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Social media metrics:You’re missing the big ROI number

“… not one of the marketers we surveyed listed the amount of content forwarded by users as their most important metric,” according to Forrester’s “Three Steps to Measuring Social Media Marketing” research.

But that’s the one that matters.

When someone forwards your content, you get your message in front of a new prospect.

We call this “advertising” in traditional marketing and we pay dearly for each impression. We call this “lead generation” is search advertising, and we pay dearly for that too.

But word of mouth content sharing is more powerful than both of these — because it includes the personal endorsement of the sender. Something no advertiser can buy.

Content forwards are the most measurable word of mouth statistic, and they correlate nicely to existing lead/impression valuation metrics. It’s not the only thing to measure, but it will give you real data that makes traditional advertising types happy.

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  1. Earl January 30, 2010 at 8:27 am #

    Great post. I agree that forwarded content is an important metric to measure engagement, however for niche markets with highly target tactics forwarded content might not give you that much information on ROI.

  2. Lee Clements January 30, 2010 at 1:22 pm #

    Interesting post. Thanks.

    As for analyrica in social media, how do you measure a situation like this – I received a tweet from someone I follow suggesting I check out a guitarist that would be in concert over the weekend. I checked out the link and liked the music but my schedule was full and couldn’t attend (but probably will in the future. I then remembered that one of my Facebook friends would like this guy and so I sent him a message in FB and he is going to the concert.

    If I’m the concert promoter how do get accurate analytics?


  3. Kris C. January 31, 2010 at 7:32 pm #

    Great point, but Lee has an equally fair point. Tracking across multiple platforms the magic thread of WOM is really hard. For Twitter, there is a pretty cool at that you can use if there is distinct enough phrasing to be able to identify messages. Unfortunately, the trail will end there without some more expensive analytic tools.

    Ideally, if a special promo were involved, you could have a special code (to enter for a sales special) or use specific landing pages with unique url’s to track some visits/sales. But that’s not going to work in every case obviously. Ecommerce sites and anywhere people enter information to get or do something, would benefit from adding a question about where people learned about what’s being offered, in this case, Lee, your friend could have said he at least learned about the concert from a friend on facebook, even if he didn’t know the info originated in a tweet to you.

  4. Earl January 31, 2010 at 9:57 pm #

    Lee – in my experience as a marketing manager I would look at measuring the most meaningful and reliable metrics availible. In this case, I would measure:
    1) Web analytics for the link you’ve been posting on social media site (look at regional traffic that is close to the concert – these people are likely able to attend)
    2) Ticket sales for concerts over time – if your web traffic for your links go up and your ticket sales go up then you might have a positive correlation
    3) Think about tweeting or facebooking a separate URL to buy discount tickets online, and you should be able to see a relationship. If you are getting Word of Mouth promotion people will likely do it online so that their friends can benefit from the discount

    Just a few thoughts off the top of my head – I had a similar challenge myself a little while ago

  5. Lee Clements February 1, 2010 at 1:54 am #

    Kris and Earl – thanks for your feedback.

    I think you both nailed it when you suggested unique URL’s as a means to track the origin of a visitor. I think we get too caught up in trying to understand all the steps involved in WOM when we really need only track the first step. Had the tweet I received had a link to a URL that could be identified as having originated from a Twitter campaign that’s the only metric I need to measure ROI. The rest is interesting to know but unnecesary data.

    But what about measuring advocacy? Where an avid believer in the product or service starts his own campaign using whatever link will serve his purpose. I think this could be the double edged sword of WOM…you absolutely love the result but the campaign originates anonymously and it muddles the data. Hence, you could be patting yourself on the back for running a great campaign when your success is due to a phantom advocate.

  6. Mindshare February 2, 2010 at 4:32 pm #

    So true! The most overlooked stat in social media that adds immensely to ROI is just that… how many times it’s been passed on. That 3rd party endorsement gets more results than the megaphone approach any day of the week.

    Well said Mr. Sernovitz. Well said.

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