Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Reason Social Media Can be Difficult to Sell? It's the Indirect Nature of It, Part III

Guess this could be called Part II 1/2. Or the Need for Benchmarks.

One of the obstacles we're hearing from clients about engaging in social media programs is the lack of metrics.

Paul Gillin, a longtime journalist who has turned himself into a B2B social media guru and has a blog worth reading, was one of the first to point for the need to establish benchmarks -- and has written that several years later, we still lack benchmarks.

Traditional media has several established benchmarks, including circulation and the average time spent reading a magazine or newspaper. While time spent on a page is the basic equivalent to the second metric, it's doesn't provide the same snapshot overall.

In other words, the challenge remains: how can companies determine if they're getting any value from the social media initiatives.

In reading Charlene Li's new book, Open Leadership (disclosure: I received a review copy of the book), I came across another useful quote:
"In the absence of established metrics and benchmarks (for social media) you'll need to create them for yourself."
That's no silver bullet but the point is that companies have to experiment to determine what metrics make the most sense for them. If social media is about engaging with your stakeholders, it is also about the need to test -- and perhaps fail at first -- different approaches to reaching stakeholders.

I know that in the New Normal, getting budget or approval to experiment can be a challenge. Last night I talked with a very smart expert in small businesses, and she expressed concern about social media. But even as social media continues to evolve, it's not a fad that will fade away the way CB Radio did in the '70s.

And I know social media is not the answer for every client or organization. But at the same time, I think organizations should be asking the questions to see how they might benefit from reaching out over a new channel. Once you start doing so, you can start collecting metrics, and start figuring out which ones make sense for you.

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