Proving You Can Measure Social Media

“You can’t really measure the ROI of social media.”

I heard this eye-popping phrase at a local social media panel about “Social Media and the Media.” The panel consisted of an impressively tenured reporter, a multimedia content producer for a local news station and newspaper, a professor of communications, and a recent graduate who was fortunate enough to have landed a marketing job for a digital news purveyor.

All four discussed how social media was transforming journalism and their jobs. (Several people in the audience were pretty unhappy about the “tainting” of journalism, but that’s for another post.) All four panelists were adamant that journalists needed to incorporate social media into their jobs – that it was very important.

Yet when asked about, “How are you measuring success?” not one of them could really answer the question. That was when someone spoke of the inability to measure ROI for social media. I was even so bold to raise my hand and ask, “Do you mean to tell me you don’t have metrics that you report on to your bosses?” and they all assured me quickly that they did, but they didn’t say what they were specifically.

I want to set the record straight. Yes, you can measure the impact of your social media. Yes, you can measure the ROI of social media. A lot has been written about this, so I won’t reinvent the wheel here.

First off, it’s worth mentioning – Olivier Blanchard has written an entire book about this, Social Media ROI . I think it’s safe to say the book came out of this PowerPoint which has been popular with social media people since I’ve been involved (two years ago now), and possibly before. It’s a good place to start if you’re thinking on how you can prove to, say, your CFO that this is something worth doing.

Overwhelmingly, the advice you’ll find when you ask a social media consultant about measurement is “first you have to decide your goals, then you decide what to measure.” Hey, Gini Dietrich says it right here and then tells you how. Here  Mack Collier gives you some specific measurements you can make against specific goals – even if you’ve already gotten started, it’s not too late.

Rebecca Denison blogged here about measuring your personal brand. In this post, Rebecca walks you through how she measured her brand – and you can take her logic and apply it to your business situation, as well.

One of my favorite posts about picking a metric to use is Stanford Smith’s post about Klout and how social media experts are really good at pointing out the problems with certain metrics – and makes the case for the Klout score, something every social media expert should at least be familiar with. There are other influence measurement tools, but I really like the data that underlies the Klout score best.

Brian Solis weighed in on the ROI of social media last year here. It’s a long read, but the payoff is worth it.

Are you a nonprofit? Don’t worry, you can do it, too. Beth Kanter, who is something of a celebrity in the nonprofit and social media space, wrote just recently about this here — within the post is a link to Beth’s recent presentation on social media ROI for nonprofits – a great read.

So, that’s where I’d start. Did I hit the mark with measurement? What information would you share with my fellow audience members about social media measurement?