There's a lot of discussion about social media (including blogging) and whether or not the results should be measured and how.
Opponents of social media measurement sometimes believe that measurement is a path to destruction, or at least manipulation. They believe that businesses should be executing communication strategies with customers and prospects because it's the right thing to do. I agree that it's the right thing to do… and we should measure social media to prove it's the right thing to do!
The risk of measurement, of course, is measuring inadequately or basing conclusions on incomplete data. If you graph 2 variables and you find a correlation, that does not necessarily provide irrefutable evidence that there is one. There could be another environmental variable that is much stronger that is a factor that you're simply missing.
Proponents of measuring social media marketing strategies often dismiss the human element of social media, and simply see it as a new medium to tackle and manipulate. I don't agree with this. I believe it's another medium to fully leverage within a company's arsenal of tools to market their products to those who need or want them.
When I read this post to forget social media measurement I commented, in essence, that his argument was a moot point. Businesses do not care what my opinion or your opinion is regarding social media measurement… they're going to measure regardless.
Measuring social media's impact is difficult, but it's not impossible. I think much of the argument comes from the fact that measuring the impact requires so much hard work. Ensuring every visitor is tracked and what their actions were in respect to your product and service isn't an easy task… so it's my opinion that many of the gurus of social media either don't understand how, don't understand why, or are simply too lazy.
They don't want to correlate stock prices, customer satisfaction, overall product opinion and temperament, inbound leads, engagement value, close ratio, and human resource cost for you… it's easier to simply talk about how many Likes you got, comments, or mentions on other sites. Good luck on engaging a company with a substantial marketing budget in a comprehensive social media strategy without telling them how to measure its success in dollars and cents.
We must measure. We must prove. We must improve.
Applying goals and measures to Social Media doesn't mean that you need to abandon all of the other impactful qualities of businesses utilizing social mediums to enhance business results. Improving communication with clients and prospects, providing a path for engagement, propelling your company's authority in its space, finding influencers and allowing them to spread the word… all of these advantages don't have to be dismissed. You can have the best of both worlds.
I have incredible trust in the natural tendencies of social media to root out companies that will attempt to manipulate these fantastic mediums. Measurement won't simply provide companies with an understanding of the return on investment in social media, measurement will also provide companies with the evidence that truth and transparency will prevail. The power is in the numbers. I also trust that marketing technology will continue to improve so that measuring these new communication mediums becomes easier and more accurate.
One afterthought, just because you prove social media as a viable marketing strategy still doesn't mean that companies will flock to it. Companies are tough ships to turn! We often talk companies to bite off a piece at a time, prove the results, and then work to grow their program. Change is difficult and takes time.