Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Measuring Social Media ROI, According to Paul Gillin

Journalist-turned-social-media-guru Paul Gillin provides some good advice for addressing the Holy Grail of social media.

Well, one of the Holy Grails.

The first Holy Grail is the viral video: that cheap-to-produce video that generates millions of downloads.

But the second Holy Grail, and the one with a greater likelihood of success is finding appropriate metrics to measure the impact of a social media program.

In my (old-fashioned-now-recycled-paper) files, I came across an article from 2006 that said social media (then comprised only of blogs and podcasts) was great, but that the big challenge was to measure the impact of a social media program.

Three years later, that still hasn't changed.

The need to measure continues to be the big challenge. Especially for client organizations headed by people who don't think social media is right for them. (And, by the way, I think there are some organizations for whom social media is not the right solution.)

So, back to Gillin's metrics, in "You CAN measure social media ROI." He lists 10 variables and details, but here are the ones I think most important:

  • Focus on the business goals and five metrics that matter most.
  • Know what works. This isn't always easy, but with experimentation, it can be easier to determine what doesn't work, and go from there.
The rest seem like guidelines or recommendations. For example, he says, "It's not just about your site." And he's right: there can be important sites for your company that are not your website. But that's not really a metric.

He also reminds us of what I call Gillin's Law: Successful programs build affinity over one or two years. Ditch the 13-week thinking." That's very important, but more of a guideline than a metric.

So, alas, the quest for this Holy Grail continues.

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