Tuesday, May 26

Dear Social Media, It's KPI Time Or Else RIP

So the IAB just launched their first POV on measuring social media effectiveness (PDF version here). The hope is to pull our industry kicking and screaming out of CTRs and CPMs into more robust measurement criteria.

As MediaPost notes, it's the Holy Grail for social marketers:

In other words, compared to old-time metrics like reach, frequency and the click-through, these metrics are deep, not only measuring whether people are engaged, but how they are engaging. It's like being able to measure the temperature with a thermometer rather than opening the front door and declaring it either hot or cold.

Imagine that you're an advertiser who sorely needs to understand social media. Then imagine yourself suddenly finding that you can not only monitor discussion around a certain topic near and dear to your brand but that you can also mention the number of people talking about it and their level of passion. Suddenly, social media goes from a huge, indefinable blob of conversations into something that has contours around which you can engage, plan and buy. That's huge.

Trying to measure a fuzzy nebulous environment such as social media is a daunting task. Here's a summary of just a few measurement recommendations:
  • Application and video installs.
  • The number of relevant actions, including newsfeed items posted, comments posted, uploads, poll votes, and so forth.
  • Conversation size, which measures the number of content relevant sites and content relevant links, and the monthly uniques spread across those conversations.
  • Site relevance, which measures the density with which phrases specific to a client concern are brought up among relevant sites.
  • Author credibility, such as how relevant the author's content is and how often it is linked to.
  • Content freshness and relevance, which defines how frequently an author posts.
  • The average number of friends among users of a specific application.
  • Number of people currently using an application.
And you thought explaining rich media banner engagement metrics was tough?

Marketers are continually screaming for simplicity when it comes to online metrics. The reason CPMs and CTRs still dominate is because they are easy to understand and measure. Hence the latest Key Performance Indicators (KPI) trend.

Yet they also find comfort in knowing that every online effort can be measured 1000 different ways. Just please put those charts in the Appendix so we don't have to go through them.

Who will provide the benchmark for Content Relevance/Posting Frequency (your CR:PF ratio)? Does a Conversation Size include paid media impressions, or is it only the "free" ones? Can you track those conversations back to a paid media stimulus, thus defining a Cost Per Conversation (CPC) efficiency? Did it increase purchase intent?

We repeatedly drive new online trends to the brink of complexity before pulling back to more attainable measurement criteria. Perhaps this is due to constantly justifying the existence of any new online marketing opportunity. Beat it to death with an avalanche of metrics, just to prove we can. Then once everyone is comfortable restrain it back to the two or three that really matter.

Unfortunately those two or three KPIs could be different for every program. Without a doubt they will change every three months as the social media space evolves. Which means all the ad networks and rich media vendors are safe for little bit longer...

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