TweetReach: Welcome, John! Thank you for taking the time to talk with us. Let’s start with how you got started with social analytics. What got you interested in measuring social media?
John Lovett: I’ve spent the past 5 years immersed in the web analytics industry and when social media came along, it was a natural extension. A few years ago and still today, there are many unknowns in social media, especially in social analytics. That keeps it fresh and exciting, which also brings a bevy of new challenges and opportunities. Additionally, my clients kept asking me how they should be measuring social media, so I took what I learned from working with websites and other digital marketing medium and applied that to social media.
TweetReach: Last month, you wrote in ClickZ that most people are using the wrong metrics in social media. You specifically identified “counting metrics” as a problem. Can you tell us what you mean by that? Are there any cases where counting metrics can be useful? And what else should we be measuring?
John Lovett: Counting metrics is a term that I use to describe fans, followers, views and likes and similar metrics, that are typically offered by social networks that “count” up activities. These metrics do have value in helping businesses to size up opportunities and quantify just how many people are interacting with their social initiatives, but they rarely offer insights into social media business performance. To get at real insights or understand how well your social media channels are performing, you need to dig deeper into social analytics by matching an audience with your desired outcomes. Examples of metrics that do this are specific to an objective like gaining exposure, which can be measured using metrics like Reach, Velocity, and Share of Voice.
TweetReach: What are your recommendations for someone just getting started with social analytics? What should they do first? What are some important considerations?
John Lovett: For individuals and businesses just starting out with social media, my number one piece of advice is to ask yourself why you’re there. I encourage people to really define what you’re trying to accomplish with social media because that’s how you will be able to identify success. For example, are you engaging in social media to promote a new product or service? To build a community of loyal fans? Sell more goods? Decrease operational costs? Asking the tough questions about why you want to participate in social media is the foundation for building a solid program of measurement. If you cannot explain to yourself or your boss how your organization will benefit from social media, then go back to the drawing board. It will save you lots of headaches and frustration.
TweetReach: We’re hearing a lot about influence right now; everyone wants to measure influence and target influencers. What are your thoughts on measuring influence in social media? What’s the best way to determine who is influential for a particular campaign or initiative?
John Lovett: Measuring influence is tricky business. It’s tricky because a real influencer is not somebody with tons of followers, but someone who motivates others to take action. Often times, these actions don’t occur on social media channels or even on digital channels, but rather they occur offline. Thus, you have to stitch together multiple behaviors across channels to find out if your influencers are really having an impact on your business.
I like to think of influencers as people who have “potential” to move markets. It’s worth identifying these individuals by mining social data to see what topics they talk about and how large their potential audiences are. But, the real secret is converting influencers into brand advocates. Then you can begin to track their impact using unique campaign IDs or referral source data to determine their contributions to your social media goals.
TweetReach: What do you see for the future of social media metrics? How will the discipline evolve in the coming years?
John Lovett: I strongly believe that it’s still early days for social media measurement. As organizations get more advanced with their digital efforts and more sophisticated with technologies for social networking, we will see data utilized in revolutionary ways. One trend that’s brewing includes the convergence of metrics, Location Based Services and data mash-ups. Of course mobile devices are critical to this revolution, but organizations that use customer preference data to offer real-time access to information, ideas, products, or services that connect networks of individuals to any location in the world will fundamentally change the way we co-exist.
While this change will also force businesses to work harder because marketing hype will be replaced with customer experiences; businesses that truly listen to their customers and learn from social media will benefit tremendously. However, these services and the underlying metrics that inform the business need to evolve to real-time speeds so that we’re not continuously reacting to social activities, but that we employ data-smart technologies to proactively utilize social media metrics to deliver tangible consumer value.
TweetReach: Thank you so much for your time and your thoughts, John!
John Lovett is a consultant, author and measurer of all things digital who helps businesses use analytics to deliver effective marketing. Since 1993, Lovett has been exploring opportunities in digital marketing and deconstructing web sites to see just how well they work. He’s a Senior Partner at Web Analytics Demystified and currently promoting his new book, Social Media Metrics Secrets (Wiley 2011).
A frequent speaker at industry events, Lovett is often called upon to pontificate about big data, building a culture of measurement, social media metrics, and matters of consumer privacy. Lovett is currently the Vice President on the Board of Directors for the Web Analytics Association (WAA) and is a Certified Web Analyst. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife, yellow lab, and three boys. Follow John on Twitter @johnlovett and check out his Web Analytics Demystified blog.