By Farhod Rahmatov, Fellow of the 2012 Edmund S. Muskie Graduate Fellowship Program.
Facebook was launched in February 2004, YouTube started one year later, while Twitter was launched in March 2006, and the recent rocking social network Pinterest was founded in March 2010. What are the common links between them in 2013?
The biggest similarity is that jointly in 21st century they have formed Social Media. Nowadays, Social Media is used as an interactive communication channel by the government, education, businesses, media and social institutes to communicate with mass audiences and vice versa.
Today, a majority of all above institutions have profiles and pages on Facebook and Twitter, which are able to stream video on YouTube and share cool pictures from Pinterest boards. All this content is liked, shared, followed, commented and Goggled by billions of the Internet users.
The Internet users behavior in Social Media, can be used to determine success of your online media project. SO the question is how to measure your Social Media Project? Well before measuring something you need to have an object or goal of your online projects or activities.
The specific goals are used to measure ROI (Return on Investment) after the realization of the organizations’ marketing or communication strategy. Meanwhile, Jim Sterne the one of the pioneers of social media metrics in his book “Social Media Metrics: how to measure and optimize your marketing investment” stated that any potential number, data or feedback received from any planned or unplanned organizational activity might be interpreted as a Key Performance Indicator (KPI). The KPI measures how well a particular organizational activity has reached its primary business goals.
Ivory Madison, founder and CEO of Red Room in her post “Why Your Social Media Metrics Are a Waste of Time” on Harvard Business Review Blog Network argued that “pageviews, unique visitors, registered members, conversion rates, email-newsletter open rates, number of Twitter followers, or Facebook likes are [not] important by themselves”.
Madison suggested that measuring organizations consumer’s activities on social media is not valuable by itself. Instead you should measure the changes in revenue of sales, sales volume, customer retention and relevant customers’ growth from your activities on social media.
Also, Marcus Sheridan the author of “The Sales Lion” blog in his post defined “the traffic indicator Alexa, Klout score, the Twitter followers, likes, tweets, shares, fans, comments, video testimonials, the photo sharing website Pinterest, the web search engine StumbleUpon, viral video” as the most misleading social media metrics. He emphasized the importance of data that indicates the growth in sales and customers.
Still, both authors pointed out that row data is useless, until it is analyzed in broader context of your social media activities goals and objectives.
However, for media projects, both the audience engagement and economic values are important indicators. Here are my suggestions of five general metrics to measure social media project for media professionals and scholars:
- Content is matter for Mass Media – you can measure time for posting material, amount of posts per day in comparison to counterparts, amount of reposts per material, additional to main material user generated content, etc.
- Audience Exposure – for media content it is always important numbers of viewers, shares, likes, ratings time spend to watch video, read article, listen audio file, etc.
- Audience contribution – mostly this metrics indicates audience feedback as comments, discussions, increase in audience contribution in content producing process, number of people participated in online event, chat, conversation board, etc.
- Reaction – this indicator measure level of you feedback to audience contributions as time spend for replying to comments, tweets, posts, editing user generated content, feedbacks, recommendations, etc.
- Financial Income – level of online and offline sales of media products, advertisement, revenue, brand, audience, etc.
Also, I am suggesting you to review, the list of “100 ways to measure social media” by David Berkowitz. Meanwhile, if you need practical tools to measure these indicators, the list of “14 free tools to measure your social influence” by the social media strategist, technologist and writer J.D. Lasica will be useful for you.
However, make a note that any activity on Social Media has to be well planned, with specified goals and objectives, which should be linked to particular Social Media Metrics.
Special acknowledgments to: Inna Filipovich, who appears in the photo illustrations.