Imagine for a second that you are the head of marketing for your company and are considering taking the first steps into the wonderful (and often mysterious) world of social media. You’ve heard all about Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the bevy of other tools available to you, but you’re not sure which one makes the most sense for your business. What do you do?
Well, hopefully for all involved you don’t turn to the “young” person within your department just because they are young. No, chances are good you will either pull some people together internally for a discussion or turn to your agency (assuming you’re using one).
So you’ve turned to your agency and asked them to help you understand how they leverage social media. What is the first thing they do? Well, they probably wow you with a lot of interesting case studies and statistics demonstrating the power of the tools. It’s at this moment you realize you aren’t Dell, Comcast or Southwest Airlines. What can you do to get the train back on track?
You would be wise to suggest to the agency (hopefully they’ve suggested it themselves) that they do some sort of benchmarking on your behalf. Benchmarking is a critical first step in any program. Whether it’s doing content analysis or surveys, you need to understand where the starting line is for your organization.
Beth Harte wrote a post last year in which she outlined the seven holy grails of PR. One of those holy grails was researched benchmarks. PR, social media, marketing–it almost doesn’t matter. Researched benchmarks are a critical first step toward the success of any campaign.
With that in mind, what are some things you can benchmark when starting your social media campaign?
- Share of conversation – My friend David Alston, and Radian6’s VP of Marketing, would likely tell you that social media isn’t all about the eyeballs. I wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment, but would say that gauging share of conversation is helpful from at least a brand awareness perspective.
- Where conversations are happening – Before you launch headlong into Twitter, it would be helpful to know if your customers are actually there.
- Core messaging – Yes, social media isn’t all about pushing core messaging. However, it will be helpful to know what people are saying in reference to your brand. Implicit in that is what, specifically, is driving conversation.
- Who is influential – Everyone, and every industry has their own definition on who is influential. Be sure to define, through listening or whatever other means, who is influential in your space before you get started.
- Search – If you didn’t know this already, search and social media are inextricably linked. There are plenty of free tools that will show you what people are searching for. What are the key terms people are using? What is on the first page of Google results? Is your brand there?
- Web analytics – Similar to search, what shows up on your Web site is equally critical to what’s being said in social media. Know how many unique visitors you have, what the referring sites are and percentage of new vs. returning visitors.
These are just six things that I would recommend you benchmark, but obviously you want to come up with researched benchmarks that make sense for your campaign. What other metrics have you researched? What’s worked well? What hasn’t? Looking forward to hearing your point of view.
Chuck Hemann, a 2010 Society for New Communications Research Fellow, is currently a social media associate for WCG, a global media services company focused on the corporate and product marketing and communications needs of leading healthcare companies. You can follow Chuck on Twitter.
Learn more by downloading our ebook 5 Steps to Effective Social Media Measurement.