Tell Me Your Metrics...


...and I'll tell you what your job is. Especially if you tell me "how to measure social media."

Measurement silos are alive and well, and the measurement cliques they foster are working hard to perfect their craft. They're coming up with increasingly sophisticated measurement approaches and tools for measuring social media. The unintended secret is that the metrics and objectives they embed in their work are designed for the needs of specific functional roles, and that's not usually stated.

31 flavors with the same name
Have I told you the story about the unspoken modifiers of marketing? Think about all of the subspecialties within marketing. Unless you work in a small company, marketing tends to be divided into more specific roles.

As a product manager and product marketing manager at large technology companies, I worked with product marketing, marketing communications, channel marketing, field marketing, event marketing, promotions… I didn't even know the corporate marketing people who did the high-level branding, advertising, and PR.

Later, an outbound telemarketing manager at another company asked me if I had done "marketing," and I said yes. But when she said "marketing," she meant direct marketing for lead generation—email blasts that would feed the call center. The modifiers that she applied to marketing were unspoken, but they were crucial to understanding what she meant. We were using the same word to mean entirely different things.

Measurement is the same. When people tell you how to measure social media, they're telling you what they are responsible for measuring—what they're responsible for doing.

You don't see what you don't look for
You may believe that you can't manage what you don't measure. I'd like to add that you don't measure what you don't manage (why would you?). But how does that work when the world changes and the old boundaries blur? When the same channels are used for PR, branding, promotions, and customer service (to name a few), whose metrics do you use? How do you measure one environment for multiple objectives?

So far, the answer seems to be that old ways of measuring create blinders that we take to new situations. So the web analytics club, the PR measurement club, the WOM club, the customer service club, and the BI club are all meeting after school to define social media metrics. Their definitions are based on their job responsibilities, but they aren't labelled that way.

Moving up a level
At an individual level, you measure what you're trying to manage, for all the right reasons. At a company level, you measure all of it, and you look for ways to use what you learn here to make improvements there. Companies aren't supposed to be limited by one function's objectives, but that's how we're talking about measurement.

If you're trying to measure social media, don't be limited by what you've used before. Think and, not or, and look around for useful tools, strategies, and metrics that have developed in adjacent silos. That other measurement club is doing good work, and they just may have the tool you're looking for.

Photo by Jonathan Cohen.


Another thoughtful post, Nathan. I spent a year at Collective Intellect trying to sort out social media analytics and am currently with a smaller agency where we lightly deal with measurement, which still doesn't go much beyond baseline activity and sentiment around product- and brand-specific topics. The coordination you mention with the end-users (for agencies) and the fact that many of our clients are banks (with little social media emphasis and less on cross-department measurement) makes synthesizing KPI's elusive.

Keep up the good posts - I've followed your site since I started in on social media analytics three years ago.


Thanks, Dean. Sometimes I wonder if anyone's paying attention, so your comments mean a lot to me.

I realize there's a long way to go. I'd just like to see the clubs work together more and include the larger context when they explain they own perspectives. AnalyticsCamp, anyone?

You are so right, Nathan. I just spotted this post via @KDPaine, but it's timeless. I call it the Swiss Army Knife approach -- in order to properly measure, you need a variety of tools at your fingertips.

Most importantly, you need to know what you want to measure. That's what will lead you to the right toolset. If a vendor tries to tell you they can solve all your social media measurement needs, well, I'd ask for details. And if you can't articulate your measurement objectives yet, you probably need to put more time in up front -- with your own team as well as others in the organization.

One thing we did at SAS was to institute a Marketing 2.0 council with representation from anyone in the company who did anything that *might* be defined as marketing. Plus some executies. A good way to share ideas, experiences, propose policies and practices, and test out projects.

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About Nathan Gilliatt

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  • Voracious learner and explorer. Analyst tracking technologies and markets in intelligence, analytics and social media. Advisor to buyers, sellers and investors. Writing my next book.
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