Why Your Social Media Plan should have Success Metrics

So, you’re going to launch a social media campaign huh? You’ve got all the tools, resources, and processes together, but did you remember to set some goals?

I get to meet and talk to many companies that are adopting social media from a variety of levels of sophistication: unsure, scared, excited, embracing, overly ecstatic. One of the biggest challenges they have is forgetting to visualize what success looks like. In many cases, they are overly focused on fondling the hammer, that they forget about the overall goal.

Even if a company is doing a trial project (externally, internally, whatever) part of the expectations of the project should include a page, slide, or document that indicates what success will look like –even if they know that it may not be reached, here’s a few example to get you started:

A few examples of what success could look like for you:

  • We were able to learn something about customers we’ve never know before
  • We were able to tell our story to customers and they shared it with others
  • A blogging program where there are more customers talking back in comments than posts
  • An online community where customers are self-supporting each other and costs are reduced
  • We learn a lot from this experimental program, and pave the way for future projects, that could still be a success metric
  • We gain experience with a new way of two-way communication
  • We connect with a handful of customers like never before as they talk back and we listen
  • We learned something from customers that we didn’t know before
  • As you prepare your plans (you’ve got one right?) to use social media, don’t forget to include a section on “what does success look like”, and visualize and aim for you goals. Oh, and guess what, your goals can change over time, and they should.

    Experimentation with these are important, these are radically different ways for companies to communicate with customers, so be sure to indicate to your management how this is experiment, and you’ll need a bit of wiggle room and latitude for the unexpected. It’s their job to empower and trust you, knowing the risks that could happen as you learn to let go to gain more.

    It’s important to setup expectations for yourself, your management, and your customers (feel free to let them know why you are doing this) in order to give yourself a purpose as you embark on connecting in new ways.

    33 Replies to “Why Your Social Media Plan should have Success Metrics”

    1. I agree any campaign should have metrics. However your suggestions are goals, rather than metrics.

      Although I agree they would be good goals to look to achieve, you still need the numbers to prove you have achieved these goals.

    2. Actually, i think Jeremiah’s approach is the right one. I think one should have a “definition of success,” but i don’t think it should be entirely quantitative or numerical.

      I am often asked about how to measure the ROI on social media projects. My usual answer is to make people stop and think about things like:

      — how do you measure the ROI on your email system?
      — how do you measure the ROI on your public website? How about your intranet? Or your mobile phone?

      It was not very long ago that many business people said “I don’t read email — it’s a waste of time!” or “we don’t need a website; we’re not an e-commerce company!” Can you imagine saying that now? It would be ludicrous to do business without those valuable tools. These technologies have woven themselves into the fabric of everyday business, and social media is doing the same thing.

      It’s very hard to measure (in numbers) the benefits of advancements that improve communication, collaboration, access to information, brand loyalty, customer engagement, etc. But they are real improvements and you can detect them in the ways that Jeremiah describes without specifically measuring hard numbers or computing an ROI.

      I also commented on this a little while ago at http://ericschurr.awarenessnetworks.com/default.asp?item=683058&mode=blog

    3. Like any other project, the best road to finding (and agreeing) on these success metrics is dependent on answering the most critical question of all:

      Why are we doing this?

      Once you can answer this question for yourself (and generally speaking, the line “We need to do this because our competitors are doing this” just doesn’t quite cut it), then you can better come up with metrics that can best be applied to your particular program.

      As you can see from the examples above, there are no “right” answers (all circumstantial based on the company, the desired change in relationship between company and customers, comfort level with opening up/company culture, etc.). But if there’s one message that really needs to be heavily emphasized with the executive community when pitching these projects, it’s the fact that commerce MAY fall out of this, but social networks are not commerce engines themselves.

      It sometimes makes it more difficult to sell, given that you’re not saying you’ll grow your business by another $12 million in year one, but getting acceptance of this fact will be critical in getting support after the community starts to take off and it starts raising concerns from others in the company who may question why you’re doing this project to begin with.

    4. Couldn’t agree more. Over the past few years, we have moved beyond simple “try and learn” social media programs to larger budget programs that offset or even replace traditional marketing depending on the client goals. We have always used KPI’s (key performance indicators) that report against the type of goals that you outline and more.
      BUT what I see happening is two things: marketers do want quantitative numbers and they want 2-3 of them not the 20 KPIs that we follow. They want that simple roll-up to a meaningful number they can make decisions against and socialize inside their organization (i.e. “report up”).
      To do that, we are tetsing a new model that tries to combine the inherent benefits of what we do – word of mouth via social media and digital marketing – with a metric that even a brand manager coudl love (simple, comparable, actionable)
      We’ll know how it goes in the next month or so.

    5. Great little list, but for clarification. what is the difference between: “We were able to learn something about customers we™ve never know before” and “We learned something from customers that we didn™t know before”?

    6. Great post! Daan raises a good point…but a word of caution: it is CRITICAL to have goals/objectives crystallized before jumping to metrics. With so many measurement options out there — from web analytics tools to the reports provided by social media technology platforms (no. of comments, no. of posts, no. of registered users, etc.) — it is entirely too easy to be seduced by the siren song of data and skip the “what are my goals” step.

      Jeremiah hit a triple with this post and Eric’s comment lets him jog comfortably home. Both show examples of steering clear of the dastardly “calculate the ROI” mantra. Start with *what* you’re doing. If, honestly, you’re just trying to learn what social media is all about, there’s no better way to learn than by doing…that’s a valid goal (albeit one that needs to be revisited after a few months!).

      I’m a professional “data guy,” but I’ve kept an Albert Einstein quote posted in my office for a number of years: “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” I see that as a direct counter to the popular cliche of, “If you can’t measure it, don’t do it.” Einstein was a genius on many levels.

      My prescription to my clients is: figure out what counts for YOU. Then, figure out how to best measure it. If the best you can come up with are some quantitative metrics that are weak proxies for measuring your success, and you can combine those with some subjective assessment, that’s not ideal, but it’s OKAY! Much better than simply measuring what you can measure without having a clear idea of what you’re trying to really accomplish.

    7. I’m agreeing in theory, but yes, these sound more like goals than metrics. We’re working on what metrics should look on when we launch new ideas, but we’re running into problems when clients are tightfisted with their own analytics.

    8. Sure, maybe I shouldn’t have used the terms metrics interchangeably with goals, but the core message I’m sending out stays constant –regardless of nuances.

    9. Another thought-provoking post from Jeremiah (do you ever get over to Europe?). These goals are sound and hence we suggest to our clients the need to understand their social media space (it’s not just blogs) before, during and after campaigns. Make it on going if you’re continually rolling out initiatives. And by understand I mean know what people are saying about you (brand/product/organization), who they are, where they talk and the relative influence / impact of these places and how these converations mobilize opinion online. That way you can set and monitor goals and metrics because Tim Wilson’s Einstein quote (see above) holds true in this space. See http://ijor.mypublicsquare.com/view/sense-and-online
      for more on this.

    10. Jonathan

      Yes, I was in Barcelona this past Dec speaking at a Forrester event. I’ll be happy to come out to speak at other events, my email address is on my contact page.

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