Jim Sterne: social media KPIs are dependent on the individual organization and its goals

Jim Sterne Earlier this year I interviewed Jim Sterne, a few weeks before the SES conference in London, where Jim was a keynote speaker (you can read the interview here). The purpose was that I would attend the event, but unfortunately I couldn’t make it.

However, I closely followed the event online and saw an interview with Jim by Byron Gordon on YouTube (you can watch it below). In the interview Jim announced that he was writing a new book, on measuring the business value of social media marketing. Good news, for me anyway. So I thought it was time for a new interview and asked Jim to give a sneak preview of his book. 

He was kind enough to send me much more than a sneak preview. However, let me start with the answers Jim gave to the questions I asked him, before sharing some takeaways from Jim’s book that will be published by John Wiley & Sons.

Reach, influence, sentiment and business outcomes

First I asked Jim what metrics and KPIs marketers should take into account regarding social media marketing. But I also wanted to know what he thought about all these new metrics and KPIs “social media mavens” are introducing all the time. What can be measured and what can’t?

This is what Jim answered: “Social media KPIs are all dependent on the individual organization and its goals. But generally, we are looking at ‘impressions’ or reach. How many people had the opportunity to see the message? Next, we want to track influence to see whom we should be catering to and making sure we treat them well. Then, there’s the question of sentiment – something we may never be able to monitor technically – to help us get a handle on and track brand attitude. Finally, we need to measure business outcomes. Is our activity on social media driving visits, downloads, registrations and sales?”

Sentiment is indeed hard to measure. How do you feel today on a scale from 0 to 10? How do you feel when you read a blog post from a CEO? And what’s the impact when you see that one ad you so despise on your attitude and sentiment towards that brand?

However, remember what Jim answered; sentiment is something we may never be able to monitor TECHNICALLY (noticed the last word?).

You can’t measure the sales affected by a well known blogger saying nice things (and vice versa)

Next I asked Jim what he thinks about claims, coming again from some social media mavens, that you can’t measure the ROI of social media. I told him I always thought marketing ROI was about forecasting and measuring at both micro-levels and macro-levels to get the overall picture and that the best way to do it was to measure everything, starting from the tiniest metric and KPI to have a global view of the incremental revenue for every dollar spent.

This is what Jim replied: “Classic ROI is the number of dollars out for dollars put in. You cannot measure the exact number of dollars out on a branding campaign, unless you have some really good way to create a control group. In other words – you can’t.

Yes, @delloutlet can determine how many boxes shipped out the door based on a tweet like 15% off any Dell Outlet Inspiron Mini10v Nickelodeon Edition! Enter code at checkout: 1JM0JKHKHP?N4J at http://cot.ag/drTG70, but you can’t measure the sales affected by a well known blogger saying nice things or an unhappy customer being made happy again in the course of an online, open, visible problem-resolution conversation”.

So, what can you do then?

Jim: “You have to measure it the same way you measure all other brand investments. You ask (survey) people who have been exposed to the messages about a shift in their opinion or attitude about the company and/or the product”.

OK, now, what about that sneak preview of Jim’s upcoming book? Sorry, that will be for a next post. I still have to do some reading myself first but will try to come back to you, as soon as I can.

I can already tell you this though: read David Berkowitz’s “100 Ways to Measure Social Media” post here, it will come back in the next post about Jim’s view on social media marketing metrics and KPIs.

In  the meantime, watch the interview with Jim below and let me end this post with a quote from Fritz Henderson, CEO, General Motors in an interview with David Meerman Scott as it’s featured in Jim’s book: “Word of mouth is the number one influence on the decision to buy a car. . . Social media democratizes providing word of mouth to a much broader audience”.

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