The Digital Vibes


Measuring the impact of your social media campaign
January 23, 2010, 10:09 pm
Filed under: Social Media | Tags: ,

Am due for a client review, and was asked to talk in detail about a social media campaign that we undertook and to elaborate on the results. Found this excellent article from iMedia Connection that’s helped me in putting together a qualitative analysis of what we achieved.

Published: September 09 2009

How to measure your social media campaign’s impact

By Daz Connell

Co-author Cheryl Dandrea is senior scientific editor for DAZMedia’s healthcare agency division.

Brands can benefit from advertising in the social media space. The approaches offer a means to engage consumers, enhance brand reputation and image, build positive brand attitudes, improve organic search rankings, and drive traffic to brand locations, both online and offline.

The steps in any advertising campaign will begin with setting campaign objectives and end with assessing the effectiveness of the strategies and tactics to determine the degree of success in accomplishing the stated objectives and to inform the next campaign. The challenge is to develop a set of measures to assess success and plan for future strategies and tactics.

The appropriate approaches to measurement will vary depending upon the campaign’s objectives and the social media strategies and tactics used. However, there are the basic steps any measurement program should include. Those are the steps this article will outline.

At this stage of development, social media advertising lacks the standard metrics that have served as a primary advantage for online advertising. Online advertising as a form of direct-response advertising has measurability built into its very existence. Advertisers can measure reach (the number of people exposed to the message) and frequency (the average number of times someone is exposed), and analyze site stickiness (the ability of a site to draw repeat visits and to keep people on a site) and the relative pull of creative presentations (a comparison of the ability for different creative executions to generate response). They can also monitor click-throughs (the number of people exposed who click on an online ad or link), sales conversions (the number of people who click through who then purchase product), and view-throughs (the number of people who are exposed and do not click through but later visit the brand’s website). These metrics are applicable to the use of display advertising in social spaces. If L’Oreal buys display ads on Facebook, all of these metrics are available to gauge effectiveness.

However, for the more innovative approaches available, metrics like number of unique visitors, page views, frequency of visits, average visit length, and click-through rates are either totally inappropriate or irrelevant, or simply fail to capture information about the objectives of a social media advertising campaign. Our tendency is to count — count impressions, visitors, friends, posts, players. There is still a place for numbers in the social media arena, but the numbers may be different from the ones marketers have traditionally used — and they may not be effective if not combined with more qualitative data.

Knowing the number of community members involved in brand-related conversations can serve as an indicator of exposure, and the number of message threads and lines of text within a thread can serve as proxies of conversation depth. However, counting does not capture the essence of the interaction consumers had with the brand, the degree of engagement felt during and after the interaction, or the effects of the interaction, exposure to brand messages, and brand engagement on measures like brand likability, brand image, brand awareness, brand loyalty, brand affiliation, congruency, and purchase intent. Jeep may have 8,500 MySpace friends, but the number does nothing to tell us how the friends feel about Jeep. An ARG may boast millions of players, but the sheer quantity of players does not reveal the success of the strategy.

To measure outcomes of social advertising, organizations must balance quantitative metrics with qualitative insights. Here’s how to go about doing this.

1. Reviewing objectives
Step 1, reviewing the campaign objectives, assumes that the objectives were set prior to pursuing advertising opportunities in social media. Not all brands set formal objectives. Some are simply experimenting with social media, and for them, the experience of executing a campaign using emerging platforms is sufficient.

For most brands, though, failing to set clear objectives is a mistake. When it comes to assessing success, if there are no objectives, how do you know if where you ended up is where you wanted to be? The specific objectives identified can vary dramatically from brand to brand but usually encompass three overarching issues:

  1. Motivating some action like visits to a website or sales
  2. Affecting brand knowledge and attitudes
  3. Accomplishing the first two objectives with fewer resources than might be required with other advertising and promotional methods

2. Mapping the campaign
Step 2 calls for mapping all of the social media aspects of the advertising campaign. This activity results in a visual representation of the tactics used and how they may interact. Maps can be crude, simple drawings, but even a rough sketch can be valuable as brands seek to measure accomplishments in the social media space.

An effective map would display the types of branded messages produced and distributed (e.g., written vehicles like blog posts and white papers, ads in the form of display ads or rich-media video, and podcasts), invitations for consumer engagement with the brand (e.g., games, consumer-generated advertising contests and promotions, and interactive brand experiences), and the online location for these materials. It should also include online locations where others can go to distribute content relating to the brand. For instance, are there viral videos on YouTube that highlight the brand? Are there product reviews on sites like Epinions.com? Are there MySpace pages with brand icons and information posted? Are there bloggers writing about the brand? Are members of Delicious tagging the brand’s website, and are Digg members voting for branded content?

Once all the sources of brand information are identified, the map should sketch out the chain of all possible touchpoints. A touchpoint is simply a contact point between the brand and the consumer.

MINI Cooper “touches” a consumer when someone visits the dealer showroom, visits the MINI website or one of its microsites, receives brochures and other promotional materials from the company, or brings a car in for service. These are all brand-controlled touchpoints, but many touchpoints that the brand does not control do exist, especially online.

In addition to the consumer-generated content that relates to the brand, there may be conversational touchpoints going on. Are people reading the blog postings (or even responding to blog posts) that mention the brand? Are people watching videos posted on sites like YouTube? Are they voting for content on Digg? In other words, is the media (whether brand-generated or consumer-generated) being consumed by those it reaches and is it being “fortified”? Ultimately, the map should show four levels of contact:

  1. Brand-generated content
  2. Consumer-generated content
  3. Consumer-fortified content
  4. Exposures to content consumers

3. Choosing criteria and tools of measurement
In step 3, the criteria for assessing effectiveness are determined, and the tools necessary for measurement are selected. The objectives and the map should direct both the identification of criteria and the best tools for measurement.

For example, imagine that you seek to develop brand awareness for a new product. You also want to drive traffic to the product website and reinforce the brand’s image. The brand enters the social media space with an advertising campaign, which also includes traditional media components. The brand website and its microsites would be sketched on a social media map, along with other tactics, like a celebrity MySpace profile (featuring your brand as a sponsor).

What criteria and tools then should you use to evaluate success of these techniques? Your campaign objectives emphasized a desire to:

  1. Build awareness of the new product
  2. Drive visits to the websites
  3. Strengthen the brand image

Objective 2 is easily addressed with traditional website metrics and measurement tools. The brand site and microsites can track hits, page views, and unique visitors; if the sites enable registration, then registrants can also be tracked. Organic search engine rankings can also be assessed for the brand name and its slogans.

Awareness (objective 1) can be suggested with website traffic and traffic to other branded components. For instance, your celebrity endorser’s MySpace profile will have friends, some of whom will fortify the profile with comments. Awareness can also be suggested with brand mentions in other online spaces. You might ask, “Is the brand being talked about? If so, how much, and where?”

The criteria for answering these questions are straightforward. One simply needs to identify evidence of the brand in online conversations and publications, get a count of those occurrences, and note the source of the material. The tools necessary for this could include a virtual version of a clipping service to determine what is being said about the brand and the brand’s competition online. This can be an in-house project, or outsourced to companies like CyberAlert, which can then monitor specific publications or the entire internet for brand mentions. Collecting brand mentions in-house can be accomplished with tools like Google Alerts. These tools can provide a count of mentions, and the sources, but they should be combined with other tools to determine whether the communication was positive, negative, or neutral for the brand.

Next you might ask, “How many people are exposed to these third-party messages?” To assess the impact of these brand mentions across the web, one can turn to companies that measure the size of a site’s audience. Media Metrix, Nielsen NetRatings, and comScore offer measurement services that include hits, unique visitors, and page views for sites. Such assessments will need to consider all the locations of postings mentioning the brand and the audiences for each location.

In our example, you also set out to strengthen your brand’s image (objective 3). This can be influenced by what the target audience thinks and feels about the branding for the campaign. Is the audience engaged with the interactive games you are using? Is your association strategy using celebrity endorsers effectively? Does the audience feel that the quiz and the recommendations included in the quiz’s answers enable your brand to symbolize their own self images? The campaign itself will influence the brand’s image. You could use primary research in the form of surveys and focus groups to answer these questions.

4. Establishing a benchmark
For all of the criteria and measurement tools you have chosen in step 3, to apply them effectively to your brand, you need to move to step 4 and set benchmarks, which will give you goals to reach so you can determine if your campaign is on the right track or if changes are necessary.

Assuming you are employing a combination of quantitative and qualitative measurement tools, your benchmarks will most likely consist of not only traditional quantitative measures — such as a set number of unique visitors — but also more qualitative metrics — such as positive focus group feedback indicating heightened brand awareness. Then you can use the data you collect from the measurement tools to observe as you get closer and closer to reaching those benchmarks.

5. Analyzing the outcomes and proposing changes
After selecting your measurement tools and the benchmarks you are striving for, step 5 is to analyze the data you collect using your measurement tools, compare the data versus your benchmark, and, if you determine that your campaign is falling short of reaching your goals, propose active changes that might help you attain those goals.

6. Continuing to measure
While it may seem like your job is done once you’ve measured your success versus your benchmark, the work is far from over. Measuring should be a regular, continual part of your social media campaign — so really, step 6 never ends.

Setting regular intervals of measurement (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually, depending on the type of metrics chosen and the campaign’s needs) can help maintain discipline in this regard, and continuous measurement can also help you assess consumer reaction to any changes that are instituted mid-campaign.

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Measuring Social Media
September 24, 2008, 11:18 pm
Filed under: Social Media | Tags: , ,

It’s been a long while since I’ve written… Started a new job that’s been keeping me very busy but it’s interesting to enter the realm of client servicing where I am no longer the gatekeeper and decision-maker for an organization’s PR campaign.

I had the chance to attend a breakfast briefing with Jim Macnamara as a speaker, and I found it very insightful. It was also a good starting point to think about social media monitoring. Here’s a post written by him on the Measurement Standard blog, enjoy the read!

The Not-So-New Social/Anti-Social Media

Jim Macnamara”s “Measuring Up”

Welcome to a new age where media are software and the audiences are the networks.

I don’t know about you but, as fascinated as I am with media developments, I am fed up with hearing the term “new media.” And I am not too enamored with “social media” either.

What’s So New About New Media?

Why? First, because many of the media that we are talking about are increasingly not new. OK, so Web 2.0 has upped the ante with interactivity and participation, but newsgroup chat rooms celebrate their 30th anniversary next year, having been conceived by Duke University graduate students Tom Trucott and Jim Ellis in 1979. The term “Weblog” was created in 1997 and bloggers have been blogging for a decade. Google is into its second decade, celebrating its 10th anniversary as a company in 2008, while MySpace will celebrate its 10th anniversary next year. Even YouTube and FaceBook are three and four years old respectively and, with hundreds of millions of users between them, are hardly new.

Apart from being increasingly inaccurate, the term “new media” leads us to an inevitable terminology trap when the next wave of media developments arrive. Web 3.0 is already under construction and new hybrid forms of media are evolving – what Roger Fidler calls “mediamorphosis.” Rather than a choice between “old” or “traditional” and “new” media, which suggests a simple two-horse race, we are living through a period of ongoing media and communications change.

What’s So Social About Social Media?

“Social media” is also a problematic term. As much as social networking has wide interpretations and social network mapping is all the rage, “social media” suggests to most that these media are primarily used for chat and gossip, friendship, dating, etcetera. It is this confusion that is causing many businesses to ignore these media or underestimate them. In reality, so-called social networking utilities and social media are making and breaking brands and products every day, building and destroying political careers, and shaping corporate reputations. They are used for civic and political engagement, research, job searching, marketing, shopping, knowledge sharing, and a host of other purposes.

While the U.S. progresses through its primaries in preparation for the November 2008 Presidential election, Australian had a national election in late 2007 which was widely dubbed “the YouTube election,” and resulted in a new government. The new Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, and his party were elected in a landmark campaign spearheaded by Kevin07, a Web-based strategy which extensively used MySpace, blogs, YouTube and other so-called social media. Even though many conservative politicians clung to traditional media advertising — particularly those who lost the election — Web 2.0 type media were used for political communication and civic engagement by a large number of both politicians and interest groups.

The U.S. Presidential race is also seeing Web 2.0 media used at an unprecedented level — even more than in the 2004 election which was described as a critical turning point in media use for political electioneering. (See, for instance, this article, previously in The Measurement Standard.)The term “social media” fails to reflect the serious and substantial communication that is flowing through these channels.

To take the point further, a few hours of research will show that many of the so-called social media are also downright anti-social. Political spoofs and parodies that ridicule, mash-ups of children’s nursery rhymes with lyrics replaced by obscenities, and various types of pornography, racism, and other abuses are features and challenges of the Internet and the new forms and genre of media that it facilitates.

What’s In a Name?

So what do we call emerging media forms and genre? And is it important what we call them? I suggest it is because our way of describing things frames our understanding. Language limits or delimits the concepts we deal with. It seems clear that we need a review of terminology in relation to media as convergence escalates. In preparing a public lecture which I am due to deliver in June, I compiled a list of 32 different terms used for media today. Many of these are based on delivery systems that are increasingly redundant — such as film, video tape, broadcast, and so on. Even traditional terms such as “newspapers,” “press,” “broadcast,” “radio” and “television” no longer adequately describe our media, as newspapers are less and less provided on paper, radio programs are increasingly distributed as podcasts rather than broadcasts, and television content is being “transmitted” via the Internet and watched on computers and even hand phones. And “phones” are not phones any more.

The benefit of a review of terminology is that we would find we can dispense with more than half the terms in use and simplify discussion considerably. What does it matter that content is distributed on paper, plastic, magnetic tape or disk, celluloid, cable, broadcast waves, or in jello? Only two things seem to matter: content and users — whether they are producers or consumers, or a combination of both, as reflected in the terms “prosumers” or “produsers.”

This raises three points that I will throw out there for comment. The first observation is that media are becoming immaterial. By that I do not mean that media don’t matter per se; I mean the materiality of media is becoming unimportant. With convergence, content pays no mind to the medium on which it is distributed — nor do most users. In the digital art world, Lev Manovich talks about “post-media” referring to the same notion, so I am not alone in this thinking.

In the same way, hardware technology such as computers and telecommunications networks are disappearing and becoming invisible. The invisible computer was first forecast in 1998 by Donald Norman and research continues through the Disappearing Computer Initiative in the U.S. Similarly, cables and wires are disappearing as we move to wireless. And “logging on,” which was an often troublesome ritual that regularly reminded us that we were entering a complex world of machines, is increasingly being replaced with “always on.” But it is not only the increasing physical invisibility of hardware that is significant; what is most significant is the growing psychological invisibility of hardware. Today, what Marc Prensky calls “digital natives” and assimilated “digital immigrants” move seamlessly and effortlessly between sources of content without a moment’s thought to the hardware infrastructure that delivers them.

Today media are software — intellectual property in the form of both applications and content. And audiences are the network, actively connecting, linking, redirecting, forwarding, and injecting local comment and static into communications.

Welcome to a new age in which media are software and audiences are the networks.

Dr Jim Macnamara MA, PhD, FPRIA, FAMI, CPM, FAMEC became Professor of Public Communication at the University of Technology Sydney in late 2007. His 30-year career in journalism, public relations and media research culminated in the 2006 sale of CARMA Asia Pacific, which he founded, to Media Monitors. He worked as Group Research Director with Media Monitors – CARMA Asia Pacific following the sale and continues as a Consultant with the Group.