Barry Clifford

Applying the Scientific Method to Proving Social Media Results

There’s no way around it – there’s a problem with measuring our social media efforts. So far, there is no clearly defined relationship between the analytics provided by the major social networking platforms, and the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that mean most to us as businesses. How useful is the fact that our engagement indicators have shown a 300% growth but nobody seems to be filling in the form on our landing page? Some would say very, others, not so much. The sad fact is that unless you are in a direct eCommerce sell scenario, it’s very difficult to show social’s impact on quantitative KPIs like revenue or cost.

As any marketer knows there is a scientific aspect to every campaign. One way to prove business value from social media is to identify a specific KPI that you are trying to impact and study it in isolation while you run your social media effort. Remember those lab projects you did in high school where you start with a hypothesis, create an experiment to test the hypothesis, then observe and measure the results? Every effort that a marketer is making should be subject to the same kind of rigor, because at the end of the day, we all want to identify how best we can deliver value and then reproduce and or refine those efforts that have shown the best results. 

In a recent social campaign, luxury shoe designer Jimmy Choo used Twitter and Foursquare to run a “Trainer Hunt” in which the newly launched designer sneakers “checked in” from various upscale locations around London. More than 4,500 people participated in an attempt to win a pair of the designer shoes. An increase of 40% in positive brand mentions was observed which was tied directly to an increase of 33% in in-store shoe sales during the campaign1. Through focused observation, Jimmy Choo successfully tied a soft social media metric (positive brand mentions) to a quantitative KPI as a proof of success. 

What if you’re not able to hold all the Variables constant? Honda has been investing heavily in their social media presence recently, incorporating hash tags into their television advertising, but based on the size and scope of its marketing effort would not be able to hold other activities static while running a social media campaign. Earlier this summer, the Japanese carmaker wowed the social sphere with two Vine Video campaign that engaged customer’s in innovative ways across multiple social channels. (see our blog on how Vine and Instagram are battling for brand dominance). The campaigns generated more than 100 million impressions and 10,000 mentions2. In this case, the company chose a qualitative KPI, having outlined the goal of increasing brand reach and customer engagement as metrics for determining success. 

So how might one go about tying their social media efforts to moving the needle on important business KPIs?

Measuring link click through is a simple yet effective way of measuring how your brand’s messaging is being received on social media. Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn give you this information on any link based post, so it is easy to track your performance on either a post-by-post, weekly, or monthly basis and refine your social posting strategy based on your performance. 

As marketers we use social media to listen and engage with our customers across multiple business areas. If improving customer service is an area where your company wants to improve, you might choose the number of positive brand mentions and response time as KPIs. If you want to build customer loyalty, then engagement rates and content shares should be areas of focus. 

No matter what your goal is, keep in mind that social media marketing is both an art and a science. While you may not always be able to track specific actions to specific outcomes, remember the principles of the scientific method. Adapt your measurement and analysis process so that you can identify which metrics should be used as benchmarks from campaign to campaign, and don’t be afraid to tweak your program here or there to see if small adjustments result in big impacts.