It hurts me more than it hurts you for me to say this, amigos:
Your social marketing measurement may be downright antisocial.
First, let me ask you a question: Does this look familiar?
Hold that thought.
Now, social marketing measurement here means information pulled from common social media listening tools and not firewalled data from your owned channels, e.g., your brand’s own Facebook page. Ninjas among you are aware of flaws, biases and — ahem — issues inherent herein, but a majority of digital marketing analytics consumers may not be.
(While we’re on the topic, let me mention that my colleague Jennifer Polk and I will be hosting a free webinar this Thursday 10/23 at 11am and 1pm Eastern. Details at the Gartner for Marketing Leaders homepage (scroll to the bottom).)
So here are five non-obvious reasons to interrogate the truthiness of your current social marketing analytics dashboards, reports, white papers, assumptions, content marketing efforts, and periodic self-congratulations:
- They Include Only Public Posts — While we all feel we live in a world where “nothing is private,” in fact most of the internet is sitting behind some firewall or other and is not (legally) available for us to see. Social networks adhere to privacy policies and social listening tools are limited to interrogating public posts. They are like the ultimate wallflower, a guy going to Facebook or LinkedIn without a single Friend or Contact. By some estimates up to 90% of the conversation about brands on some channels is not public. Forums and wikis, where the most intelligent discussion can happen, are often walled. Many blogs are not public by default.
- So They Way Overemphasize Twitter — On the other hand, there is one very popular social network that is almost entirely, fabulously, gloriously public — that is, Twitter. Almost any tweet on anything is captured in all its poorly spelled nuance by your social monitoring tool. Which explains the pie chart above and has given Twitter what is in my humble opinion a vastly overinflated sense of its own place in the world.
- Which May Be the Least Unbiased Channel — As I’ve said elsewhere, there are biases inherent in Twitter to bear in mind. To be reductive about it, much of the brand-related discourse on this social network is irrelevant (for example, quoted rap lyrics containing a brand name), and much of it is whimsical. It is a bimodal network, attracting the high and low end of the conversation spectrum. It’s a fast-twitch environment, given to rants reflecting states that rapidly pass. In short, it’s no focus group, people.
- They Treat All Channels and Actions Equally — Twitter benefits here as well, as most social dashboards I’ve seen commit the crime of counting each tweet as “1,” each post as “1,” each photo share on Instagram as “1,” each pin on Pinterest as “1” — you get the picture. But a tweet can be (and is, usually) dashed off between elevator rides, while a pin requires some thought, and even a Facebook post inspires us to pause and reflect. Social objects are not created equal. I’ve seen comments in blog posts that are like little essays, complete with footnotes. I’ve seen one-character tweets that make no sense at all. So have you.
- Which Ignores Reality, Really — Getting us to the point, at last: Social measurement should actually try to measure something. It should strive to be a representation, an analogy, of actual human behavior and conversation related to your project. If a tweet is — on average — one-third as long as a Facebook post for your brand, then treat it accordingly: weight it 0.33X. If hitting “Like” takes about one-tenth as long as writing a comment, treat it accordingly: weight it 0.1X. (I favor the time-based principle of engagement here, with weights reflecting how long actions take, but there are other approaches.)
So think about adjusting for the above. How? You can weight, weight and weight again. Weight for public vs private posts in channels (to the extent you can estimate these, which I’ll admit isn’t easy). Weight for channels and for engagements within channels. A principle I use here is mentioned in #5. Use your own methods, including a hunch.
As usual, almost anything may be an improvement on business as usual.