TweetReach: Welcome Michele! Let’s start with talking about how you got started with social analytics. What got you interested in measuring social?
Michele: I first got into digital measurement through web and advertising analytics at Kelley Blue Book. As I started expanding my horizons and wanting to learn more about the digital analytics industry, I started joining in conversations in social media — the Yahoo Web Analytics group, Linked In, Quora, but especially Twitter. For me, social analytics started mostly as a curiosity, just playing around with different solutions and analysing social traffic to my little blog, or analysing the social media behaviour of the online web analytics community through the #measurehashtag.
Now, at Red Door Interactive, my team of Digital Analysts and I get to help clients understand the impact of conversations they’re having with customers, including on the website, in social media or through a variety of acquisition channels.
TweetReach: What metrics are most important for your job and your company? What should we be measuring? Beyond that, is there anything we shouldn’t be measuring? Are there any “bad” metrics?
Michele: I don’t think there are “bad” metrics per se, just less useful ones. There is an evolution as companies grow from a simple like/follower approach to looking more at business impact. This isn’t really surprising, given a lot of companies also embark on social “because we should”, but without strategy or goals for doing so. Ideally, companies should embark on social initiatives with clear goals (e.g., decrease call center volume, drive sales, drive traffic to the website, save on other marketing budgets, etc) and understand what, in a perfect world, you would want to measure. From there, figure out if you can. Do you have the right toolsets? The necessary data integration? If not, come up with something that gets you close, or gives you directional insight while you build out the rest. I’m not saying wait until everything is perfect before you do anything, but make sure you know where you want to get before you start working towards it.
TweetReach: What are your recommendations for someone just getting started with social analytics? What should they do first? What are some important considerations?
Michele: For an analyst thinking about diving into social media, they need to first get involved in social media themselves. I don’t think you can measure what you don’t understand, and getting involved in a variety of social channels is key to understanding them. (And no, just having a Facebook account doesn’t count.) Each channel is different and the goals of being involved are different. I try new social channels all the time. They may prove to not be “my kind of thing” (and no one can possibly keep up with all of them and hold down a job, too!) but at least play around and see what they offer, how the channels differ and how they might be used for different goals or different businesses.
There are key books I would recommend reading – John Lovett’s “Social Media Metrics Secrets”, Jim Sterne’s “Social Media Metrics” and Olivier Blanchard’s “Social Media ROI” (and converse with these guys on Twitter! They are great guys and are always up for a good conversation.) Not to mention a myriad of blogs out there.
From there, start doing it, even if you just start by analysing your own accounts. Better yet, find a local business or non-profit to help (so you can attempt to tie to actual business metrics.) You’ll learn more from doing (and, let’s be honest, making mistakes) than you ever will from a book.
But it’s important to keep in mind social media is just one marketing channel. It’s great to have an interest in social analytics, but like other areas, it needs to be kept in context of the overall business and marketing efforts.
TweetReach: Let’s talk about consistency in measurement. There are a tremendous number of tools and approaches used to measure social media performance, which can produce results that are difficult to compare. Do you see the industry evolving towards a more standardized set of metrics or do you think we’ll continue to see a lot of variety and experimentation?
Michele: I’m going to give the very on-the-fence answer: Both. While social analytics often starts as just “likes” and “followers” for companies, pretty soon executives (and hopefully, good analysts!) are trying to tie this to actual business value, and look at social media in the context of other marketing initiatives. Profit or revenue driven are standardised and can apply across all channels, including social. However, let’s be honest: sometimes that’s hard to measure! It involves tying together different data sources, understanding attribution, and trying to measure what may sometimes be unmeasurable. (Do I know that you bought my product after you saw your best friend’s Facebook post raving about it? Maybe not.) But while the answers won’t be perfect, companies have to try to get as close as they can.
On the other hand, new social channels crop up every day, and while these too need to be tied to profit, they’ll also have their own in-network metrics that marketers and analysts will keep track of, and use to understand behaviour. (After all, somewhere there’s a 12-year-old in his garage creating something that will blow Zuckerberg off the map.)
Ultimately, social needs to be tied to business objectives like any other initiative, but the methods we use to do this will get more sophisticated, and I think there’s a lot more experimentation still to come.
TweetReach: We’re hearing a lot about influence right now; everyone wants to measure influence and target influencers. What are your thoughts on measuring influence in social media? What’s the best way to determine who is influential for a particular campaign or initiative?
Michele: Influence is a great example of where social analytics has room to grow. What businesses care about is who influences sales (or leads, or referrals, or whatever your business objectives.) Social tools are measuring “influence” on retweets, or Facebook likes, or video views. I can understand why businesses want to understand who their influencers are, but I think we need to keep in mind the limitations of a lot of current measures of influence — they’re likely not measuring influencers of the business metric they actually care about. That’s when it will be truly useful.
At the same time, I worry about the uses that current influence metrics are put to. I can see a use in using influence to prioritise, for example, response to requests. (For the same reason that food critics get the best cut of meat, those with online influence can have a big impact if they have a negative experience, and I can understand companies wanting to provide excellent service.) But I hope it’s not used as a metric of “you’re not worthy of my time.” Simply put, I can see using influence to determine who to respond to first, but not who to respond to at all.
I also worry about the use of influence in areas such as recruiting. I hope companies make their decisions off more than one number, and look at a candidate or potential consultant’s actual track record, results and skills.
I think these concerns just speak to the overall reality with a lot of social media metrics today — they can be useful in context, but as one standalone metric, we may sometimes attach too much significance, without enough consideration, analysis and scrutiny.
TweetReach: Thanks, Michele!