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Measure What Matters

By Eric Fletcher
Chief Marketing Officer at McGlinchey Stafford

More than once in recent weeks, I've participated in or overheard discussions on how time consuming social media has become, what the payoff might be, and when it might be realized. This question is real and legitimate. It isn't as though any of us has a shortage of work or too much free time on our hands.

So why are we here? What keeps pulling us back? When will the investment pay off? Will we recognize the payoff when it occurs?

If the numbers game (the accumulation of followers, friends, and fans) doesn't meet your needs, then the issue becomes pointed. Get beyond the surface numbers, and what is the measure for success? And even when it comes to the numbers aspect of direct marketing, there are professionals who are weighing the cost to simply buy connections.

Is all the time a comprehensive social media strategy requires worth it?

Much has been written about the ROI of social media (including a pass I took at the topic in issue #2). Virtually all discuss the idea that social media is an investment in relationships, which are tough to measure. They are dynamic, and on some days, they are stronger than others. And client loyalty initiatives notwithstanding, relationships are an intangible asset.

To apply a standard designed to quantify tangibles when attempting to measure intangibles is to ignore the fact that the two live and operate in opposite sides of the brain. (Check Chip Conley's thoughts on measuring what matters.)

To accurately measure the value of social media, we must rethink the measurement process. It is about aligning perspective.

In a presentation entitled "The Power of Vulnerability," social researcher and storyteller Brene Brown begins with the premise that in the social arena, connection is what matters most. For everyone wondering about the social media explosion, or what the return on the time invested might be, the answer lies in the way we think about connecting. As Brown suggests, human beings are prewired to connect, to belong, and to share. Social media is simply an extremely efficient way to make connection possible.

With this in mind, here are four cornerstones of a productive way to connect:

  • Be about building. There are plenty for whom social media is just another numbers game: gather and solicit enough names, create a pitch, and sell widgets. But if you're here to connect, be about building something to which others are drawn, such as a discussion, a group, or a community.
  • Give unconditionally. Agendas and expectations kill relationships. If you want folks to connect with what you're building, figure out how to give something of value. This is not to suggest that you shouldn't ever ask for something or make a pitch; it is to say that if the first thing you do with every connection is fire off a Twitter DM selling your software, you may not be building lasting relationships.
  • Be personal, real, and appropriately transparent. Brene Brown talks about the critical nature of vulnerability. I won't presume that social media marketing is the venue for total transparency, but if you hope to build strong, enduring relationships, social media calls for language, tone, and thesis that resonate. Absent a quality that is unmistakably real, your connections will be nominal and of little long-term value.
  • Target smart. One of the greatest challenges associated with establishing rewarding connections in social media is defining with whom you wish to connect. There is, unfortunately, no single easy answer for this. However, begin by being selective around subject matter, individuals/groups you admire, and issues around which you have affinity. Be focused, and you'll realize valuable connections sooner rather than later.

Value ultimately must be reflected on the bottom line. But if connections and relationships are valued assets, short-term numbers rarely tell the story. Best practice: measure what matters.

Eric Fletcher

Eric Fletcher is the CMO at McGlinchey Stafford, a national business law firm. With 200 attorneys operating from eight offices across the U.S., he is responsible for all aspects of marketing communications and business development for the firm nationwide. With more than 30 years in marketing and communications, Eric has produced successful radio and television programming; served as a partner and creative director with an award-winning advertising, marketing, and public relations firm; and counseled a number of the leading professional service organizations in America. Eric is a member of The Social CMO, an informal consortium of several individuals who have embraced social media and the opportunity it represents for advertising, PR, sales, and marketing.