April 5, 2011

Metrics advice: Think KPIs not ROI

JD LasicaOne of the most packed sessions at this last’s Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco was “Measuring the Future: New Metrics for New Media,” a solo talk given by Margaret Francis, Vice President of Product at Lithium, one of our top 10 social media monitoring vendors.

“Social media is an effective way to create awareness of and interest in products and services,” she told the 400 onlookers. So, how do you do that?

Those of us who do social media consulting for brands bump up against this all the time: The client — properly, of course — wants metrics to gauge the success of their social media or social marketing efforts and to shift course when they’re not hitting their goals.

There are tons of things you could be measuring. David Berkowitz even listed 100 ways to measure social media, but that’s the way to get lost in the weeds.

Instead, Francis said, “Measure strategy, not stuff.” That is, focus entirely on what you’re trying to accomplish with your social media program or campaign and then identify the Key Performance Indicators that will tell you, over time, whether you’re getting there.

Four kinds of applied metrics

While companies want to talk about their social media ROI, they really need to focus on identifying KPIs that map to business objectives.

Francis laid out four kinds of applied metrics that you should be focusing on in your metrics program:

  1. Brand perception: “It’s why Visa sponsors the Olympics and why Coca-Cola sponsors the Special Olympics,” she said. “It’s why you’re on Twitter.” It’s about maintaining or enhancing your brand’s reputation, perception and visibility. So you measure KPIs that inform factors like customer satisfaction score or likeliness to buy.
  2. Marketing efficiency: You should be look at your website, optimize for SEO and study where your traffic is coming from: Twitter, Facebook, blogs. (Twitter, I’ll add, now drives more than 10 percent of the New York Times’ traffic. Facebook drives at least 13 percent of MSN’s and Yahoo’s traffic.) Study your analytics. “You’ve got to have a web analytics tracking system on your website,” she said. “It’s all about reach.” And that means you may need to track the “little ticky-tacky metrics” that add up to painting a fuller picture.
  3. Revenue growth: It’s about leads and lead qualification as well as sales, so hone your marketing program to identify the people who will ultimately generate sales. So measure downloads, registrations, new subscribers and a host of other KPIs that will shine a light onto revenue growth patterns. (Francis didn’t talk about how to convert leads into customers, and it starts with using the right social media tools not only to identify them but to engage them in a high-value way.)
  4. Support savings: Analysis of social media can provide a really cheap and interesting way to get market research done at a fraction of the cost of other methods.

JD Lasica, founder of Socialmedia.biz, is now co-founder of the cruise discovery engine Cruiseable. See his About page, contact JD or follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.

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