What’s your “I” in Social Media?


This post is dedicated to the letter “I”.

At some point, we have all been asked about the ROI of public relations (no, clip counting and ad value equivalency tools are not what I mean). How do we define the value of our programs? Can we and should we measure revenue generated?  Are our messages resonating with our target audiences and how do we know? These are ongoing questions and remain important topics of discussion and debate for anyone in the communications profession. For more information on the topic I continue to read Metrics Man, KD Paine’s Measurement Blog, and Measurement PR-spectives.

Focusing just on measuring social media, since that remains the shiny object for most of us, ROI is an important question to address, especially since almost every tool is free (not much “investment”). We certainly do not just use social media at CME Group because it is free, and I have been addressing what the exchange gets out of social media more as interest in its use in financial services grows.

Here are some thoughts I have provided recently when discussing the return we get from using Web 2.0.

Intelligence — Many tools today allow you to really get under the hood and find out a lot about your customers and competitors. Whether it is a key word search on Technorati, hashtag on Twitter or comments to a fan page on Facebook, you can learn a lot about what is on the mind of your audiences. The ability now to follow trends or sentiment from real people in real time has become one advantage of social media.

Influence — The concept of communicating your ideas and building advocacy is nothing new to the profession. We continue to to pursue ways to measure and show that we are moving the needle, and I continue to be amazed at the amount of new (free and paid) tools available (Social Radar, PR Newswire and Twinfluence to name a few I have used).  Just as measurement tools for traditional media relations have evolved to improve our targeting of messages, I am amazed at the depth of some of the new ways to gauge influence in social media.

Integrity — I first heard this from Charee Klimek (@ChareeKlimek) who brought this up at last month’s Chicago Social Media Club Breakfast. As she pointed out, social media today provides another opportunity for people and organizations to be transparent. Through a dialogue in the public stream we can engage, answer questions, clarify information and monitor our actual conversations.

Integration — This can be simple. There are tools out there that help integrate social media to make it more meaningful. Just watch this video of measurement practitioner Katie Paine (@KatieDPaine) and her idea about Google Analytics (it works and will give you some interesting results). I also believe we need to look at how we can integrate our social media evaluation with our traditional media relations evaluation in order to give a bigger picture of what we are doing.

Intimacy — Tools like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter now give us more ways to connect with people but sometimes only online. Building these relationships into real world connections actually helps solidify stronger bonds and gives us an opportunity to further build advocates online and offline.

I know I am only scratching the surface on this topic so I want to hear your thoughts. What do you think of ROI in social media? Are the tools useful or useless? What do you use to showcase your efforts? How are you integrating social media measurement with other forms of measurement? Do the ideas above resonate with what you are doing? What’s missing in my discussion?

7 thoughts on “What’s your “I” in Social Media?”

  1. Everyone wishes to be involved in an Entrepreneurship community. It is such a great experience to be with. Lots of business opportunities are offered… Wow!

  2. Allan, I hope you also will read Olivier Blanchard (@thebrandbuilder) — he's campaigning for true ROI in social marketing. I think measuring marketing ROI is easier than PR ROI — and you're spot-on that it absolutely must tie to business objectives. It also seems to me that marketing mix modeling — accounting for as many inputs into the buying decision or the reputational factors — is a promising methodology. The trick is accounting for social media in that mix. The scale doesn't support the apples-to-apples analysis we need. Of course, we could get more deeply into segmentation — then the social media influence might become clearer and easier to predict. Thanks for raising the topic.


  3. Great post! I have been thinking through this very issue for a while (tracking it with regard to my own small brand consulting business) and I agree with your conclusions–particularly “intelligence” and “influence” which is where I have found the greatest return on the time I've invested.

  4. Sean — Thanks for the comment. I do follow and read Olivier's commentary on this topic and think he does a great job. I should have pointed that out. What worries me on social media are the perceptions that remain among business management that a) it's for young kids and b) it's a productivity drain. I think this is where measurement can step in and give it business credibility. You also make a valid point on marketing ROI v. PR ROI and we need to continue challenging ourselves to find a balance and focus on what matters. Even more importantly you are spot on about measuring it into the mix. Most measurement tools today are one offs (e.g., here is your tonality on Twitter) and while that is something, it doesn't get me very far fitting it into the bigger picture of what we do.

  5. Kyndra – Thank you fro the feedback and glad to read this was helpful. It's an ongoing challenge to measure all of this. Best of luck!

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