We’ve been looking at a series of three white papers on social media marketing and measurement produced by Avectra, a software vendor based in the United States. The papers point to measurement as one of the biggest challenges in the social media programs that are becoming more and more prevalent across the association community.
“Associations have generally struggled to measure the bottom-line results of social media marketing efforts across the immense social universe their members now participate in,” Avectra noted in the second white paper in the series, Beyond ROI: The True Value of Return on Engagement.
That’s partly because “the very nature of social media calls for different measurement methods than, say, a direct-mail campaign.” By measuring “return on engagement,” as well as conventional ROI, organizations can get at “the qualitative connections and relationships that result from social outreach,” which “can lead to quantitative results that connect directly to the association’s objectives and bottom line.”
Asking the Right Questions
With social platforms generating an ocean of data, it’s important for associations to measure the online activities that give them the best indication of members’ engagement, interests, and concerns. The Avectra paper points to some strategies that involve aggregating individual responses on social media and tracking them over the time.
- By monitoring (and responding to) online conversations and interactions, you get a sense of your profile and credibility with members and identify any gaps between what you thought you were saying or doing and what they heard.
- By mapping members’ profiles across multiple social platforms, you understand how they connect online—with you, and with each other—and get a clearer picture of the services, products, and issues that will interest them most.
- By taking a consistent, active role in members’ online discussions, you position your organization as a helpful, deeply committed resource and gain the credibility to issue calls to action when you need to mobilize the community.
- By evaluating your social media campaigns, you produce a steady stream of data that will help you sharpen your message and extend its reach.
The Resources to Do the Job
That’s the theory—and for more and more organizations, a strong social media presence will be the key to long-term survival. But for many of the Canadian associations that responded to Greenfield Services’ 2012 Pulse Report, the challenge is more basic: As we noted in an earlier blog in this series:
- Three-quarters of the organizations were treating social media management as a part-time task, assigned to a staff member with other responsibilities.
- Only 4.6% of survey respondents came from offices with full-time social media managers.
And it isn’t easy, or realistic, to try to manage and measure a full-scale social media campaign off the side of your desk.
That means the first step to social media success is for association executives to recognize the opportunity that is just beyond their reach, the allocate resources accordingly. Communication and member engagement models are changing fast, freeing up budgets that can be reassigned as established approaches lose their impact. The future belongs to the associations that can make the transition, and it’s never too soon to begin searching for the social platforms, outreach strategies, and measurement tools that best suit your needs.