Monday, August 17, 2009

Social Media Metrics: Culture, Commerce + Conversation

One of the questions that frequently arises in client conversations around social media concerns metrics: How should we measure social media's impact?

One answer is: The same way you measure marketing impact.

And while that may seem self-evident, if not obvious, it does reflect the oft-obscured truth about social media: it is but a different means to accomplish the same ends. Those ends, of course, are the marketing objectives.

When social media metrics are clearly tied to marketing objectives, therefore, you will have answered the question at the start of this post with more than a steaming generality.

Yes, but how?

One tendency among the measuring class is to find a number and fixate on it: click-thrus as a singular view on success or failure, for instance.

Meaningful metrics, however, tend to be directional...they identify trends or, um, direction over time. These metrics may embody the principles of a Balanced Scorecard, where a larger set of financial and nonfinancial measures, in aggregate, indicate the directional health of the activity or the enterprise. Here are some prior posting's on metrics (here, here, and here)

So getting back to Social Media metrics, what type of marketing objectives might make a social media deployment sensible?

Of course it would be silly to make proclamations that may not reflect the practical realities of a specific organization's situation...BUT...there are three general types of objectives that I've found applicable to social media.

For any enterprise that operates as part of a highly networked, always-on, marketplace of ideas, marketing objectives must reflect the real-world way in which enduring human relationships are built: at the intersection of Culture, Conversation, and Commerce.

If your organization is prepared to operate in these three areas in a balanced way, then it may be ready for a social media deployment as part of it's marketing efforts. Here are some sample marketing objective categories for use with social media:
  1. Culture: Demonstrate the shared attitudes + behaviors that reflect a commitment to the organization's or communities mission and values.
  2. Conversation: Ask for and respond to dialogue among and between an organization or community's members, employees, customers, and prospects.
  3. Commerce: Support promotion + sales
What follows, then, are a few sample measurements for each of these objective categories...these are not comprehensive lists. They do provide examples of the type of measurements one might use to assess the direction of culture, conversation, or commerce objectives supported by social media:

  • Percent of interviewees who mention the organization or community's social media channels during the interview process
  • Percent of organization's associates who Friend/Follow/Participate in the organization's social media ecosystem
  • Number of customers who reference social media presence
  • Sentiment Index: Ratio of positive comments to negative comments on social channels
  • Engagement Ratio: Total Unique Visitors/Total Visitors; Tweets/Retweets; Post/repost; Visit duration
  • Dialogue Ratio: Number of comments per posting
  • Conversation Bandwidth: Number of inbound links; Page rank
  • Return on Investment: Cost per visitor, Cost per minute of engagement, Cost per feed subscriber
  • Raw referrals from social site to eCommerce site
  • Transaction dollar value/completion ratio
  • Transaction dollar value/referral ratio
Many others exist of course. Hopefully, these examples provide a place to start.


  1. For a decent rundown of a few tools for collecting social media stats, see