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  • Can Social Media Engagement be meaningfully measured?

    Can Social Media Engagement be meaningfully measured?

    I had the most interesting and insightful two days at the first edition of ad:tech held in New Delhi last week. While most industry events and workshops manage to pull a variety of industry veterans and experts, what was refreshingly different was the quality of audience. Some very pertinent questions were asked, stimulating debates and discussions sparked and this post is to take forward thoughts around one such point of discussion.

    One of the sessions that became a source of an interesting debate was a Marketing Master session by Wasim Bashir, Director – Integrated Marketing Communication, Coca-Cola India on the theme – “Digital Should Be Used Strategically, And Be Measurable”.  Bashir asked the audience why strategists/agencies/experts have yet not managed a new world formula for measuring ‘engagement’. Why are the old metrics being used to measure the impact of engagement? Through his presentation, he showcased some examples of campaigns by Coke, but highlighted how he as a marketer felt constrained by the old world digital metrics of impressions/views etc.

    Many in the audience felt that there are relevant ways of measuring engagement, some one spoke about how time spent by the consumer is a fair indicator of his/her engagement level. I also believe there are ways of measuring engagement in a meaningful (but more about that a bit later).

    As Bashir spoke about lack of metrics, I wondered about the paradox behind the situation. Marketers are busy people and to capture their attention you have got to show ‘impact’. ‘Impact’ traditionally has been always understood ‘how many’ than ‘who’ or ‘what’. So a marketer would probably say, ‘Look this is not worth my time, if this medium/concept does not deliver on a certain scale. Show me some hard numbers. Particularly how this deliver value as against television?’ And this is the beginning of the problem. With scale being the basic premise, the deliverable or the measure moves to critical mass and the discussion shifts to how many fans or followers. For good or for worse, social media for business has been understood as ‘yet another channel’ or a ‘direct channel’ for engaging with customers than a ‘fundamentally different way of engaging with your customers’. As a ‘channel’, it will continue to be measured by the old world metrics of views/eyeballs/impressions.

    On the other hand, if social media was to be interpreted beyond just a media/channel, there will emerge some very interesting ways of measuring engagement. Measurement will always be a function of objectives identified, but roughly speaking here are ways how the quality of engagement can be measured in a meaningful way –

    Level of Involvement – KD Paine, leading  social media research and  measurement specialist talks about 5 levels of engagement basis the level of involvement (See image). Brands could look at this at a simple level by understanding – active versus passive fans

    Volume of user generated content – my colleague Rajesh had earlier done a post on how ‘Like’ or ‘Retweet’ buttons lead to dumbing down of engagement but enable social to gain scale. Having acknowledged that, it requires fair amount of ‘active’ participation by the community to generate original content. Hence the content generated by the community as against the content seeded by the brand can be a good measure of how closely engaged former are with the brand.

    Sentiment – positive tone of comments, feedbacks, links etc – according to the findings of the Blogworks India Social Media Report Edition 1, feedback received from the community was among the top 5 measures used by marketers in India to measure success of their social media programme

    Insights from the community – companies often use polls, surveys to generate insights from the community on topics/issues of interest (some of course also use to just show some ‘surface’ engagement on their page!). These can be very valuable in the co-creation process and is ofcourse a great indicator of how ‘engaged’ the community is with the brand.

    These are just some measures that I could think of intuitively. What are the engagement measures that you use in the programmes for your brands and companies? Please do share your insights.

    Finally, I want to reiterate that I am not contesting the importance of building a critical mass/certain scale. It in fact is a vital aspect of a social media programme. However, it needs to be understood as the starting point and not the final milestone in the journey of engagement.

    Even Sholay starts with ‘Kitne Aadmi the, but does not end with it (remains memorable for a long part for that, but that’s a separate debate :) )

    Disclaimer: Views of authors are personal and do not represent the views of Blogworks, or any of its clients.

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