For social media evangelists, the question on everyone’s mind is this: “How do we effectively measure the business value of social initiatives?”
Even when we get close, there’s always that pesky issue of causation vs. correlation — can we really prove causation even for examples with high correlation between social initiatives and business outcomes? (Read Freakonomics, or watch the documentary, for insights into the challenges of causation vs. correlation.)
Every day there is a plethora of “social media experts” offering advice on how to win using social media (and nearly all of it is posted on social media). In just a single edition of SocialBizBuzz on Dec 5 21012, you could read: Alistair Rennie from IBM writing in The Huffington Post on the differences between social media and social business; Francis Gouillart writing in the HBR Blog Network on the value of co-creating through social; and Mashable’s Todd Wasserman opining on how most social media marketing is a waste of time!
The wonderful parody of social media expertise produced by The Onion (see video) hits the nail on the head … without real metrics how can anyone claim social initiatives deliver value?
Over the years, research analysts at Forrester have produced numerous reports aimed at getting to the heart of this question — for example:
From our research, it’s clear that many organizations track social metrics of one form or another, and a few even try to show causality between the metrics and business outcomes. What’s less clear is an understanding of the most common metrics in use and how companies compare to each other in their results. And that’s what I’m looking to shed light on in my latest research on social business metrics.
To begin with, we’re benchmarking the metrics currently used to measure the impact of social media and social collaboration. We’ll compile the survey data collected on metrics used in participating organizations to produce our first benchmark analysis. (The initial survey for this research has just launched — if you currently measure social metrics for your organization, I invite you to participate. It takes about 10 minutes to complete the survey, and as a participant, you may request a summary of the benchmark findings.)
So for readers of this blog, which metrics do you think are the most useful in measuring the business impact of social initiatives? Do you have concrete examples? Post your comments and examples here or in our CIO social community.