OPINION23 February 2015

Seven rules of social media evaluation


Evaluating social media campaigns is moving from ‘likes’ to measuring ROI. It creates an opportunity for market researchers if they can grasp the chance to be the natural masters of this growth area says Ray Poynter.

The current best advice for measuring social media campaigns has been captured by the #IPASOCIALWORKS Guide to Measuring not Counting: How to evaluate social media for marketing communications.

The guide represents a two-edged sword for market researchers; it could be a blueprint for market researchers to carve out a key role in the expanding use of social, but only if the opportunities are seized, if not the gaps will be filled by others.

#1 Social is more than marcomms

In the past the use of most marketing channels TV, press, radio and OOH sat largely within marketing. There might have been skirmishes if PR was a separate function, or if distribution/sales were running POS campaigns, but the hegemony of marketing was clear. By contrast, social is used by many parts of the organisation and for many functions. This multiplicity of ownership raises new challenges for marketers and market researchers, in terms of methodology and the creation of a holistic view.

#2 Social is changing the way we measure

Social exemplifies two key trends in how organisations want to use market research, they want the information it provides to be an active part of how they manage things (for example changing a campaign while it is in the field, or tweaking social transactions and service delivery) and they want interpretation, not just data. Market researchers have to move from delivering numbers to delivering advice.

#3 Avoid a siloed approach

Silos tend to be bad news in many situations, but in the case of measuring social the message is even stronger. Market researchers need to adopt tools that work in the context of campaigns, service delivery, HR, PR and transactions. In some cases this means adapting tools, in others it will imply educating users and improving methods of communicating insight.

#4 Don’t overestimate earned media and influencers

The hype about social is grounded in two myths, the myth of ‘going viral’ and the myth of influencers being the key to social campaigns. The answer to these myths is evidence. Market researchers believe evidence matters, but we need to be more confident and more strident.

#5 Value in the richness of data

The measurability of social is an opportunity to create experiments, to test and learn, and to move evidence to the centre of the decision-making process. This means market researchers need to master the metrics that are available, the modelling techniques that best fit this data, and add interpretation to the data.

#6 Social can learn from traditional planning

Many of the people entering the measurement of social field have little or no grounding in how brands work or what brand equity is. Market researchers need to move the debate on from clicks and likes to the creation of engaged and loyal customers.

#7 Short-term results need long-term context

The attraction of social is its immediacy, but that immediacy can often be a trap. Just as running endless BOGOF campaigns can destroy a brand’s long-term sales and profitability, short-term gimmicks in social can erode values. Market research is the only discipline that is capable of measuring short-term and long-term effects, and we need to make that claim clear, and evidence it.

Market researchers are best placed to grasp the opportunities created by this revolution in the measurement of social because we are seen as the people most likely to be objective, rigorous and sufficiently focused on measurement. But, market researchers need to make sure their results are actionable, timely, and easy to understand and use.

Ray Poynter is managing director of The Future Place and lead author of IPASOCIALWORKS Measuring Not Counting. At the MRS Annual Conference he will be running a workshop, highlighting the key findings from the #IPASOCIALWORKS project and what market researchers need to do to ‘own’ this field.