Changing What We Measure in Social Media

In our previous post, Why Should You Track Social Mentions?, we examined the reasons why you might want to track what people are saying about you on social media In this post, we discuss why measuring social media requires some new kinds of metrics.


Changing What We Measure

Here are a few real-life metrics from advertising legend Katie Delahaye Paine[1] that org­anizations have used to measure social media success:

  • Best Buy measures 85 percent lower turnover as a result of its Blue Shirt community
  • State Farm measures its internal blog by the improvement in morale
  • Zero-budget YouTube videos about Barack Obama were seen by 120x the audience of Hilary Clinton’s multi-million dollar “largest town hall meeting in US history”
  • IBM receives more leads, sales and exposure from a $500 podcast than it does from a traditional ad
  • ASPCA traces on-line donations and increased membership back to its social media efforts

Paine proposes measuring discussions in an objective way and proposes a classification of online discussions in the following table.


Table 1 — Paine’s Possible Classification of Discussions

Acknowledging receipt of information Making a joke
Advertising something Making a suggestion
Answering a question Making an observation
Asking a question Offering a greeting
Augmenting a previous post Offering an opinion
Calling for action Putting out a wanted ad
Disclosing personal information Rallying support
Distributing media Recruiting people
Expressing agreement Responding to criticism
Expressing criticism Showing dismay
Expressing support Soliciting comments
Expressing surprise Soliciting help
Giving a heads-up Starting a poll
Giving a shout-out

Start out by assigning values to each of these communication types and tracking them in your commun­ity. By assigning negative numbers to the apparently negative interactions and positive numbers to the desired interactions, you can create a score for your social media effort. Adjust your scoring and then begin to measure your social media campaigns by how they affect the measures. With some experience, you can tie the score with your goals.

Of course, doing all this by hand is quite a chore. Luckily, there are a variety of social media monitoring tools you can use to automate your metrics.

Changing What We Measure in Social Media is the 39th in a series of excerpts from our book, Be a Person: the Social Operating Manual for Enterprises (itself part of a series for different audiences). At this rate it’ll be a long time before we get through all 430 pages, but luckily, if you’re impatient, the book is available in paper form at and you can save $5 using Coupon Code 62YTRFCV

See the previous posts What is Social Media?, Social Sites Defined, Why Social Media? How is Social Media Relevant to Business? First Steps Toward a Social Media Strategy, and Decide What Your Business Will Do About Social Computing, pt. 1

Next up: Use Social Media Monitoring Tools

[1] Adapted from Measurement & engagement: why engagement is really the only thing that matters, Katie Delahaye Paine: