This post from Marcel LeBrun, CEO of Radian6, has generated some buzz, and rightly so. That the leader of one of the more richly analytical social media monitoring technology companies out there is acknowledging the important qualitative dimensions of this problem is a refreshing surprise:
Social media measurement is like gourmet cooking. We now have plenty of high quality ingredients to work with. There would not be a gourmet chef profession if we only had bread and water to work with. Is there a “standard measure” in the gourmet food industry for how to make a good Fois Gras or Duck D’Orange? No. Of course, it isn’t hard to recognize gourmet cooking, nor is it hard to detect bad cooking. However, the experts will continue to innovate, experiment and advance the art… and, they will argue vehemently about the precise measure of good Fois Gras.
Social Media measurement is like gourmet cooking because the social web produces a vast and growing array of metrics that can be gathered and combined in various ways to extract meaning, insight, and measure the effectiveness of one’s investments & efforts. The list of ingredients is growing all the time: comments, inbound links, votes, views, likes, bookmarks, favorites, tweets, re-tweets, social graph connections, etc… countless social breadcrumbs that are directly measurable both on page (directly connected to your content) and off-page (located in other places, but related to your content) plus they can all be measured temporally adding that important perspective of time: velocity, transience, sustainability/stickiness, etc. Additionally, the types of business functions & endeavors that brands can pursue using the social web are as numerous and diverse as the metrics available – it isn’t just an advertising medium. Measuring the ROI of your investment in providing customer support using the social web is very different from measuring the ROI of your efforts in influencer outreach.
Would Neilsen CEO David Calhoun speak so openly about the underlying validity and shortcomings of CPM? I doubt it.
While recognizing the limitations of standardized metrics is an important first step in cracking the social media measurement problem, it leads to an unsatisfying conclusion: That every social media program is different, and that the results that matter need to be examined on a case-by-case basis.
I don’t think I buy this. Whatever the flaws in reach, frequency and CPM (and there are some fundamental ones,) they have enabled the development of a $1.5 trillion industry. To the extent that social media aspires to significance in that market, it needs to find a way to build a consensus on quantitive measures of its own value.
Notice I did not say “measure” here. Measuring is for engineers. We are simple marketing folk from the mountains. At some level, we need not concern ourselves with such things.
All we need is “consensus.” We need to discuss and agree on metrics which – whatever their shortcomings in the assessment of metaphysical truth – are at least consistent from program to program. That is the foundation of a “market,” as distinct from the “hobby” that most social media is today.
What do you think? Must we now accept the underlying variability of social media and the disparate marketing initiatives operating within it? Or is moving beyond that to consistent if flawed measures the next step in the development of this pre-adolescent medium?