How important is it to measure social media?

Joe Hughes, Research & Insight Manager,Yomego
Joe Hughes, Research & Insight Manager,Yomego

A large brand said to us recently that it wasn’t considering a social media strategy, because if you “get the product right, the rest will take of itself”. It was taking a ‘trust to luck’ approach, relying on spontaneous word of mouth recommendations to drive users of its product.

In one way, it has a valid point. If a product is good enough, people will recommend and promote it to each other – whether they talk about it online or offline. Equally, if the product isn’t up to scratch, no-one will buy.

But social media isn’t just about one-way promotion. The scope for customer engagement, and actively building reach, positive reputation and loyalty is huge. Social media is driving customers to consume more offline. Burger King created a Facebook app encouraging users to prove their love for the Whopper by sacrificing 10 Facebook friends in return for a free burger. (Facebook blocked the application, but not before users had deleted 233,906 of their contacts on the site – and generated a huge amount of publicity on the back of it.) Dell has notoriously used Twitter to engage with customers, attributing more than $6 million of sales to promotion through the channel. It’s not just big brands getting involved – The Albion Bakery in London users Twitter to broadcast when a fresh batch of bread or cakes are ready.

But what is the impact of these activities, and can it be measured? The answer is it can, and it should. Social media should be measured like any other marketing activity, against clear marketing objectives and as part of an integrated campaign. If a brand measures the success of marketing campaigns by reach (as for print and TV ads), the same CPM metrics can be attributed to social media spend. Many brands will also have a value attributed to a customer visit to the brand’s website.

Site visits and coupon redemptions generated via social media channels can be tracked so a financial value can be assigned to each campaign. LinkedIn and Twitter can be used as direct sales channels: a brand will normally know how much it costs to generate a sale via telesales, for example, so the cost and value of leads can be viewed in context of other activities. Some brands creating their own social media platforms to connect with customers (such as eircom with its eircom connect customer site), which can reduce the burden on customer service teams.

But the most important thing we can track on social media is a brand’s reputation. Stats on their own don’t provide any context or insight to inform future strategy. But it is possible to measure a brand’s reputation by combining automated and human analysis of reach and sentiment (and comparing it to the performance of competitive brands), and correlate this to performance in sales. Tracking reputation like this can also show what impact other marketing has had – an advertising campaign, for example – and so feed back into the planning process for future campaigns, or even into product development programmes.

All our experience shows that an increase in a brand’s social media reputation brings about an incremental increase in sales. ‘Trust to luck’ strategies may work for some, but smart brands are choosing to track their reputations in social media.

Joe Hughes, Research and Insight Manager, Yomego