Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of posts on “The Marketer’s Guide to Measuring Social Media Marketing Engagement.”
Social media is increasing in importance as a marketing channel. Firms expect a 145% increase in social media budget over the next five years, to over 18% of their total marketing budget, according to the 2014 results of The CMO Survey. And according to Social Media Examiner’s 2014 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, more marketers than ever before are recognizing the value of social media, with 97% of marketers stating that they are currently participating in social media marketing and 92% believing social media to be important to their business.
Meanwhile, the rapid expansion of social media use in marketing has created challenges around how to quantify its value and measure its success. Marketers feel that they do not have a clear idea on how to measure results of social media marketing efforts: less than 16% of firms claim to have quantitative evidence of social media impact.
A survey on the top questions that social media marketers want answered reveals that:
- 91% of marketers are having trouble finding which social tactics are most effective.
- 89% of marketers want to understand the best way to engage users on social media.
- 88% of marketers are unsure about how to measure return on social media investment.
As all questions above are dependent on being able to correctly quantify social media impact, measurement appears to be high on the list of concerns, not only for social media marketers but also for marketing organizations as a whole. As social media investment grows as a total percentage of marketing spend, social measurement will become increasingly important to a marketing organization.
It is common practice in the marketing industry to outsource to external agencies tasks that require high domain expertise. However, due to branding and customer interaction aspects of social media, only about one in four (27%) firms choose to outsource social media efforts. As a result, reliance on external agencies’ expertise for management of social media is limited, which increases the need for advertisers to establish robust internal practices.
It is clear that a scalable set of practices around measurement is needed in order to successfully address the issues seen in social media marketing today. Being able to form such a practice will lead to increased efficiency and further solidify social media as an integral component of marketing strategy.
Difficulty of Measuring Social Media Performance
Social media presents unique challenges for measurement due to the complexity of data involved, as well as the difficulty in linking social media efforts to revenue. Social media managers need to work with dozens, or sometimes hundreds or thousands, of properties, all with content cycling on a daily basis, with very little opportunity to conduct controlled tests. It’s no wonder that is it so difficult to extract insights and form best practices.
Challenges faced by today’s social media marketers include the following:
- A proliferation of social networks and their use in marketing. Brands now report using an average of seven social networks, with 15% of brands having a presences in ten or more.
- Management of multiple social media properties across networks. Companies average 178 corporate-owned social media properties.
- Lack of consistency in metrics between social networks.
- Varying audience characteristics and social norms across different networks, brands, and markets.
- Difficulty in aggregating data from social media data sources and reports.
Furthermore, the impact of social media on revenue cannot be calculated purely as a function of trackable ecommerce conversions or revenue. Studies suggest that the impact of social media extends beyond the scope of direct conversions. While there are several ways in which social media effort can be tied to revenue impact, such methods tend to be complex and cumbersome, requiring significant in-house or outsourced investment. Insights produced are also constrained in granularity, which makes them of limited tactical value.
This difficulty in accurately associating social media efforts to revenue impact is one of the reasons why engagement remains the primary metric that social media marketers use for measuring success. Engagement metrics have several key benefits over other candidate KPIs (key performance indicators):
- They are available from social networks directly, requiring no custom implementation or modeling efforts.
- They are applicable to all accounts within a social network, making it transferrable across accounts, lines of business, and changes in business objectives.
- The data available is typically up to date to within several days, which allows for greater agility in reporting, testing, and iteration.
- Different types of engagement provide varying value in areas of marketing strategy, which makes them useful for mapping to high-level strategic goals.
For the reasons above, there is a strong case to use engagement metrics as important KPIs in social media. Integral to achieving success in social, then, is to extract “metrics that matter” from the morass of engagement metrics, and define how they should be analyzed, aggregated, and reported.
Next in the series: Aligning Social Media Marketing Objectives and Metrics
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