Convince and Convert, Social Media Measurement, Social Media ROI, The Now Revolution

The 5 Reasons Most Companies Aren’t Measuring Social Media

We hate math.

Our abhorrence for calculation enables us to mutually agree on statistically dubious metrics with nary a shrug or arched eyebrow. Consider Nielsen ratings, which are used to determine the popularity of all TV shows and, consequently, how the dozens of billions of dollars in TV advertising is apportioned.

see no evil 300x195 The 5 Reasons Most Companies Arent Measuring Social MediaNielsen ratings have a direct impact on hundreds of thousands of people in the United States. In 2009, there were 1,147,910 households with a TV in metropolitan Charlotte, North Carolina. Of those more than 1 million households, the behavior of just 619 was tracked by Nielsen to determine ratings. A total of 619 families became the unelected representative tastemakers for 1,147,291 other families. That’s not math; that’s folly.

But yet, we welcome numerical vagary and imprecision into our businesses like a box of free Krispy Kremes. We accept as truth Arbitron (and Nielsen) radio rankings, the number of cars that drive by a billboard, and the notion that somehow people read every page of a newspaper or magazine (and pass it along to 2.5 friends). Do you really know the financial impact of your TV, radio, outdoor print, public relations, and customer services initiatives? Probably not.

Social Media is Inherently Measurable

Social media almost always offers the advantage of complete—rather than extrapolated—data. The same is true of all online marketing. Whereas we have mutually agreed that 619 families are an appropriate stand-in for 1 million others, online marketing offers the compelling alternative of measuring each and every individual.

That’s the good news. One equals one.

What Should You Measure? It Depends

The bad news is that there isn’t an easy-to-convey, standardized, one-size-fits-all metric, like Nielsen ratings, for social media. And there isn’t going to be. What is measurable differs from company to company. If you’re a business-to-business (B2B) company that has a long sales cycle with many conversations with prospects before they become customers, you can determine with relative ease whether that customer was influenced in some way by your social media efforts. Alternatively, if you’re Pringles, it’s a lot tougher to make that connection.

Your type of company and how your business is structured has tremendous influence on what you can credibly and reliably measure within the social media realm. Measurement of all things—not just social media—is a discipline, not a task, and it needs to be a cultural imperative. If you’re going to ask about the value or impact of social media and how to measure it, you need to know how you determine those things for other areas of your business and translate or adapt some of those practices.

The Common Excuses

“Social media isn’t measurable” is an excuse. Here’s what companies really mean when they say that:

  1. We don’t have the right tools in place to collect the data we need.
  2. When we have all the data, we don’t know where to start.
  3. We don’t know which data might relate to other data to analyze it well.
  4. We don’t have or won’t deploy enough data collection and analysis resources to figure this out.
  5. We’re afraid of what measuring will actually tell us about our effectiveness.

You need to understand whether you’re equipped with the right tools and data, whether you’re willing to spend the time evaluating that data, and whether you’re functionally and culturally prepared for what it might show you.

Once you’re past that hurdle, you can get to the numbers – and if you’re going to do social media right, you need to get past your loathing for math. Nobody promised social media would be easy, only that it would be awesome.

(image from Shutterstock, a Convince & Convert sponsor)
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Convince and Convert Blog  Social Media Strategy and Social Media Consulting » 5 Attributes of a Healthy Real Time Culture The 5 Reasons Most Companies Arent Measuring Social MediaThis is the seventh in a 7-week blog post series covering themes included in The NOW Revolution: 7 Shifts to Make Your Business Faster, Smarter, and More Social - my new book with Amber Naslund, (available at Amazon now in hard-cover and Kindle).

  • Anonymous

    I agree that it can be measured, but not to the ROI-level. To this end, social media is not unlike traditional marketing efforts. I sincerely doubt that most companies can precisely quantify their advertising efforts. There has to be a huge “gut feeling” component.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      You can do social media ROI, but you have to be able to capture and track precise transactional data, and that’s tough for most companies to do.

      • http://twitter.com/JeffKryger Jeff Kryger

        It is certainly easier with online data than any other medium though, because you can put a tracking code on links, landing pages, confirmation pages, etc. Not like with TV where you are relying on a customer to fill out a contact form and select that as the “How heard” option

        • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

          Definitely. Although with addressable boxes and such, TV is getting closer.

  • Anonymous

    I agree that it can be measured, but not to the ROI-level. To this end, social media is not unlike traditional marketing efforts. I sincerely doubt that most companies can precisely quantify their advertising efforts. There has to be a huge “gut feeling” component.

  • http://www.expoundsocialmedia.com Ian Dunne

    Point 5 – the “Fear Factor” is particularly relevant. Many companies are paralysed by this fear. However, I believe it goes way beyond concerns over effectiveness. Access to rich social data can open a whole Pandoras Box of issues, that many companies are not ready to address.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Well said Ian. Social data can be a surrogate for much larger successes and failures within a company, and that can be scary.

  • http://twitter.com/lvstrickland Leslie Strickland

    It is scary. Tracking anything can seem overwhelming. But it’s so very necessary. Couple of notes to the fearful: First – Facebook has pretty great insights that are getting better by the month. Second – as long as you have Google analytics properly set up (which is probably a max of 20 mins of effort with a smaller site) there is no reason why you can’t measure social media’s effect on your site!

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Absolutely Leslie. The impact of social on your site isn’t necessarily the whole story, but it’s definitely part of the story.

  • Vince

    I dropped Finite Math 4 times in college because it interfered with flag football. There was also an underlying fear that I wasn’t very good at it so I did something familiar instead. I think most businesses feel the same about mixing math and social media. Eventually, I took Finite Math in the summer and did just fine but it took trying something different & overcoming my fear. With the right help (like this blog) and a willingness to try something different (like Leslie’s advice), companies will figure it out eventually.

  • Vince

    I dropped Finite Math 4 times in college because it interfered with flag football. There was also an underlying fear that I wasn’t very good at it so I did something familiar instead. I think most businesses feel the same about mixing math and social media. Eventually, I took Finite Math in the summer and did just fine but it took trying something different & overcoming my fear. With the right help (like this blog) and a willingness to try something different (like Leslie’s advice), companies will figure it out eventually.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      I dropped Finite Math because it interfered with volleyball and going to concerts. We turned out okay!

  • http://twitter.com/MATTERmidia Marketing Digital

    I find that the main reasons they arent measuring are:

    1) The ones who “get it” in the prospect team say “at this point, we can barely convince upper mgmt that there is ROI in social media, much less in monitoring it.” (partially explained because we are in Brazil and things are a little behind here)
    2) Even if we had the data we wouldnt know what to do with it.

    The biggest problem I see (though most clients dont even realize it) is that the largest share of social influence occurs on Facebook, but much of that remains invisible to monitoring tools (due to most users’ privacy settings).

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Thanks for the comment. I think the second one is the biggest issue. The data is there, but then what? The reality is that most businesses aren’t measuring – really measuring – much at all on the marketing side, so why would they start with social media?

  • http://twitter.com/MATTERmidia Marketing Digital

    I find that the main reasons they arent measuring are:

    1) The ones who “get it” in the prospect team say “at this point, we can barely convince upper mgmt that there is ROI in social media, much less in monitoring it.” (partially explained because we are in Brazil and things are a little behind here)
    2) Even if we had the data we wouldnt know what to do with it.

    The biggest problem I see (though most clients dont even realize it) is that the largest share of social influence occurs on Facebook, but much of that remains invisible to monitoring tools (due to most users’ privacy settings).

  • http://twitter.com/SocialVirAssist Social Assistant

    I definitely hate math. I like to see the growth of social media through the amount of engagement.

    Social media is definitely measurable, but the people that tend to use social media, aren’t analytical people. Though this is very broad and not as accurate as we like to think. Social media is very analytical if you think about it, since there’s a lot of maneuvering between sites and engaging that takes a bit of analytics to fully realize.

    Thanks for this great post!

  • Anonymous

    Jay, I really like the point you make about measurement being a discipline at an organizational level, not something that relates only to social media in a silo.

    Based on that statement, another reason some businesses fail to measure social media is social media activities are often still fledgling. They are still tests and small experiments and the groups responsible for the overall discipline of measurement look at the investment (heavy on labor and therefore often undermeasured), and don’t make a solid investment into developing the process and discipline necessary to integrate social media measurement with the rest of the organizations measurement. When the teams leading measurement are faced with multi-million dollar marketing campaigns and social media investments of only five, maybe six, figures, they infrastructure of the measurement gravitates towards the larger investments.

    — @wittlake

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Great point. At scale, sometimes social’s impact on whatever you’re measuring is but a rounding error – for now.

  • http://mytwittertoolbox.com David Perdew

    Social media is special, in that the one-to-one relationship you mention gives you the opportunity to really see the overall picture of how your brand is measured in the marketplace. As you say, that’s the good news. The bad news is there are so many tools out there, tools that measure differently and have different opinions on top-dog measurements, I can see why any business, new or old, would be scared to touch it.

    I like what you said, though, as a solution to ‘fear of math:’
    “Social media almost always offers the advantage of complete—rather than extrapolated—data.”

    What that means to me is, no matter what your business or reach, the data’s there to be found and, more importantly, utilized and applied to your business model, for increased potential of long-term success.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for this. I’m on a mission to prove to my company that social media is indeed measurable, and this provides more ammunition!

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Happy to help. We have about 70 pages of details on that topic in the book.

  • http://twitter.com/StephenApp Stephen App

    What is incredible to me is the fact that Jay has the dedication to respond to almost every reader’s comment. Its incredibly rare to see among popular bloggers, and proof that some can walk the walk when it comes to stimulating and continuing conversation.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Least I can do, almost literally. There are 100 million+ blogs, and I remain amazed that people choose to spend any if their time reading my stuff.

      If I ever lose that perspective, i’m screwed.

  • Gauri

    The other important reason is because it starts off quite expensive. Thats why we launched one which does it at $5 per month at http://www.trackthisnow.com. its rudimentary but enough for many small companies. (tracks 20 sources daily for mentions) thats along with the free service

  • http://twitter.com/JGoldsborough JGoldsborough

    Rome wasn’t built in a day. Start by measuring things you can more easily track — like the impact of social media on your business objectives and goals. We have never been able to track the ROI of offline WOM, yet most CMOs would have told you and still tell you its important.

    I think companies have a tough decision to make sooner or later when it comes to ROI — how much money and resources do you want to throw at tracking ROI down to the penny versus trusting employees who understand the ways of new PR and marketing and are really doing things your brand has always encouraged offline anyway. I don’t think the answer is no ROI tracking, but I do think we need to re-evaluate consistently and prioritize. Good stuff, Jay.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Thanks very much. Indeed, it’s important to measure, but you have to think about how much time and effort makes sense, and whether you’re doing it to get better, to defend yourself, or to prove “it’s not working.”

  • Melanie Wadsworth

    ha ha ha – you are so right about the loathing math part Jay !! I feel as if there is not enough information out there as to the best measuring tools that i can use as a SM consultant to track the progress of a clients campaign. If you have any particular SM measuring tools that you use that are effective – please share – thx

  • http://www.careeroutlook.in/part-time-jobs-in-bangalore/ Nimit kashyap

    I totally agree with you that the biggest excuse people have for not measuring their social media is that they don’t have the right tools. So, for them I want to share that they can use Google alert very effectively to measure their social media performance.

    additional tip: you can use custom footprints with Google alerts ;-)

  • Anonymous

    Jay Baer you know I love you, but I have a beef with the math comment. Nielsen may not be perfect, but they do use math principles. And statistics is a huge part of their methods. I would say in general these practies are applied to different industries because of feasbility. Even with social media its impossible to measure every single mention- even if you have a great tool.

    Sampling using approximated normal distribution is a huge part of common mathematical process- even beyond Neilsen it is standard approach in all aspects of analysis. Its not wrong. It’s not a signal of America’s abhorrence with math. It’s not a haphazard selection of people.

    That said your entire argument has less to do with math and more an issue with bootstrapping and sampling methodologies. And if you have issues with the sample, you should study why people choe to use these methodologies in the first place. I think people rush to attack current practices without understanding why they are in place.

    That said as things evolve and we have greater data- there are opportunities for new type of analysis. It doesn’t mean the previous methods were lazy, it simply means the environment has evolved.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Of course Nielsen uses statistics and finely honed sampling to create their ratings. After 50 years or whatever, they have it literally down to a science. However, any sampling is less reliable that 1:1 data, which is what social media and digital marketing provides. I can tell you exactly how many people clicked my link, not 1% of all the links that we’ll agree to use as a surrogate for all others.

      So I’m not saying Nielsen (or other legacy systems) are lazy. Far from it. They make to with what they have, and they do that nicely. But online, we can and should do better.

      • Anonymous

        I disagree. From my knowledge of math that not the case. Even when we have large amounts of data available to us, we still often sample to increase speed & flexibility of analysis. Multiple studies have shown that once you’ve reached a certain number of cases, adding additional cases does very little to sway to outcome. This is of course provided you have a large enough sample, and that bias has been controlled for in some manner.

        Additionally, as conversation grows- feasibility of 1:1 analysis becomes more difficult. Sure in volume predictors it’s fairly simple, but as the space evolves into more complex analysis I frankly feel 1:1 analysis won’t be so realistic. Of course this is all my own opinion. That said,It will be interesting to see how the space does evolve.

        • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

          Sure, but the difference is that we can actually decide – based on the conditions you describe and others – whether to use sampling or 1:1. Offline, that’s rarely even an option. And it depends on what we’re measuring. Certainly, in some cases adding more data points to an established pattern is a waste of time and money. In other cases, where you need or want to know aggregate volume it would be crazy to not measure all of it.

          Just look at something basic like sentiment vs. share of voice. Sentiment you could probably sample. Share of voice you can’t, because the sampling invalidates the share calculation.

  • http://twitter.com/KeithBurtis KeithBurtis

    I do not mean this harshly but in my opinion the reason companies don’t measure social is because they don’t know how. I know you said that in your post but we see theory based posts like this all the time. The steps are easy to write down, it’s the execution that is difficult. I’ve worked with at least a half dozen monitoring and analytics tools. None of them are especially easy to use and none of them seem to be the complete package as of yet. Companies are confused about everything. What metrics to measure? What do those metrics mean? Is is cost effective to measure? Will they need to hire an agency or bring on a team of full time staff to figure it out?

    I agree fully when you say that there is nothing standardized and that this arena is fully custom and I field the above questions every day. However, the answer never seems to be cut and dry.

  • http://twitter.com/KeithBurtis KeithBurtis

    I do not mean this harshly but in my opinion the reason companies don’t measure social is because they don’t know how. I know you said that in your post but we see theory based posts like this all the time. The steps are easy to write down, it’s the execution that is difficult. I’ve worked with at least a half dozen monitoring and analytics tools. None of them are especially easy to use and none of them seem to be the complete package as of yet. Companies are confused about everything. What metrics to measure? What do those metrics mean? Is is cost effective to measure? Will they need to hire an agency or bring on a team of full time staff to figure it out?

    I agree fully when you say that there is nothing standardized and that this arena is fully custom and I field the above questions every day. However, the answer never seems to be cut and dry.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Well said Keith. I think (hope) that we address most of your points in the book. We have 60+ pages about measurement in there.

  • http://twitter.com/CJRoberts_DMM CJ Roberts

    I have fought many times with…We just want to jump in and get our hands dirty. We’ll worry about measuring when there is something to measure.

  • http://twitter.com/addoway Addoway.com

    Great article again Jay. You can monetize social media and it’s bizarre companies still disagree. How long is it going to take until they get it?

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      It’ll be a while yet. It’s doable, but it’s not easy.

  • Socialbrown

    At my company we started small and used with a goal to build a Facebook fan base. Sometimes starting small with one main goal or objective can make metrics more simplified. For example, for our campaign we measured traffic to Facebook, our website, and new fans during the time that the campaign ran to measure/track overall results of the campaign. Measuring ROI can me much more complicated but it helps to know what your main goals are for social and like with any online marketing program you can easily track results through simple metrics like # of leads, conversions, CPL, etc.

    • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

      Exactly right Shawnee. You have to know your objectives and measure against them. Otherwise, the flurry of data points can drive you mad.

  • http://www.friendadderelite.com/blog/ Friend Adder FAQs

    I think every business whose into social media should read this entry. This opens a lot of learning and idea for everyone. Thank you for sharing this insight. Another great item in this site are the comments. With the different views and opinion, one could not discount the learning you get here. Thanks!

  • http://www.theremarketables.com/ Andrea Marroquin

    I’m a marketing student, and we’re just learning about how important social media has become to share our ideas and information about our products.
    It is really important though not to forget the importance of measuring it. It is great to share your ideas with people… but it would be much better if you have a way to measure and follow up with people’s responses.
    Great blog! :)

    http://www.theremarketables.com/

  • http://www.jokosusilo.com Joko Susilo

    I think social media is very easy to measure if we know what we want to achieve from the campaigns in social media.
    Excellent work, Jay; thanks!

  • http://www.mikemccready.ca/blog/ Mike McCready

    I was at a conference last week and had an relatively easy suggestion for measuring social media. It’s calculating your brand’s share of voice. You take all you brand mentions and divide that number by the total mentions of your industry (brand + competitors).

    There are lots of ways to measure success, the least effective way; counting fans and likes.

  • http://squarejawmedia.com/ Brian McDonald

    Another excuse is we don’t have a plan. A well thought out plan will identify goals and objectives that can be measured against.

  • http://socially.at/ sociallyat

    Another problem is that companies don’t know how to use social media in the first place. Sure, they can create a Facebook and Twitter account, but so many times they just get neglected and underused. A greater understanding of how social media can be used to effectively market your business and connect with potential customers is needed.

  • letstalkandchat

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