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Topic du jour: Social media measurement

There’s been a lot of writing lately about how to measure the impact of social media marketing. Yet it’s still hard to find an opinion from somebody who doesn’t have a horse in the race. One reasonably objective article appears in the new issue of Fast Company. Writer Farhad Manjoo, asks, “Does Social Media Have A Return On Investment?,” and then proceeds to thoughtfully answer the question: Nobody knows.

Manjoo studies a few recent online marketing campaigns and concludes that marketers lack the data and metrics that show this stuff is working:

“At least so far, marketers can’t predict or measure the impact of their campaigns with anything near the precision they’re used to elsewhere online.”

Read the full article here.

This is basically true. Manjoo looks at some startups that are getting a lot of buzz, such as Klout, which assigns you a number based on how influential you are on Twitter. (Today Klout tells me: “Congrats! Your Klout Score has increased by +6 in the past 30 days.”… Even though I’m taking a summer holiday from Twitter and haven’t posted a Tweet since May 27.)

Klout is trying to do something impossible: Squeeze meaningful data out Twitter, which itself provides almost none. Facebook does a better job with Insights tools, but Facebook has its own set of problems, such as the ever-changing distinctions between an individual user, a group, an app, and a page (and whether the page is a page for a website, or just a page). It’s complicated.

Basically, all of these tools suck. They’re broken, and the incentive to fix them is low. Why? Many marketing professionals find it advantageous to either rely on bad data, or ignore data entirely.

Just look around at social media blogs. This week I noticed a post on Social Media Today titled, Social Media Success: Quit Obsessing Over the Numbers.

The writer, a social medial consultant named Kevin Fawley, writes:

“Honestly, forget the numbers. At least for the first few months. Try focusing on a few of the following questions. How many times have you ‘@’ mentioned someone on Twitter? How many new, genuine friendships have you made? How many comments are you getting on your blog or when you share content on your Facebook page? Is the content you’re sharing relevant to your audience?”

He’s saying, trust your gut and draw rewards from individual conversations you have with people. This is something most marketers want to do. But we all report to someone, and we have to defend our very existence with some kind of ROI data.

He concludes his post by recommending a particular suite of social media software, Hootsuite—which advertises such features as the ability to track “brand sentiment” and “follower growth.” Meaningless noise.

Good luck figuring it out at your job. My only advice is to be skeptical of everything you hear about social media marketing. Trust no one.

— By Daryl Lang. Filed under Social Media

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