One of mankind's most alluring questions has always been â€˜how far have we come?' The tool for calculating distance – the odometer – is particularly interesting, as it has always been an instrument that accompanies success. In fact, Alexander the Great was among the first to use an odometer. He insisted that his mathematicians figure how far he'd gone as he conquered the world.
For too long, marketers have omitted the odometer altogether. Instead, they measured distance by putting their heads out the driver's side window for the duration of the trip and then showing off their windswept hairstyles to their clients at the end. Then, for a while they tried to measure by squinting at only a tachometer, assuming that 8,000 RPM always eventually led to high speeds. Never mind that the car might have been in neutral.
The good news is that today, you can not only install an odometer, but also a range of other gauges to create amazing social media campaign dashboards, from speedometers to engine temperature readouts to fuel indicators – and yes tachometers, too. Here are some tips for putting measurement in the driver's seat:
First Gear: Get into your analytics. On a bicycle, the spinning hub powering the speedometer and odometer is a small disc on the wheel. In social, it's a rich analytics platform. Whether Google Analytics, Omniture or something else, get it going and get access to it immediately. URL shorteners like Goo.gl and Bit.ly add another mechanism providing direct evidence that your outreach led web visitors to the right places. Both provide data structures that essentially ring a bell every time a customer enters the door.
Second Gear: Define outcomes and conversions. Whether awareness, revenue or political action, what outcome does your social marketing seek? At minimum, programs should push people to areas of your web properties that advance them towards that outcome. This doesn't mean social programs must necessarily directly lead to outcomes â€” but they should take the user to channels you control and in which you can continue the education or sales process without the din of competition for attention. These can be defined both conceptually and literally within analytics platforms as conversions â€” the areas of your web presence that, when visited, represent evidence that your message is creating action. Conversion sits at the top of the measurement pyramid and creating ways to define and measure it in the most relevant way for your specific organization is critical to using data for communications decision-making. Don't lose sight of the business goal.
Third Gear: Define KPIs in every channel. Odometers track the distance traveled but a speedometer adds the concept of time, and the tachometer a measure of effort. Likewise, think across all channels while considering multiple dimensions of measurement. Volume measures that demonstrate effort might include number of unique visitors to your overall domain, number of inbound links and visits from search engines. Depth KPIs that demonstrate quality of audience could include number of blog RSS/ email subscribers, share of voice (percentage of online articles on your key topic that include your brand) or number of articles that include your organization's key messages. Engagement metrics might include number of Facebook or blog comments, retweets and @ replies. Some organizations even want a gauge for sentiment, often using the KPI of proportion of positive or neutral reaction to content. To get the full picture, absolutely do define KPIs in every channel in which you market – but absolutely don' t create too many KPIs per channel! If you're not certain how performance against a particular KPI will affect the business goals you are pursuing, you shouldn't be using it to measure performance.
Fourth Gear: Set goals for each KPI and each tactic. Create a way to look into historical performance across the KPIs you've chosen and set expectations based on your organization's size, reach, and level of adoption of social marketing tactics. Scrutinize competitor performance against these KPIs as well. Set your course with an intended speed, an estimated time of arrival and a desired destination that indicates your message has been received.
"How To Measure" is just one technique we cover in our latest book. Visit our PR resources page to get the full ebook version or receive a printed copy of The Changing Face of Communications: 12 Digital Techniques for Modern PR. And come back and tell us what you think.
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