Friday, December 9, 2011

Social Media Value is Tough, Expensive, to Measure

Despite demand for accountability, it often remains difficult and expensive to measure the business value of social media and content marketing, such as changes in brand perception. Small businesses might simply argue they have to make wise decisions and plow ahead without clear evidence, as small businesses typically do in other parts of their operations. 

In fact, all the good advice in the world is not likely to convince many, if not most marketers at smaller organizations that it makes good sense to spend more on measurement than on the actual campaigns, you might reasonably argue. But that isn't easy even for the larger enterprises, either.

"Our philosophy is that we need to measure metrics that are related to business value," says Irfan Kamal, Senior Vice President, Digital/Social Strategy at Ogilvy & Mather. "Does social media change brand perception?"

"Does it increase consideration?" he asks. "Does it drive actual sales for the brand?"

What often gets measured instead are what what Kamal says are diagnostic or optimization metrics such as the number of Facebook fans, the Twitter follower base, the size of a group or a message board or a LinkedIn group. All the metrics that are easily visible are the ones that end up getting measured most often. Impact hard to measure

"The problem is that it’s unclear whether there is a direct relationship between these metrics and genuine business value," he says.

"What we are trying to do is go the next step and understand first, what is the relationship between the metrics we can measure and business value, and second, if we can find a good relationship, what are the metrics that we should be measuring for business value?"

The other problem, aside from the difficulty of measurement, is that social media measurement can be expensive, one might say.

"A big part of what we do is try to figure out the best way to measure within specific budgets, and not all programs allow for really expensive measurement tool integration," he says.

Existing tools such as TweetReach and Google Analytics offer ways to measure things like reach relatively well, he says. But he acknowledges the cost issues for more sophisticated measurements. 

"I do think that the more complex measurements, such as the impact on brand perception or sales that are indirectly driven by social media, are important to measure, but they are somewhat more expensive to measure," he says.

"It would be great if some of the social media companies realized the importance and made these measurement capabilities more accessible to a wide variety of companies, from small businesses through to the largest brands," says Kamal.

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