Proving Business Value of Social Media No Longer an Impossible Dream

This interview first appeared on PR News.

Social media engagement is now perceived as a must for b2c, b2b and nonprofit organizations—it’s practically become the fulcrum in which all digital communications take place. But this engagement comes with a price tag. It takes an investment in staff time and in the technology needed to manage and monitor that engagement. And with the price tag comes the pressure to prove social media’s positive impact on an organization’s bottom line.

Don Bartholomew, SVP, digital & social media research for Ketchum, gives a preview of his longer-form discussion on how to align key performance indicators (KPIs) to demonstrate the organizational impact and value of social media, and what industry efforts are being made to standardize social media measurement.

PR News: You’ve said that the first step in demonstrating the organizational impact and value of social media is gaining a true understanding of how a particular business works. What are some practical steps a communicator can take to connect how a business works to social media activity?

Don Bartholomew: The connection and alignment of objectives is a crucial step. We like to begin by understanding and articulating the business objectives. Next we capture the KPIs associated with the business-level objectives. We then capture the proposed social media objectives and test alignment with the business KPIs. Finally we define the social media metrics associated with the social media objectives.

PR News: What are some examples of a measurable business impact of social media, besides sales?

Bartholomew: Two broad categories of impact beyond sales are brand and reputation, although assigning tangible value to these two concepts is challenging, but not impossible. Here are two additional examples that are easier to use when measuring business impact:

  1. Customer service: There are numerous examples of companies using social media, particularly Twitter, as a customer service response channel. Any reduction in necessary headcount has a direct, measurable impact on the business.
  2. Employee loyalty: Companies are increasingly using social channels as a way to communicate with employees, mobilize them as brand ambassadors and build a stronger sense of community and affiliation with the company. This can translate to higher levels of loyalty, which has direct and measurable impact on the business—less turnover means reduced recruiting and training cost and higher levels of productivity.

PR News: What are the common traits of all measurable social media objectives?

Bartholomew: Measurable social media objectives must contain three traits or characteristics. One, they should indicate the desired change in the metric of interest (e.g. awareness or purchase consideration). Two, they should state the target audience. Three, they should indicate the timeframe by which the change should occur.