Think about your most important relationships. They might be
your spouse, your kids, your parents and your friends. Maybe it’s that teacher
from high school who inspired you, or the co-worker who took you under his or
Now try to put a numerical value on those relationships.
Seriously, see if you can. Then take that value and calculate the relationship
I know, it sounds ridiculous. Yet that’s exactly what
companies expect from their social media engagement efforts.
Social media needs to be quantified, so the argument goes,
or else it has little value. Everything needs a number.
This is, after all, how it was always done online. A company
built a web site, people went to the web site. A brand put up banner ads, and people
clicked on the banner ads. Action and reaction in near perfect symbiosis, with
results easily exported into an Excel spreadsheet. Moreover, each action began
with the company’s goal in mind, and with the expectation (even determination)
that the customer would change his or her behavior to fit the company’s needs.
Today, these same companies are trying to do the same thing
in a social web context – but an ROI rooted in conversations rather than clicks
does not export well into Excel. Actions and reactions are chaotic, not
symbiotic. And today, each action begins with the consumers’ goals, their
desires and behaviors. Companies need to change their behaviors to befit the modern
consumer or be damned.
Of course (contrary to popular belief) companies still have
a large amount of control – it’s just that their influence is tempered by the
rise of consumer involvement and greater share of voice. Marketing 2.0 is a
Overall, the web is a now a far more qualitative environment
– yes, there are still plenty of numbers to compile, from page views to time
spent interacting with content, widget downloads, video views and blog posts,
and on and on. But this is only a small part of the value equation. The real
value lies in the depth of these interactions and conversations, in the
connections that are made between customer and brand. A customer isn’t just
someone who clicks on a web site and orders a product, but someone who can tell
others about the product and start a fan page, or come to a brand’s defense.
Social media is only “social” if people participate –
otherwise it’s just technology with no soul. People are the real “killer app”
of Web 2.0, and people don’t have numbers, they have names and voices. And now
they can be heard.
So do yourself a favor – don’t measure social media, at
least in the traditional sense of measurement. Put away the spreadsheets, the
projections, the metrics and the cost-benefit analyses. Don’t count how many
friends you have, but rather take a hard look at the value and extent of those
Just listen. Just participate. And just for once, don’t
measure anything except how the experience makes you feel. That’s the first
step – and the most important metric of all.