Social media measurement: straight talk

Since the topic of our PrISM meetup this afternoon is social media measurement and analytics, I wanted to post this article I came across yesterday by Mark Schaefer, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions.  The post, “The Social Media Smackdown,” appeared on Schaefer’s blog grow this past Sunday, and was reposted on ragan.com yesterday.

In the post, Schaefer decries some recent statements by some respected social media experts that seemed to carry an “anti-measurement bias”.  Schaefer (and many commenters) seem to understand the frustration with the insistence that the ROI (return on investment) of social media efforts must be fully supported by the numbers, but they caution against throwing out the baby with the bathwater.  I found the following comment from Eric Wittlake particularly insightful:

Measure social media so you can manage it. So you can discuss it. So you can learn from it. But be very cautious if you are measuring it as a black-and-white way to decide if you should continue.

So part of the problem is that people are using social media measurement to answer the wrong questions.  Metrics are not generally the right way to answer the questions of “whether” and “why” — those come from your organization’s mission, goals, and your understanding of your audience.  Metrics are the right way to answer questions like “how”, “when” and “where” — to improve the impact and effects of your social media efforts.

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