Should We Measure Social Media? If So, How?

tape-measure1[tweetmeme source=”pagetx”]Anyone who’s been in marketing for any length of time knows that your work produces results.  And results have to be measured.  And from those measurements, it is possible to determine your ROI.  Solid.  Factual.  Numbers that make your boss happy … hopefully.

Because this is what we know how to do, it’s a natural inclination to want to apply those standards to our social media marketing activities.  But is that the right way to do it?  What are the right questions to ask?

Social media is still a bit of an unknown to many in the tourism industry.   That, coupled with trying to determine how to measure it, is a source for additional grey hair for some of us.

For those of you who work in the public sector for city, county or state government, it can be a pretty tough sell.  I believe that it’s partly because there are still too many decision-makers who adhere to old-school management and marketing philosophies.  I also think it’s because there haven’t been enough of us willing to stick our necks out and try to prove that it works, and that we’re not just wasting our days playing on Facebook.

Before I discuss some of the ways that social media marketing really can be measured, I want you to know this.  I believe that the main goal of social media should be to develop long and lasting relationships with our customers – whether your industry is tourism or any other.  Relationships that are built on trust and mutual respect.  And while social media doesn’t allow us to communicate face-to-face with our customers, communicate we can.  And yes, even the value of these relationships can be measured.  Read more about the value of relationships in a great post by Jay Deragon.

Here are a few measurement tidbits I picked up from respected professionals in the social media field.

Amber Naslund’s great blog, Altitude Branding, is chock full of extremely useful social media information.  In this post, she offers enough concrete ways to measure social media to make any boss swoon.  Of note are shorter customer service/issue resolution time, share of conversation/voice (used mainly in Twitter), number and frequency of mentions in media, subscribers to blog or E-mail newsletter, number of fans, inbound links to main website, and interaction with posted content (tone and number of comments, e-book downloads etc.).

Amber goes on to give us some additional resources on  measuring social media by providing her delicious bookmarks.  Lots of great stuff here, so please check it out.

The measurement tools described above are quantitative.  There are also qualitative ways to measure our social media effectiveness.  In a great post on Mashable by Aaron Uhrmacher, he says that the qualitative methods are more for measuring corporate reputation, conversations, engagement, and customer relationships.

Consider the following questions that Uhrmacher poses:

  • Are we currently a part of the conversation about our product/industry?
  • What is being said about us versus our competition?
  • Are we able to build a better relationship with our customers?
  • Can we participate in conversations where we hadn’t previously had a voice?

I would only add one thing to his list, and that is this: Can we reach audiences who aren’t interested in or who don’t respond to traditional methods of advertising and marketing?

Well, what say you?  Do any of these methods make sense for the tourism industry?  How can we convince our head-in-the-sand management that social media has value?

Photo courtesy of Darren Hester.


4 Responses

  1. Great article I’ve been looking for good ways to track my success for our social networking campaigns. Check out our blog at we will be rolling out a slightly redesigned page within the week.

  2. Hi Sarah,

    Thanks so much for the shoutout. I really do believe that social media is measurable, though we have to suspend some of our ideas of old metrics that are out of date. It’s no longer enough to just know how many people saw an ad. Social media puts humans back at the center of relationships among businesses, so we need to learn how to better measure the effects of those relationships, not just the reach of our message.

    The tough love part, too, is that we have plenty of things to measure, but I think lots of businesses are still waiting for someone to do the work for them. Truth is you have to figure out your goals, figure out what drives those, and measure THAT. Do the dirty work, even if it’s not perfect to start with. But it does take effort!

    Thanks for a sharp post.

    Amber Naslund

  3. Aaron,
    So glad to be of some help. If you have any ideas on using social media to market tourism, I’d sure love to hear them. Can’t wait to see your new site! Thanks,

  4. Amber,
    I really appreciate your comment – makes me feel validated. You and Chris Brogan were the inspiration for me to start this blog, so it means a lot to get a thumbs up from you. I met you at the Inbound Marketing Bootcamp in Austin a few weeks ago and enjoyed each and every minute of it.

    I hope you’ll stop back by and offer your two cents – it’s always welcome here. Thanks!

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