10: Managing Social Tech by the Numbers

Having a specific method of measurement helps to be specific about the goal you wish to achieve and to assess progress. In addition to providing vision and motivation, it enables you to demonstrate that the budget and effort you expend on social are earning a meaningful return.

The primary measurement used by business is the return on investment (ROI) which is used to demonstrate that the dollar-value that was earned by undertaking an action is greater than the costs spent to do it, and to compare alternative courses of action to determine which is the best use of resources.

There is also the notion that social technology is a tool, and that the value of tools is generally not measured - but accept that tools are necessary to create value by using them in activities. We do not ask how much ROI we get from issuing workers Microsoft Office, though we do measure the value of the tasks they use the software to perform. Having the tool is a prerequisite, a given.

(EN: The author overlooks that things were not always thus. When office managers originally proposed replacing typewriters with word processors, which were very expensive at the time, a cost-benefit analysis was likely required to prove their worth. It's likely that social tech will need to prove its value at the onset, and later may achieve the status of being a "given" cost.)

Ultimately, the need to have numbers and metrics is necessary for psychological reasons: what gets measured gets done, and what cannot be expressed in numbers is regarded as unimportant as compared to anything else that can.

Analyzing Results Will Show What Must Be Improved

Using metrics enables you to gain a more granular sense of what aspects of your goals are not being met - which people or campaigns are missing the mark. "Learning what doesn't work is as important as learning what does."

If you compare individual results, you will be able to see which employees are making the best use of social media: which have discovered good practices and which need training.

Having granular metrics also helps avoid the notion that social media, as a whole, doesn't work: you will be able to identify which specific elements didn't work and seek methods to improve. For example, consider a social coupon campaign that resulted in only 150 downloads (not so great) but a 10% redemption rate (rather good) - this tells you the coupon was successful, but the campaign needed to be promoted to more users.

Ideas for Areas to Measure

The marketing metrics in place to measure the success of social media promotional campaigns are not the same as the metrics that are helpful to a staff manager, whose primary interest is in gauging the proficiency of individual employees, the department, and the organization. Some of these tools may be useful if you wish to measure the reach and impact of a specific social property (the company twitter account, your department's blog)

The author gives a list of measurements for personal uses:

Of importance is to measure what matters: if you get caught up in measures of magnitude, you may be encouraging people in the wrong direction: an HR clerk can find hundreds of candidates on LinkedIn, but unless they are qualified, it does more harm than good to inundate hiring managers with their contact information.

The author mentions promoting the use of social tools with internal success stories: some employees may cling to their old tools until someone else, who does the same job, shows that social tools are more efficient and effective.

The author strays a bit into social campaign measurement, which can be complicated because they have numerous parts (a blog post, a twitter comment, a Facebook update, a YouTube video, etc.); there are multiple actions people may take (view them, forward them, link to them, become a fan, etc.) on the way to acting on them, or even without acting on them directly; and the action taken may not have immediate dividends but increase their engagement and likelihood of taking action that will benefit you in future. (EN: The author provides a few examples, but it's very superficial.)

There's a few stray notes: Refrain from tweaking too much in the course of a campaign, such that you are unable to detect which specific changes worked. To be meaningful, change only one variable at a time. Also, do not expect massive results or assume your experiment is a failure because it doesn't achieve ambitious goals. See every campaign as an opportunity to learn.

It's also important to consider the long-term impact of short-term efforts. Keep track of the number of positive and negative mentions, as well as the number of people who have joined or left your network. It's possible to have a campaign that gives you short-term success (a boost in sales) but does greater long-term harm (people were deceived into buying and now make a lot of really negative remarks).

Measurement Tools

There are a number of free Web-based tools that gather measurements, but they may not be the measurements you want - e.g., it's easy for a service to count the number of comments on your blog, but no service will tell you how many are positive or negative. Because social is new and evolving, there is no standard tool that provides good analytics for every purpose.

In such instances, you will have to do it the hard way - visit the site yourself and enter the data into Excel for analysis. Under no circumstances should you ignore important metrics, or pay great attention to less important ones, simply because there is not a tool that makes them easy to gather

Stray note: share the metrics with the team to let people know how they are doing. Ideally, metrics can be available in real time or, at worst, there should be a way to check metrics daily. Because social requires constant attention, providing statistics that will encouragement (or an indication improvement is needed) one a week or once a month is insufficient. In line with the latter, share bad news as well as good.

Also provide metrics to "leaders" within the organization. You will need executive support, and keeping the numbers in front of them is a good way to maintain attention and interest. A monthly report is generally sufficient to keep social on their minds without inundating them.

Setting Stretch Goals

There's a "real art" to setting goals that maximize results and maintain morale. It's generally true that people will give you what you ask of them, and not much more - so if you are too modest in your goals, you will not get as much benefit as you might. At the same time, if a goal is set too high, people will feel overwhelmed and will not attempt to meet them - the impossible goal gives them an excuse not to try. (EN: It's also the case that bad goals lead to bad behavior - people take shortcuts, or do things they know cause more harm than good, in order to meet the expectations.)