Why social media analytics are bullshit
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Why social media analytics are bullshit

In the first half of the 2000’s I spent six years in the market research industry executing web surveys, online focus groups, website usability studies, and (blech!) telephone polls. Being in the market research industry at the turn of the millennium was an interesting time since the web was changing a lot of things, fast.

All of sudden you could  get instant results of your survey while it was still in the field and watch focus groups unfold while sitting in your office a thousand miles away. Real time reporting became the soup du jour. We could measure almost anything instantly even if it didn’t need measuring. And therein lies my beef with analytics – Not everything is worth measuring, especially when it comes to social media.

In fact, I believe very little is worth measuring.  It’s not because I believe analytics don’t have value. Quite the contrary. It’s because most people don’t utilize them or only use them because they need justification to serve a purpose. Let’s face it, unless your a statistician or analyst, going through analytics is about as fun as waiting in a long line outside in the winter. To be clear, I think it’s important to measure some things and the web affords that capability better than any other.  But, I think most small and medium sized business marketers should save themselves the trouble of getting stressed out about it.

There’s a lot of talk about measuring the ROI of social media and tracking the effectiveness of your social media efforts. Yes, it’s good to have goals surrounding your social media efforts if at least to keep you on task. But, let me ask you this: Do you have current metrics for how many conversations you have with clients? How about grading the quality of your relationships? Do you provide bonuses to sales people for how positive their attitude is?  The answer is probably no, because these things are fairly intangible. You can’t teach attitude and it’s difficult to measure other than saying it’s “good” or “bad”.  Yet, these intangibles can make a significant difference to the success of your company.

Aside from having a a handful of metrics for monitoring certain aspects of engagement, I think the main focus of measuring social media should be on how much value you’re providing.  Are you answering questions? providing information that is worthy of sharing? participating in conversations? or trying to help somebody solve a problem? In a nutshell, how well are you forming or strengthening relationships. People do business with people they know, like and trust. There aren’t really metrics to measure that other than the formation of a relationship. Break free of trying to prove social media ROI with analytics and just do the right thing. It will pay off and that’s a STAT ;-)

Do you have a different perspective? Are there analytics that you have found useful? I welcome other’s opinions. Please comment below.

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Comments (7)

  1. Mike McCready, March 17, 2011
    I tend to agree with you that the hype of measuring the ROI of social media is overblown. There needs to be a way to identify some metrics, but people get to caught up and spin their wheels. I was at a conference a few weeks ago and heard Kemp Edmonds speak on social media ROI and the gist of what I got was that by spending so many hours figuring out and analyzing social media ROI any ROI you made would be spent in the effort of determining it. One of my favorite quotes is from Erik Qualman: "When I'm asked about the ROI of social media sometimes an appropriate response is... What's the ROI of your phone?" BTW, if you want to see Kemp's slideshare file it is here: http://www.slideshare.net/kempedmonds/social-media-metrics-and-roi Reply
  2. Harley Rivet, March 17, 2011
    Thanks for the comment and sharing the link, Mike. I'll definitely check the presentation out. Cheers. Reply
  3. Mike Klein, March 18, 2011
    Harley, I agree, there shouldn't be undue pressure on social media measurement when other tactics (like a billboard for example) aren't held to the same standard. But, I'm not sure that I agree with your assessment that social media metrics are bullshit. The pressure for marketers to tie their activities to the bottom line is only going to continue. And, as a marketer I would rather be in a position to be able to empirically prove the value of my work to those who may be looking to cut my funding. My point: even though it's difficult I still think there is value in striving towards the goal of measuring our work. With that said, I agree "not every thing that you can measure matters. And, not everything that matters can be measured." :) Great post btw! :) Cheers, Mike Reply
  4. Harley Rivet, March 18, 2011
    Thanks for the comment, Mike. I agree that analytics have value, especially if you need empirical measurement to justify efforts or required budget. I just think a lot of organizations get hung up on trying to prove the ROI of anything and sometimes you just need to try something before value can be realized. Reply
  5. David Bellerive, March 22, 2011
    Just wanted to share a word from a wise old veteran, (no not me—I'm just old!) “Please don't complain about ROI if you are unwilling to actually I.” Tweeted from Lee Clow @leeclowsbeard Your comparison to measuring a conversation is bang on - although a company could, and often does, measure positive and negative inquiries. So to gauge your brand temperature, some kind of analysis can be informative. It's a shame if measurement gets in the way of great ideas, though. If I carry your conversation comparison forward, you can't measure the feeling people get from a positive encounter, or experience. If I like you, I'll be more apt to do business with you. Here's another from Mr Clow tweets: As long we attempt to move emotional humans to act, advertising will be an art that is, at most, informed by science. The same can be said for social media! Reply
  6. Harley Rivet, March 22, 2011
    Thanks for the comment, Dave. I'll have to start following Mr. Clow. Cheers. Reply

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