adam Ostrow of Mashable.com shows in this video how easy it can be to keep yourself and your organization connected.  He also mentions measurement tools that I didn’t list, so take some time to look at these after the video for more help in measuring your social media.

Paid Tools for Social Media Measurement

The Internet is not only a place to engage in new social media, but also a place to measure it.  In this blog post, I will discuss three online tools for measuring your social media. These three tools are Cision, Lithium, and Radian 6. All three are paid applications, and while Radian6 and Cision are listed on Jeff Bullas’ post about the 13 media monitoring tools on his blog, Lithium is listed in Mani Karthik’s 10 Social Media Monitoring Tools under “ScoutLabs Web-based Social Media Monitoring Tool.” Both websites include many more tools that your organization may find useful, but for this post I will focus on tools that help achieve measurements I’ve discussed in my previous posts.

Cision:  Cision’s client list includes Sony, Gerber, The New York Times, and Fox News, just to name a few.  Here’s a taste of what Cision has to offer, according to Cision’s website under Products and Services:

1.       CisionPoint. For PR campaign management, it allows clients to find potential contacts and plan campaigns, but also to connect with constituents and then monitor the campaigns and determine their effectiveness.  Cision’s website page on CisionPoint claims that CisionPoint has “All the Data You’ll Ever Need,” but they also have the tools to analyze and measure the data and give real results, as discussed in my second post.

2.       Cision Press Release Distribution. These services allow your company to easily distribute press releases, and by adding them to the CisionWire website, it also increases your search engine optimization and rankings, as mentioned in my third post.  Cision’s Press Release Measurement gets your company tangible results about the value of your press release in dollar amounts, and helps show what works the best for reaching your customer base.

3.       Cision’s Media Analysis. Cision has specific analytics just for social media. This social media analysis can find trends in your constituent conversations and find the key influencers for your company so you can target them in your online conversations.  It can compare your content to competitors in your industry, and help you determine the key words that work the best for targeting your brand.  Cision offers customized charts for your company to analyze your company’s coverage.

Lithium:  Lithium has a diverse client list including AT&T, BestBuy, PlayStation, and Barnes and Noble.  Lithium’s social media monitoring helps companies find out what their customers are talking about and explains how to react in these conversations.  Here are some of their products and services, according to Lithium’s website under Social Media Monitoring:

1.       Quotes.  This is an innovative tool that Lithium uses to show you real, online quotes about your company from your constituents on social networking sites to see what they like or dislike, are passionate about, etc., so your company can see where it needs to make improvements or keep up the good work.

2.       Assignments.  With Lithium’s assignments, you can track and collaborate with your entire company’s online involvement with constituents. It gives information about your online customers which will inform you about what products to create, improve your customer acquisition and retention, and broaden your company’s overall social influence, as mentioned in my second post.

3.       Buzz tracking.  Lithium’s buzz tracking shows you who’s talking about your company, where they’re talking, how much they’re talking and what they’re saying. This can be used to analyze your customer participation and satisfaction, as mentioned in my third post.

Radian6: The Radian6 Dashboard has many high-profile customers, including AAA, Comcast, Geico, and Microsoft.  They offer many different ways to manage and measure your company’s social media strategy.  Here are a few of their services, according to Radian6’s website under Radian6 Dashboard Advantages:

1.       Comprehensive Coverage.  Radian6 does post aggregation for your company, so you can be constantly updated on your social web coverage and get real results from a hugely diverse set of social media applications. This makes results easy to measure and share with your executives and constituents.

2.       Metrics, Filtering & Segmentation. This feature allows your company to view its specific social media metrics, as discussed in my third post. It lets your company find results by specific site type, region, or international language.

3.       Social CRM & Web Analytics Integration.  This helps measure your hard ROI, as discussed in my second post.  It helps companies connect their social media to their sales and savings efforts, and filters content by your company’s chosen objectives, as discussed in my first post. It also can help your company understand why traffic is being driven to certain online content.

My next post will discuss a few quick,  free tools for measuring on a budget.

How to Measure Social Media (Soft ROI)

Now that I’ve explained hard ROI measurements, it’s time to look at the other side of social media measurement. Soft ROI measurement is the measurement of qualitative, non-financial factors. Soft ROI provides a humanized perception of your organization, according to stage 6 in Brian Solis’ 10 stages of social media integration.  Soft ROI distinguishes your organization from the competition and its traditional media counterparts. Important soft ROI measurements for your organization can include customer participation and satisfaction, brand metrics, and/or one of Jeff Bullas’ four common factors that quantify social media success, overall influence.

Customer participation and satisfaction: This includes how much your customers engage themselves with your online content.  It’s important that you give your customers an experience when they use your social media, not just offer them your product or service, as explained in Rebekah Paul’s list of some activities of soft media ROI in this article. There are many different ways to measure customer participation and satisfaction online.  You can use customer surveys (the number of responses AND what they say), Facebook wall posts (the number of posts AND what they say), blog comments (the number of comments AND what they say). . .you get the idea.

You must re-engage the customers.  Feedback makes for  engaged customers, and engaged customers are loyal customers, according to step 8 in Chris Lake’s 10 steps for measuring social media in this article. Engage your customers and your measurements will surely produce more positive results.

Brand Metrics: This refers to the metric system I discussed in my first post.  Soft ROI metrics include the use of KPIs, or key performance indicators. They meet your organization’s goals and drive both hard and soft ROI measurement success. KPIs include things like building more traffic to your website, and would correlate to a brand metric, which, using the more traffic example, would be something like brand awareness.

Setting up a metric system to measure your external communications objectives is crucial to success.  A good way to measure KPIs in your brand metric system is by search engine optimization, or SEO, according to this article by Adam Singer.  Using SEO, you can tailor your social media applications to contain keywords that people use in search engines to find your organization, which will show you where to go within your social media to find measurements. This is also a good way to decide what social media applications work the best for your organization.

For example, if frequently searched key words such as “Dog Treats FAQ Forum” are leading people to your organization’s forums, you’ll be able to measure that particular forum’s effectiveness by the amount of search traffic it generates. If it proves to be very effective, it will show a measurement of your brand metric, for instance, word-of-mouth.  (I got the connection from forums to word-of-mouth from this diagram used in my first post, but it’s merely an example.  You should choose your own metric and social media application.)  If customers tend to dislike what you’re doing, or your social media isn’t easily found in a keyword search, then people will search for it less often.  Not only will they not search for it, but they also won’t re-Tweet your company’s tweets about it, mention its benefits to friends, etc., so even fewer people will know about it.

Overall influence: How big a footprint is your social media making in the online world?  To measure this, according to Jeff Bullas’ article, you need to count all the subscribers you have for your various online channels.  Things to measure include Twitter followers, blog subscribers, Facebook friends, etc.  This is also a good indicator of your company’s reputation.  If online users have a negative view of your products or services, chances are they will not “like” your page on Facebook.

Now that your organization understands new social media, has established its communications objectives and decided what metrics to use, you may be wondering what tools are available to make these measurements.  My next blog post will discuss how to measure your social media metrics.

How to Measure Social Media (Hard ROI)

According to Urs E. Gattiker of Social Media Today’s fourth harsh reality in this article, there are two different types of measurements that you can use to define your communications objectives for your new social media.  To be successful, your organization must use hard, or quantitative, but must also incorporate soft, or qualitative, measures. This blog post will discuss hard ROI measurements.

Hard ROI measurements are a more traditional way to look at an organization’s success. Although this diagram in my first post uses only soft ROI metrics, your boss will probably want to see improvements in a combination of hard and soft communications objectives before he or she agrees to invest in new social media. Hard ROI measurements are tangible, financial impacts. Chris Lake of eConsultancy suggests important hard ROI measurements in this article’s 10 steps for measuring the effects of your social media. I’ve chosen to include traffic, sales, savings, and customer acquisition and retention.

Traffic: This is vital to measure, because otherwise you cannot know if your social media is getting any attention.  According to Jeff Bullas, your traffic and search ranking measurements will improve, and you can see how often people click on your links.

Sales: Although it is hard to measure online sales unless the product is sold exclusively online and you track the number of online customers, it is possible to connect your social media to offline sales.  A user’s intent to purchase is directly linked to their online research.  Customers’ online behaviors can predict their offline actions, as seen in this example from iMediaConnection using the auto industry:


“Conversion Rate/CTR” shows the number of visits to the advertiser’s site after people were exposed to the ad campaigns that gave impressions about the company and its advertisements.  The chart shows there is a correlation between ad impression, which leads to website visits, and car sales.  Website visits measure a customer’s intent to purchase, and intent is shown to have a link to actual automobile purchases and visits to dealerships.

Savings: Mack Collier explains there are many ways to save money by lowering costs through using social media, and it is not difficult to measure them.  Simply measure how much you spent on the following two categories before and after you implement your programs.

First, online customer service requires less resources and employees, and can conveniently reach a larger audience. Online feedback allows customers to tell you about other problems, allowing you to save time and money fixing things and coming up with new ideas. Second, online advertisement is cheap and sometimes free.  You can advertise on your blog or Facebook page, for example, and the traffic you produce increases the coverage of your organization elsewhere.  A.K.A free publicity!

Customer Acquisition and Retention:  As Chris Lake suggests, again in this article, measuring customer retention is an important way to see the effects of social media. Getting customers is important; keeping customers is vital.  Keep tabs on who is buying your products online to see how many new customers you are getting, and how many of them are repeat-buyers.  This is how you know you’re doing something right. As Mark Hayward suggests in step four of this article, ask your customers how they heard about you, and also keep tabs on what are the most frequent answers (i.e. if they searched for you on Google, if they saw your blog on Technorati, etc.) so you know what’s working best for getting customers.

In my next post, I will discuss important soft ROI measurements.

New Social Media is NOT Traditional Media

Then what is it? Before you start looking for results, you should know what the difference is between measuring traditional media and new social media.  These first few posts may seem information-heavy, but it’s good to understand and establish what you’re measuring before you start your measurements.

New social media, most importantly, is collaborative, as Anthony Bradley’s article points out when discussing social media technologies.   It utilizes many different technologies to form an online community of people that actively participate through their chosen channels.  These technologies are interactive in a way that traditional media was not; participation is key.  New social media does not have a static structure like traditional media, but is instead constantly evolving and forming fresh organizational structures that need their own forms of measurement.

To measure new social media, you must understand that it is mainly consumer-driven, unlike traditional media which was mainly market-driven. This means engaging in new social media is about building relationships and measuring progress over time, not merely looking at short-term results. You may not see sales “sky rocket” in the next quarter as a result of your company’s blog, but you will be able to measure new things that contribute to your communication objectives.

Your ROI, or returns on investment, will no longer be measured exclusively with dollar amounts, but also in your constituents’ engagement in your new social media applications.

For example, it now means something new to discuss the value of the number of customers that “like” your organization’s Facebook page.  This adds value to your company because all of your consumers have friends that see what they “like,” thus giving your organization more credibility and spreading its name by word-of-mouth marketing.

Your organization needs to learn to look at measurement in a fresh and innovative way.  This means coming up with new objectives to meet your new social media metrics. A good example of a social media metric system is this diagram from the Fall 2010 issue of MIT Sloan Review:  As you can see in the diagram, each type of new social media is given several units of measurement (number of followers, search ranking, etc.) and is correlated to three suggested communications objectives: brand awareness, brand engagement, and word-of-mouth. A diagram like this is a useful starting point for measurement, but you should tailor it to your organization’s unique new social media and communications objectives.

Your new objectives must be clear-cut goals, which is among the steps for how to measure social media ROI in this article by Mashable’s Christina Warren. These goals are for what you wish to achieve with your new social media.  This also means you must know where your organization currently stands, because you can’t make accurate measurements without a starting line for comparisons.

For instance, do people who comment on your blog also click on your blog’s advertisements, thus leading them to buying a product?  And does this make your sales of this product increase from previous years? This is how you can begin to make a connection between tried and (not-so-true) traditional media measurement and new social media measurement techniques.

Stay tuned for my next blog, when I’ll explain what you’re going to be measuring.