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Over the last year (or three), how much time have you spent Linking In, Tweeting, Facebooking, Blogging, and using other social tools?  If you are like most, getting a return on your time investment probably has crossed your mind:  Is Social Media actually paying off?  Is it worth the effort?

To answer this question, many people rely on the argument of the phone: why should Social Media – a necessary tool – be held to a higher standard than the telephone?  Since the phone isn’t justified, why should Social Media be?

This is an argument of laziness: the telephone is absolutely justified by how people use it, and the results that accrue from that use.  In fact, there are many metrics for the phone:  Number of inbound calls, wait times, customer inquiries, sales volume, travel dollars saved, etc.  Social Media measurement is even more measurable.  Consider these possibilities:

  • Volume: The number of fans/followers/subscribers/connections; the number of views/comments/trackbacks on any videos/blog posts, and Retweets on Twitter.
  • Sentiment: Whether the discussion/comments about your organization, brands, and senior leaders are trending positive or trending negative.
  • Topics/Issues: Tracking the context of the conversation: whether the topics where the organization is referred to matches the target topics.
  • Source: Source refers to finding where the conversation is taking place.
  • Authors (influencers): Determining who the thought leaders (or in some cases, the ringleaders) are will allow the organization to directly influence the conversation.
  • Traffic: The use of Google Analytics to keep track of standard web metrics:  page views, time on site, click-through-rate, etc.
  • Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube analytics:  To use the varied stats from within the Social Media sites to determine user interests.
  • Media Mentions:  The number of real-world media comments based on Social Media postings.
  • Number of job or volunteer candidates.

This week’s action plan:  The most important Social Media measure is simple:  does the strategy deliver the expected results?  This week, spend your Social Media time budget setting Social Media goals that are tightly tied to your organization’s business goals.  Then choose measures that allow you to track your progress.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
:  Professional credentials site
.com: Web strategy, technology, and development
:  Interviews with the nation’s thought-leaders

How do you know if you are successful at Social Media?  While the answer a few years ago may have been it’s so experimental, we’ll have to see, the answer from some today is similarly dissatisfying:  Social Media ROI is comparable to computing the ROI of a telephone. We can do better than this – we are no longer in the age of experimentation.

Consider these four approaches:

Relative to plan:  Before embarking on a Social Media program, forecast the impact of your efforts:  how many page views, likes, new connections, user-generated submissions, sentiment, comments, tweets, retweets, or shares are you expecting?  And in the real world, what are you expecting in terms of real-world change: decreased customer service phone or email volume, increased leads, or increased product sales?  You need not forecast everything – just what is important to you and your organization.  Forecasting specific numbers at the outset puts a stake in the ground, and improves accountability… measurably.

Change from prior period:  Instead of a comparison to plan, consider measuring growth over time.  Be careful though: the growth number is only useful when the investment (time and budget) are also compared over the same period. A 50% year-over-year growth in Twitter followers is meaningless if the work effort to achieve the growth grew by 200%.

Relative to an industry benchmark:  A 15% return might seem great, but if everyone else is getting 30%, then 15% is not very good at all.  The social web has been around for a few years now, and benchmarks, common practices, and rules-of-thumb are just now starting to become more common.  We recently completed a national survey of 400+ associations and not-for-profits; the benchmarks are invaluable.  (The 100+ page report is available here.)

Business impact:  It’s far more powerful when a Social Media activity directly impacts a real business measure – something that is on the financial statements, either revenue or cost.  Some examples: Increased sales due to a YouTube campaign. The effectiveness of Twitter to improve customer retention. The reduction in recruitment fees when using LinkedIn.

While all four measurement approaches are valuable, business impact measures are by far the most.  If you are tracking relative to plan, to changes, or to industry benchmarks, follow the measure back to the impact on the business itself.  If it doesn’t impact the business, then why measure it at all?

This week’s action item: Create a Social Media Scorecard, highlighting your most critical measures.  Not only will it keep you focused on achieving your results, the scorecard is a great way to communicate progress to your colleagues.

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
:  Professional credentials site
.com: Web strategy, technology, and development
:  Interviews with the nation’s thought-leaders


Social Media Fatigue

by Randall Craig July 19, 2011

If you’re like most people, you get three types of email: the kind you want, the kind you don’t want (spam), and invitations to “connect” on the latest social media website. It’s this third category that poses  a problem: responding yes is time consuming (and sometimes inappropriate), but responding no might be taken as insulting. […]

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Not Just Marketing

by Randall Craig April 26, 2011

Too often it is the marketers, advertisers, PR folks, and others involved in the sales process who “own” social media within an organization. This isn’t surprising, but it is unfortunate. The development of relationships is critically important in just about every organizational department, and each person’s individual success. Not convinced? Here are a few suggestions […]

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