How to start measuring social media (even if you hate math)

The authors of the new book “Marketing in the Round” explain how to painlessly launch a measurement program that will show how your marketing and PR efforts affect the bottom line.

One of the reasons most of us went into communications or journalism is because we don’t like numbers. Statistics and calculus and derivatives? No, thank you.

We’ve always gotten away with “measuring” our results in terms of media impressions, reach, and advertising equivalencies. After all, it’s hard to quantify brand awareness, credibility, reputation, and thought leadership. You know whether or not you have it, but you can’t really put it in terms of numbers.

And those great big impression numbers? They feel good to a CEO who is looking for some way to show a return on you efforts.

But when the Web disrupted our industry we slowly began to see new and interesting ways to measure our efforts. Early on we looked at using unique URLs in our news releases and different 800 numbers at our events. But that wasn’t enough.

The Web has provided a huge opportunity to measure our results directly to business goals, yet most of us still shy away.

Why? Because we don’t like numbers.

We’d like you to think about it differently. Call it data or information or goodies or, heck, call it chocolate. Just don’t call it numbers.

It’s fun to see results from your efforts—and now you have the opportunity to see them every day.

Start small. One of the things we discuss in “Marketing in the Round” is using a benchmark of zero as your first step. Find something—one campaign, one event, one project—and create the benchmarks, the dashboard, and the data points you’ll measure. Think beyond traffic, page views, and bounce rate. Think about what the goals are of the business and how you can affect change in those areas.

In a for-profit business, you’ll want to look for ways to increase revenues, shorten the sales cycle, or improve margins. If you don’t know what all three of those things mean, go make friends with someone in the accounting department and learn it. Quickly.

Let’s use Pinterest as an example. It’s easy to set up some boards and direct people back to your website or blog. Arment Dietrich has a client—Frank and Eileen—that makes high-end men’s and women’s shirts. The team created a Pinterest board for the company to test what kinds of results could be achieved by pinning images of some of its shirts.

After only one month, Pinterest is the No. 8 referral source of traffic to the Frank and Eileen site. But remember, we said to worry less about traffic and more on business results. So dig further. Pinterest sent 3 percent new visitors in April. Of that three percent, 83 percent bought a shirt. That represents $2,670 in new revenue for the business.

Other than the 83 percent who bought the shirt, all of the data for that particular test came from Google Analytics (which is free). The client also granted access to the e-commerce site, which provides the information needed to find out how many of the visitors from Pinterest bought a shirt.

This is a simple way to look at measurement, but it gives you a starting point. Once you get this down, you can begin to advance and become more sophisticated in your measurement.

Companies that fully understand how they are being talked about and what levers work online can use this data to inform future marketing decisions. Strategic intelligence gleaned from measurement can help uncover new opportunities for products and services, as well.

Your clients or executive team will be ecstatic to finally have a real return on investment on your efforts.

Gini Dietrich
is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communication firm. She also is the founder of the professional development site for PR and marketing pros, Spin Sucks Pro, blogger at Spin Sucks, and co-author of “Marketing in the Round.”

Geoff Livingston is an author and marketing strategist, and serves as vice president, strategic partnerships for Razoo. A former journalist, Livingston continues to write, and most recently he co-authored “Marketing in the Round,” and authored the social media primer Welcome to the Fifth Estate.

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