Can We Measure the Impact of Social Media?

Thursday, October 11, 2012   (0 Comments)
Posted by: DAA Administration

Several digital analytics experts that will speak at the DAA Seattle Symposium 2012 this November tackle this elusive question.

SEATTLE, Washington – October 11, 2012 – Chances are high your organization is asking customers and prospects to “like us on Facebook” or “follow us on Twitter.” Social channels such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube are appealing to marketers because, more often than not, these networks are where your customers are talking about your products. Another appeal to marketers is the notion that managing a Facebook page or Twitter account is relatively low-cost, although it can require a large amount of time, effort and creativity. But what is the impact and return? Can we tell whether a Tweet or like on Facebook led to a sale?

We engaged several experts who will be speaking at the DAA Seattle Symposium 2012 this November to comment on this topic. We asked John Bates of Adobe, Joshua Koran of Turn, Chen Zhao of Marchex Institute, and Erika Clemens of Microsoft to discuss whether the impact and return on investment (ROI) of social media can be quantified. Not surprisingly, the answers and perspectives on this popular question are mixed.

John Bates, Product Manager of Predictive Marketing Solutions, Digital Marketing Suite at Adobe Systems responds:

“The ways in which people interact with social media is quite different than what we see with other digital channels. For example, someone watching the 2011 MTV VMAs might have seen Beyonce’s baby bump announcement and then tweeted the announcement out. Depending on that person’s followers and overall influence, the message begins to spread. Additionally, some people receiving the tweet on their phone might hop onto their laptop or tablet and navigate to to further investigate and see if there is a video clip – thus leading to web success for the publisher. This example illustrates some of the complexities in understanding and measuring the impact and ROI of social media.

Historically, organizations have had to try and convert a “Like” on Facebook or a “Retweet” on Twitter to real, measurable success. Unless the marketing team has hired a data scientist or an econometrician, the social media manager has been left to simply monitor and publish content without a clear understanding of the value they are providing to the organization.

Recently, Adobe has made significant strides in rectifying this situation through advancements in platform integrations between Adobe AdLens and Adobe SiteCatalyst – becoming the first platform to manage and optimize search, display and social advertising as a unified campaign. Leveraging the combined data and advanced predictive algorithms, advertisers have a simple way of leveraging conversion metrics to make more strategic media decisions and deliver optimal ROI. Adobe Social then manages social marketing activities end to end – from buying advertising to publishing content to fans and followers – driving engagement and measurable business outcomes. Moving forward digital marketers will continue to see many advancements in research to better understand and optimize social media within the marketing mix.”

Joshua Koran, Senior Vice President of Product Management at Turn responds:

“We do not have the right measures in place to quantify the value of social media. By its definition, social media involves sharing. However, traditional offline media’s primary metric is reach. The gross ratings point (one form of measuring reach) is now being pushed to digital media, despite advantages of the feedback loop measurement of who engages with digital media not available to offline media. When it comes to social media the proactive opinions expressed by consumers still need to be validated by their behavior (e.g., visits and purchase events).”

Chen Zhao, Principal Analyst at Marchex Institute responds:

“I’d like to think that “impact” or ROI of marketing investment can be classified into a 2x2 – direct sales vs brand, short-term vs long-term. Social media, when we consider its broad definition that is the communications between companies, communities and individuals enabled by the creation and exchange of user-generated content, could in fact play in all 4 quadrants, but I believe most intuitively will be things in the long-term brand quadrant. And it’s this quadrant where the impact is the most challenging to quantify.

There are some basic social media metrics with which we are familiar (e.g., share of voice, sentiments [pos. or neg.], buzz [most mentioned terms]). However, it’s not clear how these metrics translate into ROI. For example, large share of voice may not be good if the sentiments are negative. Positive sentiments may not mean additional sales (or over what period of time can we realize sales from the positive sentiments). Social media data makes it even harder to answer “is it good or bad” when your senior executive asks you the question when looking at your report.

I believe there is opportunity for analysts to help establish the relationship between the social media metrics and the quantifiable ROI metrics by using digital analytics.”

Erika Clemens, Group Product Planning Manager at Microsoft responds:

“Measuring the return on investment of social media has been a challenge because of the indirect link between social media engagement and outcomes such as purchasing behavior, loyalty and recommendations. Typical measurement in this for social media focuses on influencers, individuals and consumers. With Bing in particular, my team has built a set of data models that focus on understanding the social influencer funnel. We use these models to combine social with traditional marketing. In June, Bing made a bold leap forward with our social integration launch with sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare. With over a billion Facebook users (over 500 million daily active users) and 500 million Twitter users, Bing allows its users to connect with the activities and recommendations of their friends and known subject matter experts. This also allows us in the analytics space to understand the user behavior of these social influencing experts and their impacts on DSQ’s, SRPV’s and overall use of Bing Social features.”

“Qualifying Social Media” and other important topics about the future of digital analytics will be covered at the DAA Seattle Symposium 2012 set for Wednesday, November 7 at the Microsoft Conference Center in Redmond, Washington. Registration for members is $10 and $50 for non-members. For more information about the event and speaker line up, visit: