Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Designing Social Media Monitoring

How does social media fit on a dashboard?

Instrument panels are designed to give a person the ability to understand how a system is working in an instant - no "Huh, what does that mean?" moments. In addition to functional clarity they are aligned strategically in the sense that the sum total of the information tells us how well we're proceeding toward an objective.

So, what do we do with social media?

As a 'media' we need to understand it relative to other media. If we think of media as a continuum from broadcast (in the broadest sense) to social (in the human sense) then there are two dynamics working. First, control, ownership, targeting and repetition of the message. Second, the weight given the message by the recipient. When broadcasting we have a lot of the former at the expense of influence which is eroding across tactics. When socializing we sacrifice the scalability of broadcasting for the nuance of personal conversations. I tend to think of media plans holistically as a number of working parts - almost in a top down - awareness, bottom up sense - personal recommendation.

As a tactic we need to understand how to measure it. We love to put labels on things and they have a habit of sticking well beyond their sell-by-date. For example, using 'online' and 'offline' as a means of categorizing media may be appropriate for a temporal campaign being optimized as it runs, but they do not belong in a strategic view of a business. Marketing programs should be designed to be inline with consumer expectations and resist the urge to use tactics to group things. The reason: different categories tend to grow their own measurement systems; that can't be later combined. Just consider Reach and Frequency vs. Impressions of TV and online broadcasts. Metrics should focus on their contribution to overall objective and not on the data that happens to be spun off by the tactics.
Social media is real - has been for a long time. The fact that some tactics now fit within the marketing spend is the new kid on the block. Rather than immediately carving out a place on the dashboard for this new data one should first examine how to roll it into business performance metrics - acquisition, retention and lifetime value.

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