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Social media measurement – comparing hogwash to tripe won’t help you



The shiny objet du jour

Social media measurement seems to be the shiny object holding everyone’s attention this year. And all sorts of folks are weighing in with their experiences and opinions, whether based on years of experience or their first time around the block. As we all try to figure out what works, we’ll have to slog through a lot of what doesn’t.

It can be frustrating reading so many contradicting opinions and new research studies that only seem to lead to more questions. I tend to get the most frustrated when I see blog posts and articles which try to inappropriately adapt traditional business or media metrics for social media. Impressions for a newspaper are transformed to social media impressions. Readers or viewers become followers, friends and fans. Worst of all, ROI becomes return on influence or return on engagement (ROE).

Can you really compare the number of viewers of a television program to the number of people following you? Integration of social and traditional media measurement is becoming more and more important, but can we find metrics that are apples to apples?

Useful and useless metrics

The bigger problem with the first two examples, though, lies with the original metrics as much as with the faulty adaptations. With the exception of ROI, these metrics can never tell the whole story or show success on their own. Often they don’t add much value at all.

Even some of the oldest business and media metrics are not based on goals. They may be used for a wow factor or simply because it’s become a habit, but we tend to forget that our measurements should always be based on business objectives. The measurement of success should measure progress toward our idea of success.

If your business recently launched a new product or service, how would you measure success? Would you be satisfied to know that over one million people saw your advertisement on television? Would you sleep better at night knowing you have 5,000 folks that started following you on Twitter? What if you don’t see any new business?

What one thing must all goals have in common?

Whether you subscribe to the SMART or DUMB theory, all goals must be inherently measureable. Similarly, any metric or number you choose to measure should in some way show success based on your original goal. If your new product launch campaign was meant to drive awareness of your new product among your current customers, does it help to know that nearly all of them had a chance to hear about your product? Or does it matter more that 60% of them remember the product’s name and key features after the campaign ends?

It’s rarely easy to do, but as we learn how to measure social media and quantify its value, we must remember to always keep our goals in mind and use them to build measurement. Shiny new numbers should never be used unless they can be tied back to a real business goal or objective. Using our goals will always set us up for success, even if our metrics aren’t perfect.

Rebecca is a passionate UNC graduate, and a biochemist-turned-communications professional, she spends her days as a senior social media analyst at Digitas in Chicago, specialized social media monitoring and measurement best practices. She is continually excited to explore additional facets of digital measurement like traditional Web analytics, search metrics and integrated data models.

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  1. Andrew Mckay

    September 29, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    'bout them Heels Rebecca 🙂
    Wrongly I don't track where leads come from or worry too much about ROI etc. I tend to throw it all in the pot and sees what comes out at the end. I know the "experts" say track, use this to see what works and so on. My problems is I may meet some one socially, they then read my blog and we become Facebook buddies/Twitter.
    Now do I measure the success by meeting them initially, showing them my "expertise" on the blog or keeping in regular contact on Facebook. It's all so integrated these days that I'm unsure it's possible to measure.

    • Rebecca Denison

      September 29, 2011 at 10:59 pm

      I know what you mean. I've realized lately that attribution is the biggest problem we face. If you drive sales, where do you give the credit? Maybe it was that Facebook friendship, but if they click an ad, that ad will likely get the credit. It can be a mess. Thanks for reading and getting me thinking.

      And you leave my Tar Heels alone!! 😉

  2. Andrew Mckay

    September 30, 2011 at 10:50 am

    You'll find me in the '83 to '84 Yackety Yackety year book:)

    • Rebecca Denison

      September 30, 2011 at 10:53 am

      Get out of town!! I'm always so glad to run into other Tar Heels. 🙂

  3. Matthew Hardy

    September 30, 2011 at 11:21 pm

    Reminds me of the old John Wanamaker quote:

    "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half."

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Social Media

Why Trump’s lawsuit against social media still matters

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Former President Trump snagged headlines for suing every large social media platform, and it has gone quiet, but it still deeply matters.



trump sues social media

It was splashed across headlines everywhere in July: Former President Trump filed a lawsuit against social media platforms that he claims unrightfully banned him during and after the fallout of the January 6th capitol riots. The headlines ran for about a week or so and then fell off the radar as other, fresher, just-as-juicy news headlines captured the media’s eye.

Many of us were left wondering what that was all about and if anything ever became of it. For even more of us, it probably passed out of our minds completely. Lack of public awareness for these things is common after the initial media blitz fades.

Lawsuits like these in the US can take months, if not years between newsworthy milestones. The most recent news I could find as of this publishing is from August 24, 2021, on Yahoo! News from the Washington Examiner discussing the Trump camp’s request for a preliminary injunction in the lawsuit.

This particular suit shouldn’t be left to fade from memory in the shadows though, and here’s why:

In the past few years, world powers have been reigning in regulations on social media and internet commerce. The US is actually a little behind the curve. Trump may have unwittingly given us a source of momentum to get with the times.

In the European Union, they have the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), widely acknowledged to be one of the toughest and most thorough privacy laws in the world, a bold title. China just passed its own pair of laws in the past four months: The Data Security Law, which took effect on Sept. 1, and The Personal Information Law, set to take effect November 1st. The pair is poised to give the GDPR a run for its money for that title.

Meanwhile, in the US, Congress has been occupied with other things and, while there are five bills that took aim at tech monopoly currently on the table and a few CEOs had to answer some questions, little actual movement or progress has been made on making similar privacy protections a thing in the United States.

Trump’s lawsuit, while labeled by many as a toothless public relations move, may actually create momentum needed to push regulation of tech and social media forward in the US. The merits of the case are weak and ultimately the legislation that would give it teeth doesn’t exist yet.

You can’t hold tech companies accountable to a standard that doesn’t properly exist in law.

However, high profile attention and someone willing to continue to make noise and bring attention back to the subject, one of Trump’s strongest talents, could be “just what the doctor ordered” to inspire Congress to make internet user rights and data privacy a priority in the US, finally.

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Social Media

Even solopreneurs are doing live commerce online – it’s not just QVC’s game anymore

(SOCIAL MEDIA) When you think of watching a show and buying things in real time, it invokes thoughts of QVC, but social media video has changed all that.



live commerce

After the year everyone has had, one wouldn’t be remiss in thinking that humanity wants a break from live streaming. They would, however, be wrong: Live online commerce – a method of conversion first normalized in China – is the next evolution of the ubiquitous e-commerce experience, which means it’s something you’ll want on your radar.

Chinese company, Alibaba first live streamed on an e-commerce site in 2016, allowing buyers to watch, interact with, and buy from sellers from the comfort of their homes. In 2020, that same strategy netted Alibaba $7.5 billion in presale revenue – and it only took 30 minutes, according to McKinsey Digital.

But, though western audiences have proven a desire to be just as involved with sellers during the buying process, live commerce hasn’t taken off here the way it has elsewhere. If e-commerce merchants want to maximize their returns in the next few years, that needs to change.

McKinsey Digital points out a couple of different benefits for organizations using live commerce, the main one being an influx in traffic. Live streaming events break the buying experience mold, and consumers love being surprised. You can expect that prospective buyers who wouldn’t necessarily visit your store under normal circumstances would find value in attending a live event.

Live events also keep people on your site for longer, resulting in richer conversion opportunities.

The sense of urgency inherent in in-person shopping doesn’t always translate to online markets, but having a stream showing decreasing inventory or limited-availability items being sold inspires people to act expeditiously rather than sitting on a loaded cart–something that can kill an e-commerce conversion as quickly as it starts one.

There are a ton of different ways to incorporate live events into your e-commerce campaigns. Virtual auctions are popular, as are markets in which individual sellers take buyers through inventory. However, the live event could be tangentially related–or even just something impressive running in parallel with the sale–and still bring in a swell of revenue.

Screen fatigue is real, and there isn’t a true substitute for a brick-and-mortar experience when done correctly. But if you have an e-commerce shop that isn’t utilizing some form of live entertainment–even just to bring in new buyers–you’re going to want to try this strategy soon.

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Social Media

LinkedIn is nixing Stories this month (LinkedIn had Stories!?)

(SOCIAL MEDIA) LinkedIn tried to be like the cool kids and launched “Stories,” but the video feature is being shelved and “reimagined.” Ok.



linkedin stories

Creating the next big thing is essential for social networks to stay relevant, continue growing, and avoid shutting down. Sometimes, this leads to businesses trying to ride along with the success of another app’s latest feature and creating their cloned version. While the logic of recreating something already working makes sense, the results aren’t universal.

This time around, LinkedIn is saying goodbye to its short-lived Snapchat-like video product, Stories. In a company post, LinkedIn says it’s removing its Stories experience by the end of September.

Why is LinkedIn retiring Stories?

According to a post by Senior Director of Product at LinkedIn Liz Li, “[LinkedIn] introduced Stories last year as a fun and casual way to share quick video updates.”

After some testing and feedback, they learned this is not what users wanted. Seems like they could have beta tested with users and heard the same thing, but I digress.

“In developing Stories, we assumed people wouldn’t want informal videos attached to their profile, and that ephemerality would reduce barriers that people feel about posting. Turns out, you want to create lasting videos that tell your professional story in a more personal way and that showcase both your personality and expertise,” said Li.

What does this mean for users?

Starting on September 30, 2021, users will no longer be able to create Stories for Pages. If you’ve already planned to have an image or video ads run in-between Stories, they will now appear on the LinkedIn feed instead. For those who used Campaign Manager to promote or sponsor a Story directly from your Page, the company says “these paid Stories will not appear in the LinkedIn feed”, and the user will need to recreate the ad in Campaign Manager.

What’s next for LinkedIn?

According to Li, LinkedIn is taking what it learned from its finding to “evolve the Stories format into a reimagined video experience across LinkedIn that’s even richer and more conversational.” It plans on doing so by using mixed media and the creative tools of Stories.

“As we reimagine what is next, we’re focusing on how we can provide you with a short-form, rich interactive video format that is unique to our platform and that better helps you reach and engage your audiences on LinkedIn. We’re always excited to try out new things and learn as we go, and will continue to share updates along the way,” the company said.

Although Stories didn’t work well for LinkedIn as they hoped, one thing is for sure. LinkedIn isn’t giving up on some form of interactive video, and we can only hope they “reimagine” something unique that keeps users coming back for more.

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