Using Social Media Metrics to Power Positive Change

jvaishnav    November 4, 2015

Organization name: GE Capital (Australia)

Industry: Financial Services

Name of contact: Leigh Price, Social Media Lead Analyst

Web references:

SlideShare: Measuring Social Media. Four Metrics that Matter Interview: Jon Brancheau, VP of Marketing, Nissan

Article: The Hidden Cost of Ignoring Social Media

#SimplySocial podcast Measuring Social Networking Success: More Than Just Likes

SocialMediaExaminer: Research Shows Metrics Marketers Think Matter Most 4 ways GE Capital uses social insights to power digital marketing

Measuring the effectiveness of social media

Since social media first started to infiltrate the business world, people have questioned its value.  To measure social media’s effectiveness, businesses have traditionally relied on metrics that relate to the top two measures of value for most organizations – ROI and cost-savings.  But does this make sense for social media or does its value need to be measured differently?

There are varied thoughts on this.  Some organizations consider social media participation to be only a marketing activity, and believe that if you can’t track such activity to sales, it should not stay in the mix – or at most, it should exist without any significant amount of investment.

In this SimplySocial podcast, Jordan Greene explains that we’re right to ask – “how do we demonstrate that the investment we’re making in this area is really impacting the business?”  However, depending on your vertical and business goals, “dollar signs may or may not make sense”.

Many executives are suggesting that instead of looking at ROI, we should be looking at COI – the cost of ignoring.  This means – what is the cost to your business of not being on social media and ignoring the millions of people in your target audience that are having conversations there, that you’re not in?

… “What’s the ROI of social media?” Our response to this question is always, when it comes to social, don’t focus too much on ROI. Instead, ask, “What’s the COI–the cost of ignoring–this fast-moving channel?” The fact is, it’s not going away. Over a billion people engage in the social space regularly. And it’s only going to grow. This is how people, especially Millennials, want to interact and connect with brands. It’s where they increasingly expect to have questions answered and issues resolved. It’s where they search for solutions, seek advice, and find like-minded communities. To dismiss social because a sales-driven ROI isn’t 100 percent clearly defined at this time is short-sighted and a poor strategy going forward. – Jon Brancheau, VP of Marketing, Nissan via

The argument against ROI is further supported from an academic perspective by David Dubois, INSEAD Assistant Professor of Marketing and Marcus Ho, Co-Founder of Social Metric, in this Forbes article:

“It would be a gross mistake to think that social media ROI can be measured as any other communication channel, precisely because its nature is fundamentally different from that of other media channels…Rather than being a ‘stock media’, where the number of impressions represents the main outcome, social media is a “flow media”, defined by the depth and breadth of relationships between brands and various stakeholders.”

Types of social media metrics

In the marketing discipline, we frequently hear about reach and engagement as key social media metrics. Sharif Khalladi, author of “The Social Executive”, gives recommendations for measuring engagement, and offers another type of metric – economic, in his presentation “Measuring Social Media. Four Metrics that Matter”.

For engagement, he encourages marketers to focus on higher conversion rates and amplification.

“Aiming for a higher conversation rate forces you to rethink your approach, reconsider the types of content you post and produce, and put the customer first. You go from being ‘marketer centric’ to being ‘customer centric’ and start focusing more on your customer needs and adding value.”

Measuring the Conversation Rate


Khalladi says that “An increased amplification rate results in audience growth as the overlap between your audience and the audience of your ‘amplifiers’ becomes greater.”

His formula for measuring amplification is the number of shares and retweets across your social platforms.

With regards to economic metrics, Khalladi suggests measuring applause and economic value. Applause is the number of favorites/likes/+1s divided by your posts across social networks. He claims this is a more direct measure of what an audience finds valuable.

“Understanding and trying to improve your applause rate across the different social channels helps you develop better content and indirectly increases your search engine rankings. As search engines are placing more value in social signals, this is an important metric to monitor.”

Economic value refers to the “monetary value of the completion of certain goals, for example watching a video or downloading a white paper, that do not always directly relate to immediate monetary transaction.”  To really track economic value, you should be tracking clicks as well as web form conversions, wherever forms are being used.

Other social experts take a broader perspective to metrics and suggest that each organization needs to find the metrics that best align with their goals. According to Courtney Seiter, there are 61 key social media metrics, and they can be categorized as one of these six types:

For the full list of metrics and their definitions, see the blog article, “61 Key Social Media Metrics Defined”.

So what metrics really matter?

In August 2014, the American Marketing Association, in collaboration with Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, surveyed over 400 CMOs and 4500+ marketers to understand how metric choices and priorities have shifted in recent years.  One of the most significant findings was that in 2010, nearly 18% of marketers used sales as a metric for success, but by 2014 this had dropped to 1%.  In her article, “Research Shows Metrics Marketers Think Matter Most”, Suzanne Delzig notes:

During the same period, brand awareness–type metrics rose significantly. Tracking numbers of followers/friends, for instance, nearly doubled from 24% to 45% in the same four years ending 2014. “Buzz indicators” enjoyed nearly a 50% increase, also indicating prioritization of brand awareness over sales and profits.

Interestingly, the top metric, “hits/visits/page views,” remains the most-used, with an additional 30% of marketers relying on it in 2014 than in 2010. This metric, too, can fall into the brand awareness category, as it brings visitors back to websites where brand identity, offers and conversion opportunities live.

Social media metrics that organizations are using

These findings further support the belief that ROI is not the right metric for organizations to measure the value of social media, and engagement metrics have become a standard.

Driving change through metrics and analysis

When conducting research for this article, my greatest interest was in understanding how organizations are taking action based on their social media metrics. How are organizations analyzing the data and using it to implement positive change?

Carnival Cruise Lines is an example of a large organization that leveraged their metrics right from day one.  It was the cruise line’s early analysis of member registration numbers, blog page views and comments that solidified its decision for further investment in social media.  According to Eric Schechter, Carnival’s social media manager, the company is using a combination of web traffic patterns and click-throughs on social media properties to better understand customer behavior.  In the article, “The Most Actionable Social Media Metrics“ we learn that Carnival has used social media metrics to determine where to increase or reduce investments, whether to start using Google+, and what content to eliminate from its marketing mix.

Other organizations referenced in the article include American Airlines and Cirque du Soleil.  American Airlines reportedly analyzed the type of questions that customers were asking and found that the most frequent inquiries were around weather-related delays and lost luggage. This measurement led to the company’s decision to create a behind-the-scenes video series on YouTube.

Cirque du Soleil, with over 2.8 million Facebook fans, uses its social metrics to understand what content resonates best with its audience. This has led to the realization that video is a huge driver for customer engagement and is their best marketing asset. Based on this, the company is now investing more in YouTube videos.

At Christie, Marketing Segment Manager Martina MacKenzie, is using social media metrics to help shape her future paid campaigns on LinkedIn. In my interview with Martina, I asked her to elaborate on a recent paid program – the first of its kind for Christie – and how she’s taking action based on the results:

A common thread amongst all the companies referenced, is that they are all using social tools, including social media intelligence platforms.

Social media intelligence

Global b-to-b research and advisory firm SiriusDecisions defines social media intelligence as follows:

“SMI solutions automate the monitoring and analysis of social media data and provide workflow and response management capabilities.”

In its SiriusView Social Media Intelligence 2015 report, the firm explains that SMI platforms must include monitoring, response management and analytics.  The report reviews and scores 6 SMI platforms. Vendors are evaluated based on platform functionality, essential elements, and their primary customer base.  The greatest score in the report was achieved by Oracle for its Social Engagement and Monitoring Cloud.

View the full report

SMI at GE Capital

Leigh Price, Social Media Lead Analyst at GE Capital Australia, is part of a team that has created a dedicated digital centre of excellence and built an analytics and insights capability framework. At the heart of this framework is a social media intelligence platform that helps the team listen, analyze and respond to social media activity.

Leigh Price, GE Capital. Photo credit:

Leigh Price, GE Captial.  Photo credit:

A recent CMO article examined four ways that GE Capital uses social insights to power digital marketing.

The digital team ties data from listening activities to lead metrics, “including qualitative indicators such as customer conversation, category conversation, brand conversation, competitor, as well as quantitative metrics, such as volumes, trends, channel split, share of voice, sentiment, influencers, and our own channel performance.”

Reviewing volume metrics, GE Capital found that more of its credit card users were talking about online shopping (than travel and other topics) and used that data as the basis for launching email campaigns with messages about online shopping. They also changed their messaging on social channels from posts about travelling to posts about online shopping.

According to Price,

“We also used social analytics to identify the most influential sources where people were talking about the card for shopping, and we targeted those sites with tactical ad campaigns.”

Price indicated that there was a big (positive) impact when the messaging was changed.

GE has also used social insights to respond to competitive trends and to visualize swings in conversation. Price gives the following example:

“Analytics of the word clouds revealed the launch of new smartphone models was driving peaks in conversation around price protection insurance. What the tech savvy audience had realised was the price of these phones drops after a few months and their thinking was you could buy today’s smartphone at tomorrow’s prices with our feature. We began using that insight as a tactic within our marketing campaign. So if a customer is digitally savvy and has contacted us through digital channels, we’ll use that smartphone example for that segment to market this offering.”

GE Capital ties its social media analytics with its web analytics for even more powerful insights. They are also sharing their insights and successes with other departments through regular monthly and quarterly reports. The result of this is that offices in other regions are now asking the Australia team to help them with setting up similar programs.

Lessons for others

As a digital marketer who manages the social media efforts of a large organization, I understand the value of social media metrics and I strive to convert the analysis from those metrics into positive actions. From my research into this topic, the key takeaways for me and for others are:

  • Don’t get hung up on trying to prove ROI. Instead, establish metrics that align to your business goals and track your results. Your business goals may include increasing brand awareness, improving customer satisfaction and increasing customer loyalty, all of which can be supported well with social media activity.
  • Implement a social media intelligence platform. When choosing a platform, consider the metrics that are most important to you and ensure the platform supports these well. For example, if volume metrics related to keywords/content are going to be a priority, choose a platform with exceptional listening capabilities such as Oracle SRM.  You should also look outside your functional area at what other teams may be using to see if there are synergies – for example, if your PR department uses Meltwater to track media hits, it may be advantageous (and cost-effective) for you to implement the company’s SMI platform – Sysomos.  Also, consider what future integrations will be required. If much of your social media activity is based on answering questions and complaints from customers, then you may need a platform that supports workflows for routing these inquiries to different departments, and this may warrant integration with your CRM or incident management system. Some SMI platforms offer standard response management integrations with leading CRM systems.
  • Share the good news. As you have success on social media, be sure to spread the word. Let other departments know about the level of engagement customers are having with your company online to grow internal support for your social efforts. In many organizations, marketing still needs to sell the value of social media.
  • Share social insights that can lead to positive changes. GE Capital leveraged its social listening capabilities and reported on metrics around customer interest in online shopping. The metrics became valuable once they were shared with the teams responsible for email marketing and social media publishing. As these teams became aware, they were able to use the information to implement changes to their communications strategy that had a positive impact on results.
  • Look at cross-channel metrics for greater insight and success. This idea was raised by Sharif Khalladi and echoed in the case study on GE Capital. Both Khalladi and Price speak to the real value in being able to look at metrics across channels – paid, owned and earned media.  To start, begin looking at your social media metrics alongside your web analytics and see what new insights you can glean.

Submitted by: Julie Vaishnav

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