Social media measurement: Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand tweets

In all of the posts I’ve read about social media measurement, very few address the possible role of qualitative research — measuring when you don’t have data — so let’s take a look at that today, shall we?  This will not be boring, I promise.

To make sure we’re all on a level playing field, let me quickly review the difference between QUANTITATIVE and QUALITATIVE data.

Quantitative marketing research is descriptive and conclusive.  It addresses research objectives through numerical measurement and statistical analysis.  In the social media world, this means data you can easily collect and measure like tweets, page views, comments, and perhaps even sales.  These are the facts and figures that get all the headlines. 

Qualitative Research is more, well …  touchy-feely.  It uses small samples and may involve focus groups, interviews, and behavioral observation.  Although it does not lend itself to statistical analysis* it can still be a quick and effective way to tell a story.

Because of all the free and voluminous data available through the social web, most of the attention is on the sexy quantitative side, but it might not be the best way to show value or tell your story.

Story time

Let me give an example from my own experience …

In addition to marketing and management, I also have a background in organizational development.  On one of my projects, I was delivering a training program to help correct dysfunctional management-union dynamics in a large company.  The people who went through the program raved about its effectiveness and had concrete examples of how it was dramatically improving the workplace.  The company’s top managers — who would not go through the program — were very skeptical about any progress and, lacking measurable results, were leaning toward cancelling it.  Like most managers, they demanded quantitative measurement … and I didn’t have it.  Sound familiar?

At the next employee training session, I mentioned that the program was probably going to be cancelled. The result was an out-pouring of outrage by both union and management participants. I had a video camera nearby for a training exercise and said, “Excuse me, but would you mind if I just turn this thing on to record your views?”

The group proceeded to tell story after story about the benefits of the training and also scolded upper management for not attending.  I edited the video to conform to the 5-minute executive attention span and played it during their next meeting. The managers sat dumbfounded and impressed as their employees passionately talked about the tangible benefits of the training. By the end of the meeting they all committed to attending the training themselves and expanding the program — without one pie chart!

Apply this to the social web

I use this example because like PR, marketing, or social media programs, training is very hard to quantify on a nice, neat spreadsheet.   This situation was a perfect time to use stories — qualitative data — to define value in a very different, yet compelling, way.

When you’re struggling to measure the value of social media marketing in your company don’t overlook the possibility of using qualitative stories from customers, employees and other stakeholders.  They might be showing up every day in comments, reviews, and customer meetings.

The technology of the social web offers unprecedented ways to capture and display this qualitative output.  And you know, sometimes all it takes is ONE story to provide more new insight than a dozen graphs!

What are your ideas?  What are some of the ways we can use stories to demonstrate the value of marketing through the social web?

*Michelle Chmielewski wrote in a {grow} comment that values can indeed be assigned to qualitative data to create numerical analysis. In effect this is how sentiment analysis is conducted. However, I was just trying to keep it simple today! : )

Three reasons why the “experts” are wrong about social media measurement

There is an argument around the blogosphere that is DRIVING ME CRAZY.

When it turns to the topic of measurement and social media marketing, many “authorities” flippantly rely on the “double standard” argument — If you’re trying to measure the value of SM, you might as well measure the value of a cell phone, the company car and the receptionist.    One popular blogger and author recently said if your manager asks for the ROI of your social media initiative, you should ask him for the ROI of his pants.  Their point is that you just need to accept the social web as something ubiquitous and necessary, so why worry about it?

This is lunacy.  Here are three reasons why this “no need to measure” view is an irresponsible position:

1) Never get caught with your stats down

Let’s examine the argument that you don’t measure the value of a company car, or email so insisting that we measure social media is a double standard.

Even if you don’t directly account for the on-going value of these items on a spreadsheet, there is an implied economic value to cars and cell phones and all this everyday stuff.

At some point in the life of every company, there will be a financial imperative to slash overhead costs.  On that day, everything will be evaluated — do we cut or not cut?  This is the point of reckoning that defines the “implied economic value” of any effort.  Yes, that company car  may be cut.  Probably the receptionst too …  along with many initiatives that have no measurement attached to them.  Which is EXACTLY why you MUST measure.

If you have measurable value attached to your social media initiative, if you can demonstrate how your projects align with strategy and contribute to shareholder value, your implied value goes up and you have a shot at surviving the cuts.  No stats = No chance.

2) The fallacy of free

One argument is that this stuff is free any way, why spend time measuring it?  By now, I’d hope we could put aside the argument that a corporate social media effort is “free.”  Right?

But just how much money are we talking about?

Let’s assume you have one person working full-time on social media marketing. We’ll assign that person a salary of $60,000. In a typical company, standard health, 401(k) and other benefit costs equal another 50% of the base salary, or in this case, $30,000.

We’ll assign another 20% of base salary for overhead such as office space, shared services support and technology. That’s $12,000.  We won’t even address travel, training, or bonuses.

So, our minimal full-up cost for one social media professional is $102,000.  As a business owner, are you willing to spend more  than $100,000 per year without requiring any accountability for a return?  What kind of a company are you running?

3) Measure what you treasure

As my teacher Peter Drucker used to say, you can’t manage it if you can’t measure it. Measurement is necessary to determine progress and opportunity.  How can you NOT measure a strategic imperative like marketing, especially when the metrics are flying at you for free?

I’m a practical guy. I know it may be cost-prohibitive or even impossible to determine the specific ROI of your efforts.  But there is no excuse for not tracking key non-financial measures that contribute to your company’s goals.  To support your credibility, your long-term viability,  and your personal career in social media marketing, you must measure.

This is an emotional topic for some, but it shouldn’t be.  This is basic business common sense. What do you think?

{grow} community alert: Frequent contributor Chris Bailey wrote a nice companion piece to this post and fleshes out some of these ideas. I recommend it!

Spring is in the air

It’s going to be 66 degrees and sunny in Tennessee today. Discuss.  : )

Encouraging social web in the workplace may have side benefits

An article in the Harvard Business Review caught my eye.  It provided some evidence that allowing at least some social media employee freedom is good for the workplace

We all know by now that most organizations limit or frown upon the use of social media in the workplace. Leaders have nightmarish visions of their employees wasting hours on Facebook and Twitter. But this article states that reasonable employee use of social media has actually been shown to benefit companies. Here are three reasons to let your employees get connected:

  1. More attractive workplace. Many people, especially younger generations, see social media as a staple of work life and seek out employers who understand and acknowledge the critical role these new technologies play in our world.
  2. Improved productivity. Research has shown that employees who take breaks to surf the Internet for fun are ultimately more productive than their surf-adverse colleagues.
  3. More engaged workforce.  Employees not only appreciate companies that allow them to check Facebook at work, but they also use social media to connect with colleagues, improve communication, and speed up decision making processes — all of which helps them engage with their work and the organization.

Obviously this is a two-edged sword.  This topic came up during the Q&A session after a speech I gave last week and a riot almost broke out. Many employers have EXTREMELY strong, negative views on this issue.

This battle is going to become even more heated with the ubiquity of mobile applications.

What’s going on in your workplace?  What are your views?

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