Why it is so difficult to measure the impact of social media

My interest in social media and its impact on business has led me to dabble into social media for a fair amount of time. It is quite a new medium but has made significant impact on businesses, politics, opinion making, brands and what not. I consider the channels like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google+, Pinterest, blogging, Youtube, Slideshare, Instagram as form of social media tools. There are many more being added.

However there is a great deal of debate happening among the marketers about measurement of its impact on business – sales, revenue etc.; for example  this  article in HBR .

“If you think pageviews, unique visitors, registered members, conversion rates, email-newsletter open rates, number of Twitter followers, or Facebook likes are important by themselves, you probably have no idea what you’re doing. Those metrics are the most common false idols of analytics.”….

Likewise there are many views about which metrices are right or wrong.

In my opinion, social media is one of the channels of reaching out to the customers. Depending on what you are offering you can leverage this channel to achieve any or all of the objectives, namely : direct sales, message dissemination, improve speed of communication, brand enhancement, reputation management, create engagement etc. Eg.Personalities, political parties, social activists, news channels are using Twitter for giving out information/ opinion; restaurants, consumer goods are using Facebook to reach out with promotions.

We need to make use of the social media and its impact in the similar way as we use AAA approach – Awareness, Appreciation and Adoption cycle. But social media has added few additional dimensions that makes it interesting to use for direct engagement (not just communication) with the stakeholders at lower cost, provide response and enable experimentation with offerings at more targeted audience in less time. There are many examples of brands, personalities, services that have leveraged the media successfully. Business like  restaurants, shoe brands etc are able to get their audience’s opinion, create offering suited to range of audience or even let their audience create an offering based on their products ( eg. paintings / hand decoration using their material).

Thus every business has to create its own metrics depending on what it expect from social media in the given period of time. We work with our clients by first talking about business objectives and challenges they are facing in growing the business. Then we identify who are potential customers ( are they new ones or we need to tap into new ones). Then map them where these potential customers are spending more time ( which social media). And make a plan to reach out to them.  Based on that we create a metrics for different phases of time.

There are no right or wrong rules. Unless you take a plunge you can not experience it and hence can not correct it. If you are a newcomer at trying out social media do your basic home work and get going.

One Response to Why it is so difficult to measure the impact of social media

  1. Nice article Sachin…One more important area for Social Media is Inbounding Marketing. As a knowledgable customer, you don’t like anything, which you don’t want, to be directly sold or pushed to you throug unwanted Ads. Social Media can play a very imp role in creating interests among customers, not directly about the product you as a company are selling, but rather about the customer pain points and in general solution space. You don’t specifically need to talk or boast about your product or service, but address how customer value could be enhanced in different ways. This can be done trhough Podcasts, blogs, Videos etc. This way customers can be pulled in towards your service or your product. Social media can really play a vital role in this dimension of Marketing.

    -Kaustubh

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