Measuring social media and the value of information

Lately I’ve been reading a book called How To Measure Anything during my commute, and it’s exactly what it sounds like. The author focuses on the so-called intangibles and immeasurable in business, and I am a giant nerd (in case there was any doubt left).

The book was published long before the struggle to quantify social

Close-up of stack of mobile phones with a tape measure

media, but the measurement methodology presented still rings true. After all, social media is still media. Social media is a business tool, and social media can be measured like anything else.

The biggest two lesson I’ve learned from the book so far:

  1. Defining what you want to measure is (at least) half the battle.
  2. You should measure only when the value of information is greater than the cost of obtaining it.

If your boss comes to you tomorrow and declares, “I want to measure our social media success,” your first question should be: “How do you define success?”

Granted your social media goals should have been laid out at the start, but it’s always important to understand how your definition of success may change over time. And believe it or not, writing out your definition of success can often make your measurement decisions for you.

For example, if you run an e-commerce site, and you define social media success as driving sales through your Facebook page, your metrics are pretty easy. It doesn’t necessarily matter how many Facebook fans you have, right? But it matters that referrals to your e-commerce site increased 10 percent last year.

Don’t let the overwhelming amount of available data trick you into thinking you need to measure everything under the sun. Understand success and measure it.

It’s also important to focus only on information that is worth finding. If the value of learning the exact number of times someone says they love your brand isn’t worth more to you than a rough estimate, why would you spend time or money trying to find that number?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you should only measure the easy stuff (followers, fans, etc.), but I am telling you to think about the value of information. Business is business, and there’s no reason to waste time and money to find information that will not be valuable in the end.

Make educated guesses and estimates where you can. Use secondary research to make sure you’re not reinventing the wheel. Find ways to make finding information cheaper and quicker. But don’t find numbers for the sake of finding numbers. Find numbers that are worth finding.

Rebecca Denison is a social media analyst at Edelman Digital in Chicago who is passionate about all things measurement and all things UNC.

3 Responses to Measuring social media and the value of information
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  3. […] Jeff Esposito: Jeff Esposito explores conversational media on this blog, and shares how you can win the race in communications and community building. (Recommended Post: Measuring Social Media and the Value of Information) […]

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