Monday, August 10, 2009

Sustaining a Brand Conversation: Behavior Tracking and Measurements Notes for Brand Marketers

Executive Summary: How do you deal with a profusion of social media metrics which often have an unclear context? We need metrics with clear semantics. Some of these metrics may be custom created for a specific brand, consumer profile, activity and social media context. We could create two categories of metrics- generic, infrastructure metrics of the type that are commonly thrown about and need contextual understanding, and functional metrics that have clear semantics attached.

The Story So Far
We covered a need for strategic thought behind social media marketing investments below:

The next step is to generate a picture or customer touchpoints/ interactions with the brand across various channels. Besides qualitative insights, you would like concrete measures that support these insights.

There are challenges in tying in consumer behavior in a "regular" distribution channel with that across social media channels. Leveraging your existing, real world consumer profiles in the social media world is a separate theme. Our focus in this post is to find ways to measure and track consumer behavior in the social media channels.

Challenges with Interactive Metrics Today
There are two challenges with social media metrics today:
1> A profusion of metrics.
2> A need to understand the context in which these metrics are being generated.

David Berkowitz has a great post here on the various metrics available to marketers today, and a proposed Cost Per Social Action (CPSA) metric: are third party companies like Visible Measures doing interesting work as well.

As for context, a wise man once said, context is everything. Does a metric mean the same coming from a face to face interaction as opposed to one over twitter, or even one from a different social media platform?

A Potential Solution
Some new metrics are needed. However, they need to be functional in nature. By functional- I mean that the metrics need to carry a consistent meaning for brand marketers. CPM clicks could be meaningless in some contexts. You might argue that this is true of all metrics. True. Hence the need for metrics with specific meaning and context attached to them.

I am not saying this is the end of the existing metrics. We could have two classes of metrics- the infrastructure metrics and the functional metrics. All metrics have semantics, hence I am calling these new metrics "functional" metrics, instead of calling them semantic metrics.

Future Shock
There lies the key. While generic, industry standard metrics are important, there is a huge *future* potential for metrics customized to the brand. These will hinge on the data collection capabilities of social media platforms, and their ability to share it in a cheap, safe, anonymized manner with third parties for further analysis. Additional factors that come into play- quality of data, privacy concerns and analytics capabilities.

What Can We Do Now?
While it is great to theorize about the future, there is opportunity today to develop measures that make sense for a specific brand, consumer profile, activity and social media context.
You are welcome to contact me for a conversation on these.

Update 1 (Thanks to David's followup): Functional Metrics Example
Craig has a great illustration of my distinction between infrastructure and functional metrics here:
Cost Per Lead (CPL) could be called an "infrastructure" metric, as opposed to Cost Per Opportunity (CPO) which could be called a "functional" metric. CPO is tied to the lead and pipeline generation funnel, and not to the various tools and mechanics that cause CPL number variation. CPL feeds into CPO generation.

Update 2: Caveats and Another Functional Metrics Example
The challenges the metrics are expected to address:
1. In metrics, we often miss the forest for the trees. As I have mentioned before- Marketing is following Social Media.
2. Given the context of the million dollar Superbowl ads, we need to build the kind of "bridges" in social media that already exist in traditional media and which allow traditional media to justify its spend to some extent. That's a separate problem.

So taking the sales theme further (you can see I am trying to leverage my B2B sales/ account management experience) here's what I would call an infrastructure metric derived out of a sales force effectiveness ratio: social media effectiveness ratio = social media "wins"/ customer "contacts".

Now, you might call sales force effectiveness metric a functional metric that has been translated into an infrastructure metric. True, wins and contacts are tied to the platform. We then build a cross platform metric that takes this data and spits out the "functional metric" results.

The Four Philips brand equity measures- Uniqueness, Relevance, Attractiveness and Credibility- are a tougher portability nut to crack. However, a quick metric that is "translatable" that would be familiar to brand and category managers- ACV.

What do you think?

Additional Background
A backgrounder to help you develop your own perspective on the ideas here:


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