FEATURE8 October 2009

Blog analysis – where’s the ROI?


Gartner’s Gareth Herschel says his clients are not seeing a return on their investments in blog and social media analysis. We spoke to Herschel about how companies can pin down that elusive ROI.

It’s now possible to trawl millions of blogs and other social media content to find out what’s being said about your company, product or brand. But just because you can doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Gartner research director Gareth Herschel told Robert Bain that if you want to extract real value from blog analysis, it’s not what you do, it’s the way that you do it.

Tell us a little about the reports you’re getting about ROI in blog analysis.

As I talk to organisations that have either done it or looked at it, we haven’t been able to find good examples of cases where an organisation has been able to say, yes, we did it and here’s a real, hard benefit we got from it. I’m not saying there isn’t theoretically some benefit, we just haven’t seen it yet.

Isn’t it just part of the nature of these techniques that it’s tough to measure ROI?

It is, especially with analytical investments, because in themselves they don’t give any ROI. The only time you get benefit is when you change something as a result of the analysis you did: this is the insight that was generated and this is the business benefit. The challenge is that organisations often don’t make the link between the analysis, the insight, and the change they’re looking to make.

A lot of times when organisations go back and look, they find the data [that they got through blog analysis] was already there, they just didn’t realise it. So management like to see it, product managers like to see it, but does it really drive a decision? That’s where the breakdown in the process is.

So what’s your advice to companies considering investing in social media analysis?

There are a few things to bear in mind. One is don’t do it because you think everyone else is doing it and getting really good things out of it. Go into it with a realistic understanding of what you’re going to get out of it.

The second thing is, it’s only going to benefit you if you can establish the scenarios or the processes by which what you learn from it will be acted upon. So if you’re going to do it, make sure it’s part of a process – don’t just put the research up there and hope somebody does something about it. Plan out whose responsibility is it to look at these results.

And the third thing would be, look at other investments you’re not going to make as a result of doing this. Most organisations resources are stretched, so if you’re going to spend the money on this, what is it you’re not going to do. Are you sure this is the way you want to be going? Are you best off looking at feedback from blogs, or are you better off looking at feedback from your call centres? Or what search terms people are putting into your website? There’s always a cost, so make sure you have made a comparison with other ways you could have spent the money. With those three caveats borne in mind, go ahead and make the investment.