NEWS19 March 2014

Why counting fans is not enough

The explosion of social media has taken us all by surprise, says Stephen Maher, MBA chief executive – but approaches to measurement are ‘not as refined and rigorous’ as one would hope.

Rob Ellison, media manager at Mondelez

Rob Ellison, media manager at Mondelez

Speaking at MRS Annual Conference yesterday afternoon, he said: “Likes, retweets, followers are not necessarily effective metrics” – and this presents the research community with an opportunity to step in.

The watchword for the ‘Counting fans is not enough’ session was ‘collaboration’ – across teams, departments, and industries. The session appeared under the banner of the #ipasocialworks – a multi-industry group which aims to provide guidance on the theme of ‘measuring not counting’; on how to measure the commercial value of social media – campaigns, advertising or customer satisfaction.
There is no shortage of measurement approaches and techniques, but what is missing is “a direct causal link between spend on social, and ROI”. Maher cited three key findings from the #ipasocialworks so far: “Exploit the richness of data available to you, unpick causation from correlation, and apply the rigor from traditional advertising measurement.”

Twitter’s Matt Taylor described “a new world of evaluation” and came back several times to the observation that “researchers are facing new questions from and stakeholders around the direct commercial impact of the work they are doing.”
Clients and stakeholders need someone to unpick the complexity of social media measurement, and Taylor wanted his message to be “a rallying cry” to the research industry: “We find ourselves in teams with different types of people – analysts, marketers – and this can be confusing for stakeholders. They are only interested in the bit in the middle – the insight.”
“Research is in the strongest position to wrest control of this from other parts of the business because we have a unique weapon – storytelling. We can provide the narrative – the how and why.”
Rob Ellison, media manager at Mondelez, talked through their Cadbury’s Crème Egg campaign. By exposing their 2.5 million Facebook fans to a wide range of ads and images, Mondelez was able to identify what worked and what didn’t, and choose the right creative on which to spend their media budget.
“We didn’t use fans as a metric – we used them as assesors of creative to see if it was effective.”

The conclusion? Use social media to “put your money behind content that works” and think about measurement at the start of the campaign – “it’s never too early” says Ellison.

Mark Earls neatly summed up: “We haven’t yet been collaborating as well as we need to. One of the reasons we fell in love with social media is it looked like it was free and measurable – it’s clearly not like that.”