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Do we fear measuring Social Media?

September 9, 2009 3 comments

FearI smell fear.  

In spite of overwhelming evidence of its impact on people’s perceptions and opinions, as well as numerous examples of its prowess as an effective marketing tool, it sure seems like there are still too many marketers with a real fear of measuring social media. 

OK, I’ll admit that fear is not the only reason.  Far from it, there are several other reasons that we don’t measure. 

Regardless, this lack of measurement is preventing us from demonstrating the real value social media brings, and it may ultimately slow its adoption rate in the corporate marketing world. 

Please understand that I’m not suggesting that we should apply the same method of social media measurement to every situation.  Since marketers bring anything but a “one size fits all” approach to social media use, it would be unwise to apply a single approach or finite set of metrics to its measurement. 

What I am suggesting is that as professional marketers, we carry a responsibility to demonstrate the value of any tools we use, including social media.  While we may need to look at each situation on a case-by-case basis to determine a specific method of measurement, it is critical for our clients to understand what goes into it, and what they can expect out of it, in order for them to buy in.  Our ability (and willingness) to measure tools like social media is also critical in getting clients to understand our value as marketers.   

Perhaps a different way of looking at things is to ask what we should fear if we don’t measure social media to demonstrate its value.  Some recent examples:

  • In “Social Media Denial”, a recent Web Business  blog post, author Ken Burbary points out that  “…there are many people who either don’t agree, don’t understand or haven’t yet taken the time to learn about social media”.  He also provides an example of a long-time communications professional that clearly doesn’t get it.   
  • In a post called “Have kool-aid drinkers totally screwed the social media space?” from The Viral Garden blog, author Mack Collier laments that we may be part of the problem in inadvertently creating an environment where clients often don’t understand the value that we provide via social media consulting and services.   
  • In his Social Media Explorer blog, author Jason Falls states in a post called “Social Media ROI? Traditional Is Still More Accepted” that we already face an uphill battle, as social media isn’t (yet) valued as highly as other more traditional, but even less measurable, marketing methods. 

Ultimately, my opinion is that when it comes to measuring social media, we still have a window of opportunity to demonstrate its value, with so many great minds, powerful tools, meaningful metrics, and vast resources at our disposal.  However, if we “pass” on this opportunity, whether due to fear or other reasons, that window will close on us quickly. 

So how about it – what do you think?  Do we fear measuring social media? How are you measuring it?  Or, if you aren’t, why not?  I’d love to hear, and would welcome your comments.

– Jim S.