Why It Pays To Listen To Online Buzz
One of the hottest debates in social media over the last few years has been centered on the concept of ROI and why measuring ROI on your social media monitoring efforts is so important. While there have been several studies concerning the ROI of social media marketing, with more companies starting social media monitoring on a larger scale, brands are now concerned with the ROI realized from their social media monitoring activities. For instance, the Corporate Manager of Consumer Generated Media at Toyota, Bruce Etrmann, believes that the company's benefits/returns from social media monitoring include strengthening customer loyalty and improving communication with the marketplace. There are several monitoring tools available today, including Position²'s Brand Monitor, that help brands listen to conversations on social media 24/7 to make sure all relevant mentions are captured. We believe that social media monitoring best yields returns when:
- You know by how much the attendance to your company's brand page has increased because of a certain social media marketing campaign or change in marketing strategy.
- What was the dollar value of this increase?
- How does this compare to the time and money spent by your brand while designing a campaign/creating a strategy?
Brands engaging in social media monitoring have understood that ROI comes not just by 'monitoring the conversation' but also from 'joining the conversation', which involves identifying and proactively engaging with key influencers. This is just one of the dividends of monitoring online buzz. Here are some more:
- A report by the Aberdeen Group, the ROI on Social Media Monitoring, shows that the best-in-class companies that have made an effort to listen to online conversations are 2.6 times more likely than industry average companies and 93 times more likely than laggards to improve their ability to generate consumer insights that drive new product/service development.
- The report also shows that the best-in-class companies that engage in social media monitoring and analysis activities are 3.3 times more likely than industry average companies to improve their ability to identify and reduce risk to their brand.
- 78% of them have reportedly improved their y-o-y customer retention rates.
- According to Gleansight's Social Media Monitoring Report, increased customer satisfaction and better marketing effectiveness are among the key benefits of social media monitoring for brands that primarily engage with customers.
- 'Influencer engagement' is one of the most important value drivers of social media monitoring; this helps identify the conversations that the brand should be engaged with, thereby increasing traffic and contributing to the ROI factor.
Metrics for Measurement: The 'How' and 'What' of Social Media Monitoring
Before getting into a discussion about the metrics of measurement while tracking online conversations and brand mentions, we must first understand that there are two ways to measure social media ROI for your business:
- Quantitative: Helps measure quantitative data such as traffic, sales or SEO ranking, click-through rates of brands' product pages.
- Qualitative: Measures brand or corporate reputation, conversations, brand-customer relationships, enables brands to determine if they need to engage in meaningful dialogue with customers, brands vs. competitors analysis, engaging with and building better relationships with audiences etc.
The 'quantitative' aspect of measurement is simple and direct; however, when it comes to the 'qualitative' part we know that this can be rather subjective and requires the presence of certain 'base metrics'. The fact is that no single metric alone is going to be a solid indicator of how engaged your community or customers are; however, there are a few things you can pay attention to, for deeper analysis:
- Comments: Studying the conversation initiated by a particular post can indicate if people are listening and whether they feel compelled to respond. This conversation thread about social media monitoring, for instance, has several posts which show that people are listening and participating.
- Time with Content & Thread Size: When a brand posts something online, the length and the size of the threaded discussion that follows and the time spent pursuing the content not just specifies how interested the users are, but also if the discussions are useful and have an impact.
- Downloads and Subscriptions: Looking at downloads can be a great indicator of engagement around a topic or subject. Similarly, it is obvious when people subscribe to your blog or website, that they are interested in what you have to say.
- Demographics: Altimeter Group's Jeremiah Owyang stated several elements of social data, one of which is demographic data. We categorize this as one of the most important metrics of social media monitoring and measurement, as this helps create context about consumers by gleaning through data such as gender, age, profile pictures and details.
- Referrals/Suggestions and Comments: Customers are talking about certain products, both explicitly through ratings and reviews and implicitly through gestures such as hitting the 'like' button on their social network. The sign of a well-engaged community is when they invest their time and intellect in guiding you toward business improvements. Suggestions, product improvement ideas, innovation forums etc indicate a vested interest on behalf of the consumers your brand is trying to reach.
- Sentiment of Posts: For brands tracking their social media activities, analyzing the sentiment of the incoming posts is a crucial part of their monitoring exercise. Online marketers and brands are eager to know if customers come to the product page to vent their frustrations; are the sentiments generally positive? Do they complain about the posts as being too generic, wrong or otherwise deficient? Sentiment monitoring is more of a Psychographic metric; benefits or returns include providing brands with increased opportunities to reach these self-expressing customers and market to them based on their lifestyle. This type of data also helps in message and conversation creation, besides identifying features and products to improve or fix.
- Unique vs. Repeat Visits to the Social Media Page: A 'casual browser' is converted to an 'actual customer' when he is a repeat visitor who wants to learn more about company, looks for general updates and is eager for information related to the product or service. For a brand that is using this metric to monitor its social media presence, the gains are obvious. A one-time visitor, though, shows that the company has effectively advertised its brand.
- Page Views: Attentively monitoring this aspect of the metric makes it possible to not just determine the overall effectiveness of the brand's webpage, but also helps gauge the site's ability to captivate the consumer's interest on each page.
- Click-through Rate: While this is a quantitative metric, it is nevertheless, crucial for brands and marketers to know how many social media site visitors eventually become visitors to the company's website.
Irrespective of whether your social media data is qualitative or quantitative, creating an engagement index is a good idea. According to Katie Delayhaye Paine, an Engagement Index which is unique to your company's goals is one way of monitoring and knowing where the returns from your social media strategy are coming from.
As the need to generate a measurable return on investment grows, for online marketers, the concept of ROI itself is debatable and has seen both marketers and industry experts engage in endless discussions on how to justify their expenditure. Therefore, when it comes to realizing the ROI from social media monitoring, the general consensus is that this is subjective and is perceived differently by different companies. However, no matter what your goals are, one thing above all is obvious; the need to have a clear set of quantitative and qualitative metrics that will help calculate the return on investment from your monitoring strategies. Whether it is demographics, number of repeat visitors or time spent on a particular Facebook page or company blog, most marketers agree that the social media monitoring yields maximum returns when the brand successfully engages with its customers. We believe that customer engagement is the first and integral step to realizing the ROI from brand monitoring; once this is achieved, reduction in customer service costs, improvement in marketing effectiveness, driving actionable insights, generating sales leads, identifying brand advocates , understanding campaign and design impact etc will automatically follow.
Media monitoring is a great 'health check' of a brand's social media activities and the ROI realized from this process will tell you if your digital marketing strategy needs a fix or if you need to listen better and invest more resources to connect with your customers. Instead of focusing on finding only a tool to deliver charts or spreadsheets of data, companies should try looking for a social media monitoring solution that combines technology and human expert analysis to help better interpret social media data and answer business questions.