Social media measurement – easy once you recognise it’s not

The CIPR's social media and measurement group is committed to providing updated guidance to members by the end of January. As the group's chair, I'd better get my skates on. Here's a quick look at the main thrust of our report.

Social media measurement, like business performance management and measurement in general, must measure what's important to your organisation. Sounds simple for a moment doesn't it, except that the view of what's important and what's trivial is pretty much muddied when it comes to marketing and PR measurement and evaluation in my experience.

Take the announcement this week from Sainsbury's, one of the UK's top supermarkets:

J. Sainsbury (Sainsbury's) supermarket, Chadde...
Image via Wikipedia

Best-ever Christmas, completes another strong quarter

  • Total sales for third quarter up 7.5 per cent (6.0 per cent excluding fuel)
  • Like-for-like sales for the quarter up 5.4 per cent (3.6 per cent excluding fuel)
  • Two year like-for-like sales growth of 7.4 per cent excluding fuel
  • Christmas week transactions at all time high of over 24.5 million
  • 700,000 sq ft new space added, with nearly 6,000 new jobs created

Justin King, Chief Executive, said, “...We are delighted that we delivered a record Christmas performance and have grown market share over the quarter, up 0.3 per cent to 16.6 per cent."

Congratulations to the Sainsbury's team. But let's look at some (fictitious) examples of what we didn't see in that bullet list:

  • Traffic to our corporate website up 1.12% year on year
  • Twitter followers up 8.2%
  • Best ever quarter for retweets – an average of 17 RTs per tweet, up 11% quarter on quarter
  • Early to Quora with three questions posed and seventeen answered
  • New Android app downloaded 1300 times in the last four weeks of the quarter, with 36% translating into regular weekly users.

Am I being facetious? Yes, a little. But contrasting the big important metrics reported by the Chief Executive with the day-to-day obsessions of marketing and PR practitioners reminds us of the linkage required of the two, or perhaps too frequently the absence of any such linkage.

What's important? Well every organisation should have a mission (why we exist?), values (guiding behaviour), a vision (what do we want to be?), objectives (breaking down the vision) and strategy (how we intend to get there). And given that measurement isn't just the detached collection, analysis and presentation of data but a powerful management tool of itself, a powerful way to secure alignment of the day-to-day activities of each and every employee with the strategy, this cascade must continue robustly, transparently and visibly. People perform as they are measured, so the measures must drive strategically important behaviour.

And as each marketplace is unique and your organisation is unique, your strategy will be unique. And so, therefore, will be the suite of measures you design, deploy and manage by. Perhaps the same metric (eg, share of voice, number of conversations, sentiment) will be adopted by more than one company, but its precise definition will be tailored to your needs and it will sit amongst a balanced portfolio of metrics that will be uniquely bespoke.

Fortunately, all this was recognised by pioneers in business performance management, such as Kaplan and Norton of Balanced Scorecard fame, long before we were blogging, "liking" things, tweeting, or becoming mayors of our local Sainsbury's coffee shop.

Keep an eye out here, and follow @sheldrake and @cipr_uk, for notification of the report's availability. And my book, The Business of Influence, out with Wiley in April, will explore this topic in more detail.