The most important question in social media marketing

This series of articles has been examining social media measurement strategies. So far we’ve focused on the one, true financial measure, ROI, and have started to examine more qualitative measures like impact on brand equity.Whether you work for a company or a non-profit (these days, is there a difference?), you must strive to align every marketing initiative with the organization’s mission. But I also know true financial measurement may not be feasible. And in that case, it’s time to throw ROI out the door.

Why? Because grandma always told me to deal with what is, not what we wish for. We have to be realists. Your best efforts to achieve accurate financial measurement may be constrained by technology, budget and resources. So, if you can’t get there in the near-term, what DO you measure? That’s why we’ll now turn the discussion to non-financial indicators (NFI’s) and the critical importance of selecting the correct measurement strategy for your social media marketing efforts.

There are hundreds of potential NFI’s but there is only one question you need to know to pick the right one: What behavior am I trying to drive?

Here is a great example of this concept in action. Walgreen’s has been a stellar financial performer and much of that has been attributed to its focus on one metric: Net profit per customer visit. Behavior they are driving? Spend more money with Walgreens!Think about the impact of that one metric — it would influence the store location and lay-out, product placement, product choices, advertising strategy, branding strategy, pricing decisions … literally every design, distribution and marketing decision could be made to drive that single metric ever upwards.

So you can see how powerful and critically important choosing the correct metric can be. And if you do, a magical thing will happen — Your marketing activities will begin to conform to that goal. The manner and level of engagement will rise to meet the need of pushing that metric higher and higher. If you choose wisely, the appropriate NFI will make your strategy EVOLVE!

What behavior are YOU trying to drive and how are your metrics supporting it? Sharing your ideas would help our community.

The next article in this series will examine specific options as you try to answer this most important question in marketing measurement.

This is Part Five of a series examining social media marketing measurement.

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  • Anonymous

    Hi Mark. I think you hit the nail on the head. Just like any management objective, you have to pick the right one and "measure what you treasure."

    In my company we are really struggling with this. There is a faction who simply wants to take the easiest measures of G Analytics and call it a day. Management is approaching social media as an experiment instead of a strategy and doesn't understand it enough to know what to do. So right now, the prettiest power point charts are the ones that get the attention.

    I am reading your blog and others and agree that to get into the mainstream, we have to view it like we would any other marketing channel. The one element I would add to this conversation is management sponsorship. Without their understanding and active support of that one key metric you talk about, the people who are doing the work will just flounder and meausre themselves by the data that is easiest to collect.

    You've put together a very impressive blog buddy!

    — SL

  • John Bottom

    If Google can't answer the question, why worship Sun?

    Seriously though – great blog, as always Mark. Thoughtful stuff.



    Received feedback that comments can't be posted. This is a test …

  • Steve Dodd

    Hi Mark, I like the path you are following. If I'm reading this correctly, the ultimate metric you are quoting is still monetary (net profit per customer visit), right? So everything measured still needs to ultimately track back to that?


    Everything has to track back to the goals of the organization. I probably should have used a second, non-profit example to illustrate.

    Having said that, is there really ANY goal of any institution that is not ultimately tied to money (or fund-raising)? I don't think so.

    Even a purely benevolent group like a charity or a church must have donors to survive and fund their works. Political campaigns want a popular candidate so enough money can be raised to win an office. Universities need to publish papers and have winning football teams to attract the money of students and alumni.

    Even "PR" efforts are meant to increase awareness, image and reputation. All of that ties back to the ability to sell something.

    The only example I can think of would be an independent charitable trust or foundation that has regular income not tied to fund-raising. But in that case, why would they even need to "market" or promote themselves?

    What am I missing here? Can anyone name an institutional objective you would measure that is not ultimately tied to money?

  • Jim LeBlanc

    there isn't one. money makes the world go 'round.

  • I remember seeing a Milward Brown presentation years ago where they could actually audit a brand and place a value on it in the financial statements. The bean counters dug that. Think of a shelf at a retailer – say DVD players. Would one saying SONY not have a better or higher perceived value than one that said XTRA_Vision_WHAMMO 1000! Prolly with very similar parts in it, or maybe even made in the same place. If you engage folks in a social web environment and are being true to the brand (which is afterall (mostly) all about how the customer feels about you and is formed as a personality of sorts in THEIR minds) are we not supporting, increasing or reinfocing said value? Now if you are in the business of selling stuff as a commodity arguably you have a tough(er) job.

    The activities of say ING CEO or the Ontario Ombudsman are examples I would give to show serious understanding of how Social Web work. Great stuff, valuable links, insight, connection, respond to other Twits and Twats and regardless whether they are real or not I think they are! And not saying this egotistically but from the Brand perspective THAT IS ALL THAT MATTERS!

    One closing thought – you can only measure Social Web activity with results way after the fact ie long term strategy. True the axiom of having to break some eggs to make an omelet. Which personally I welcome. I have no probs with a company testing this out and making mistakes. Mistakes in Social Web, not mistakes in customer service, product marketing or advertising. We are SUPPOSED to know that stuff. The Social Web si so new – yep ya will screw up. Good for you! Keep trying. We love ya!

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