Social media measurement – think carrots

carrot(Note 19/10/09 – this post is getting a lot of hits at the moment, but I don’t know why.  Its not generating any comments and its ceratainly not my best post – visitors please feel to leave a calling card in the comments and let me know why you are here).

This post is a follow-on to my previous post about stones and erosion.  It is more practical, fortunately you might say, but still relies on analogy, if not stories.  I like analogy.

So here is the analogy.  We know that a diet high in fruit and vegetables is healthy.  We now why it is healthy and we know roughly how much consumption of fruit and veg = healthy (five portions per day).  However – you cannot take a single carrot and measure how much it adds to our healthiness.  Consumption of one carrot cannot be correlated to an additional x milliseconds of life for example and any attempts to do so would be a classic example of misuse of statistical evidence.  Likewise, we know that physical fitness correlates to health but we can’t measure the impact of one session at the gym.

So with social media.  We cannot take an action or interaction within social media (the equivalent of one ‘carrot consumption event’) and measure its impact on anything – from sales, to engagement (however we might come to define this).  However, in web1.0 we could.  Essentially web1.0 was all about the ability to measure the effect of the micro-transaction.  The Google ad model is essentially based around this.

So, to return to the analogy, if your objective is good health, what do we need to measure to achieve this?

First – we need the data that allows us to have confidence in the conclusion that consumption of fruit and veg / healthy diet correlates to better health.

Second – we need tools that allow us to measure our state of health.

Third – we need tools to measure and help manage, our diet.

So – by extending the analogy to social media the holy grail for social media measurement is thus:

First – we need the research that demonstrates (in the generic) that high “social media activity” correlates to hard metrics such as profit, sales, customer retention etc.  Does this exist?  Not to my knowledge in any great extent but it can probably build on research that does exist such as the Net Promoter Score or research that has proven the link between recommendation and sales and research into the effects of advocacy.  Note, this is absolutely not the same as tools which claim to measure the efficacy, in the specific, of individual actions.

Second – we need tools to measure the equivalent of social media health.  Do these exist already?  I am not sure I have really seen them presented in a coherent form.  Most of the stuff that is out here seems to be an extension of old fahioned web1.0 metrics.  It may well be that a version of the Net Promoter Score, but specific to social media forms of activity, is what we need.

Third – we need tools that help us monitor and manage our social media inputs.  Our carrot score if you like.  More thinking required here!

This is just a directional thought at this point.  More research required – but I get the impression that most of the work to date around measurement doesn’t really fit comfortably against any of the above.  Or at the very least usage of this framework allows us to see where the gaps are and gives some clues as to what tools are required.

Check out this for other relevant stuff on this issue – where I will also add any new thoughts on this subject.


  1. Pingback: Le pubbliche relazioni nei social media | Aghenor di Stefano Vitta
  2. Pingback: Social media measurement – are we staring at the stones? « Richard Stacy

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