Ask a marketer today what’s weighing on her mind -- and you’ll find social media near the top of the list. Forty percent of marketers believe it’s a CEO-level priority in their company, according to a Booz & Company/Buddy Media survey. It’s important because social media and the applications that sit on its platforms such as social gaming, LinkedIn, Twitter and Yelp are too big to ignore in terms of growth, mass reach, time spent and engagement.
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Social media passed email as the top activity over the Internet two years ago and hasn’t slowed down. So while the impact of social media is undeniable, how we measure its effect and integrate it into our marketing practices presents a challenge.
According to the Booz & Company/ Buddy Media “Campaigns to Capabilities: Social Media and Marketing 2011,” survey, the cost of labor and resources to “execute and support social media” along with “unproven ROI” top the list of challenges for 60 percent of leading Fortune 500 marketers. Simply put, it’s hard to directly measure the contribution that social media makes.
Why? The path to measuring the impact of social media is nuanced. While it’s possible to measure reach, frequency and time of engagement, those metrics don’t get to the heart of how social media works: sharing an experience.
According to “Zuck’s Law” (Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s informal rule), the number of experiences people are sharing via social media is doubling each year. So the “target” in social media isn’t a consumer in the traditional marketing sense. The target is the “interest networks” and “second-generation affiliation networks” of people and algorithms measuring influence, which is an elusive point of attribution.
In social media, the action is the reaction and the “I” in ROI is influence.
A pioneer in thinking deeply about measuring influence, Klout CEO Joe Fernandez describes influence as “the ability to get others to take action.” To measure influence, Klout uses over 28 points of data from social networks to measure an individual’s true reach, amplification and network impact. This data is then compiled into an influencer’s score and indexed on a 100-point scale.
So who has the most Klout? Justin Bieber boasts the only perfect 100 score due to his strong influence, reach and engagement. By comparison, if Bieber and President Obama (with a Klout score of 87) both posted the same video on social media and asked their followers to “check it out,” the President would motivate only a fraction of the potential responses that Bieber would generate. Influence in these terms is about actions and reaction -- and advantages.
Can online influence convert to real-world transactions? You might conclude as much when looking at the launch sales results for the Kardashian line at Sears. On the first days of introducing their line, the Kardashians were topping Google searches for the retailer and selling out at Sears stores across the country. Kim Kardashian’s Klout score is a stellar 92, and clearly she’s producing results in influencing her followers to stop by their local Sears. While attribution to sales is only directional, we believe the emerging science behind online influence will underpin advertising platforms in the coming years.
Klout is not the only company studying the application of influence, but it’s probably the most publicly accessible today. Within their walled stockades of massive data, Facebook, Google, Rapleaf, Microsoft and others see how we engage in social media and assign page rank, edge rank and other trust metrics based on how we behave and relate to one another. In addition, start-ups like People Browser and Socialmatica are introducing influence scoring of their own, with their “Kred” and comparative brand influence ratings, respectively. And increasingly we see the smartphone as the next “chokehold” on social data, as 50 percent of Facebook’s 800 million users, 55 percent of Twitter’s 100 million active monthly users, and 60 percent of consumers for services like Spotify access or log in via mobile devices.
All of this activity benefits brands interested in engaging and aligning influencers to their mission. Influence will only become easier to identify, prioritize and engage in the future. And there will be better attribution and respect for the role of influence in marketing and sales as marketers seek greater Returns On Influence.
Social Media Today On Return on Influence
This is what Social Media Today says about Return on Influence.
"In social media, this is the new ROI, and it's a term that represents qualitative results more than quantitative statistics."
"Return on Influence is concerned with engagement, rather than the monetary investment and profits associated with social media metrics."
"The social connections you make through your web strategy are at the core of your influence --- it's this strategy that affects the perceptions, attitudes and actions of your audience."
"The first product that your web engagement should create is impact. Your impact is relative to your social media influence (new ROI), while standard ROI seeks to attribute a financial value (something that will typically be a secondary result of your social media efforts). These two ROI's require different perspectives when measuring a program's success, and for many, the assessment of return on influence is more telling than the return on investment. For example, let's look at volume."
"Whether you're calculating Facebook fans, Twitter followers or website traffic, this metric can be seen in two ways:
1. Return on Investment: i.e. How many facebook fans did you gain after spending $1,000 on a facebook ad campaign? Say you achieved 2,000 new 'likes' -- that would appear productive and efficient from a financial perspective. Your quantitative assessment = Success
2. Return on Influence: i.e. If you achieved 2,000 new fans over the course of your $1,000 facebook ad campaign, how many of those 2,000 fans took the action you ultimately desire (shared your page, posted a comment, joined your contest, etc)? If only 400 of those new fans took action, you could assume your engagement is low, and therefore, could be improved since your ultimate objective should be to impact behaviors rather than just extend your reach. Your qualitative assessment = Needs improvement"
"Some other KPI's (key performance indicators) you can use to measure your Return on Influence include:
Brian Solis On Return on Influence
In his book Engage!, Brian Solis introduced a metric that tracked Return on Influence. Solis chose to expand on the methodology of return on influence to better define the relationship between cause and effect and the role you play in it. Thus, ROI in this context becomes the Realization of Influence. The idea was to raise the stakes in the equation, to design desired actions and conversion into our strategies so that ROI measured real change, outcomes, and the progress of transformation. While similar, it’s a subtle nuance that’s powerful.
Here's Brian Solis' definition and new ROI for measuring cause and effect:
- Influence: To cause effect or change behavior
- New ROI: Measure caused effect and outcomes and/or the tracked change in behavior over a fixed period of time
Here's what Brian Solis says about influence:
"In the development of new ROI strategies, the result is a truly a measurement of influence. No, it’s not a score. It’s a metric of cause and effect. As such, you become an architect of influence as you define the change or actions you wish to see. In the strategies that you develop over time as by definition, you introduce initiatives that cause effect or change behavior and you can measure it. While you still calculate return on investment, you are also measuring the realization of influence. And, it’s far more accurate than a traditional influence score."
"In many ways, performance metrics are a subset of influence. And, influence is an underestimated or misunderstood business purpose. Influence is the ability to cause effect or change behavior. And as you think about ROI, think beyond numbers. Become an architect of relevance where cause and effect become the foundation for how you build the business of the future. Developing strategies where cause and effect are the catalysts for performance inspires strategies rooted in significance whereas metrics and KPIs document real transformation. I like to think about ROI in this regard as Realization of Influence…tracking the relationship between cause and effect or the change in behavior."
10 Tools For Measuring Your Social Media Influence
Meaningful exchanges constantly take place all over the social Web on a variety of platforms, connecting people and enabling them to share, critique, and interact with content and with each other. The type of information we share reveals a lot about who we are, who we know, and what we know — people tend to talk about the things they care about/are most knowledgeable about with others who are interested in similar subjects. The impact of those relationships affects our Web authority.
Social influence occurs when a person’s thoughts, feelings, or actions are affected by others. Essentially, influence is the art of persuasion — the ability to cause a change in mindset or actions so someone thinks or behaves in a certain way. In the world of social media marketing, influence is currency. In order to raise awareness, foster brand advocacy, win attention, and generate real-world action, businesses want to know the answers to questions like:
- Who are the influencers in my brand category and how do I find them?
- What are they saying about my brand?
- How many of my Twitter followers are clicking my links and retweeting my content?
- Does my Facebook page create the kind of engagement I’d hoped?
- What is my brand’s “true reach”?
Measuring online influence is difficult at best. How can it be calculated? How do companies validate that that their messaging is is working? For the most part, marketers have been limited to piecemeal metrics like followers, likes, and page views. Now a variety of influence-scoring platforms are emerging to help personal and corporate brands determine just how influential they are and locate influencers in their industry. Here are a few tools to get you started with benchmarking:
- Klout - Klout measures influence based on your ability to drive action. Every time you create content or engage, you influence others, and your Klout Score measures that influence on a scale of 1 to 100. Using data from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Foursquare, Klout measures how many people you influence (true reach), how much you influence them (amplification), and how influential they are (network score), and assigns a score from 1 to 100.
- PostRank - PostRank monitors and collects social engagement events correlated with online content in real time across the Web. It gathers data about where and when stories generate comments, bookmarks, tweets, and other forms of interaction from 20 of the top social networks. It tracks where and how users engage, and what they pay attention to — its social engagement data measures actual user activity, the most accurate indicator of the relevance and influence of a site, story, or author.
- TwentyFeet - TwentyFeet is a metrics aggregator for all your social media and Web properties. It pulls and generates metrics from Twitter, Facebook, bit.ly, YouTube, Google Analytics, MySpace, FriendFeed, and RSS feeds and displays them in a slick interface all in one place. It also notifies you whenever something noteworthy happens.
- PeerIndex - The PeerIndex algorithm measures the speed with which we find and share content on any specific topic, as well as the volume of our sharing. Authority on a subject is affirmed when the content you share is approved, i.e. retweeted or commented on, by someone else that is an authority on the subject. It gauges activity on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to come up with a score.
- Empire Avenue - Empire Avenue calls itself the Social Stock Market. It’s inherently a social networking game that allows you to connect with individuals based on “value relationships” — the much closer relationships than just having someone follow you on Twitter or Like you on Facebook. The platform can be used to find highly engaged individuals around the world across a wide variety of interests. It enables brands to get in front of new, engaged audiences and connect with relevant customers in a fun environment across 150+ countries.
- Sprout Social - Sprout Social allows businesses to efficiently and effectively manage and grow their social presence across multiple channels and turn social connections into loyal customers. The application integrates with Twitter, Facebook Fan Pages, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Gowalla, and other networks where consumers are engaging with businesses and brands. In addition to communication tools, Sprout Social offers contact management, competitive insight, lead generation, reporting, analytics, and more in a package that’s intuitive and easy to use.
- Crowdbooster - Crowdbooster helps you achieve an effective presence on Twitter and Facebook. It shows you analytics that aren’t based on abstract scores, but numbers that are connected to your business and your social media strategies: impressions, total reach, engagement, and more. It then give you the tools and recommendations you need to take action and improve each one of these metrics.
- Twylah - Twylah adds context to your tweets and creates a whole new experience around them. It doesn’t just tell you what you and others are influential about, it shows you why you’re influential by placing a user’s “trending topics” (what you tweet about most often) into clickable, topical buckets. It showcases your tweets in a more complete narrative story, and is a much better storefront for your Twitter brand than the less attractive Twitter stream.
- MyWebCareer - My Web Career enables you to uncover and evaluate your digital footprint. It’s a great networking tool and is useful when exploring the way your social profiles connect across the Web to create an overall picture of yourself or your business. It uses link analysis, visualization, and semantics technologies to enable you to quickly evaluate and explore data that may relate to you, and it makes this data accessible, manageable, and actionable.
- Appinions - Appinions is an opinions-powered platform that makes it easy to identify, analyze, monitor and engage with influencers. It features an extensive database that includes millions of opinions extracted from blogs, Twitter, Facebook, forums, newspaper and magazine articles, and radio and television transcripts. It not only focuses on the influencers creating content, but on the influencers attracting the most attention. Appinions also meets the needs of online publishers, leveraging the power of opinions and influencers so they can provide readers with more relevant and interesting content.
Have you tried any of these tools? I’d love to hear about your experiences and whether or not you’ve found any of them helpful. I’m sure there are tools that I’m not aware of, so please share them in the comments below.
Influence and Return on Influence is the newest social media trend and was born out of frustration over the difficulty in measuring traditional social media return on investment (SMROI), so many social media brand managers have chosen to measure social media behaviors or how people react to your social engagement efforts with your fans or followers. As described by Brian Solis, it's about cause and effect or changes in behavior. If your goal is to get a fan to click on a link, image or video, that's something that can be measured.
However, in order for return on influence to be useful, you must establish quantitative goals and objectives. Examples: Number of clicks, number of likes, number of retweets, number of tweets, number of individuals completing a form or participating in a poll, or the number of wall posts about your brand, and so forth. You must also assign the needed resources, both in social media personnel and social media tools to track that data and analyze the results.
Courtesy of an article dated February 29, 2012 appearing in MediaPost Publications Marketing Daily, an article dated February 23, 2012 appearing in Brian Solis Blog, an article December 16, 2011 appearing in Social Media Today and an article dated August 14, 2011 appearing in Panorama