The problem of measuring social media campaigns has been an ongoing concern for marketers. A recent article “Measuring social is harder than you think” in Research Live suggests that accurately measuring social media campaigns is much harder than one might think. That is because one can easily count things like clicks on links, plays of videos such as YouTube, views of websites and Facebook pages, and shares of the same are easy. However, measuring what all of that means is much harder.

Measuring Social Media Campaigns

With regards to research marketing, there are a wide range of causal indicators for why social media campaigns are hard to measure. They include the fact that when such campaigns are done in conjunction with other, more traditional advertising, such as television, the interaction between paid, owned, and word of mouth social media can cause difficulty. This difficulty of finding a control sample that has not been exposed to the social media campaign can in-turn cause the problem of selecting relevant data. Problems also exist when trying to establish cause and effect. For example, does a click on a particular advertisement cause one to purchase a product or does a product purchase cause one to click on the ad? How many of the product would be bought had there been no social media campaign is hard to measure as well.

To illustrate the difficulty, imagine a campaign based on TV advertising, social media, and point of sale, designed to encourage people to buy a specific coffee and to post a message to their friends about it, in order to encourage both purchase and copying behaviour. If somebody posts or reads a comment, does that make them a) more likely to buy a coffee, or b) does being more likely to buy a coffee make it more likely they post or read something? The answer, from a variety of studies, is sometimes a), sometimes, b) and usually both. One problem for social is that there is often a lack of the counterfactual – i.e. how many coffees would have been bought by these people if the campaign had not run?

While the article is very eloquent on describing the problem of effective social media marketing, it is somewhat vague on detail with regards to offering solutions to measuring social media campaigns and their effectiveness. There are companies who doing it successfully, but they do not seem to be following a consistent methodology. The article promises that a study of the specific techniques that are proven to work and what does not will be available in the fall. Entitled “Measuring Not Counting”, a PDF is now available in rough draft form.

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