Measuring the Marketing Benefit of Social Media

In the July 2013 edition of Marketing Richard Medley of Nexus Communications highlighted the fact that Facebook ‘Likes’ were a debased currency. Marketers employing social media tactics just to maximise their number of ‘Likes’ were deluding themselves and the only value in the data generated was in proving that the campaign had happened, not that it had been successful or effective.

In fact, so much in a similar vein has been written on this topic it has become amusing. It was recently described as being as popular a topic as teenage sex. Everyone says they are doing it but how often and how well no one knows. So as practitioners in the field (of Measuring Marketing Effectiveness – not teenage sex) we thought we would inject some realism.

The problem of measuring the effectiveness of social media is like that of experiential marketing – it is easier to measure that it has happened than to measure what effect it has had. Sure there are some immediately measurable impacts, especially if there are sales links or incentives to participate, but that is not quite the same thing as measuring what impact it has had on underlying long term brand preference. Worse still, unlike advertising where bad ads are usually either ignored or just do not get noticed in the first place, bad social media and/or bad experiential can actually damage a brand’s reputation.

So we need a way to judge how comments are influencing underlying brand preference – and a way of doing it directly from the data so that we can do it in real time. The answer is to combine skills and expertise from traditional market research with knowledge of how to measure effective brand preference and data that shows how underlying brand preference affects sales. How can this be done?

At RedRoute we know that our Effective Net Preference (ENP) Score, based on brand perceptions across the five key dimensions that most influence likelihood to purchase, explains underlying sales trends more accurately than other metrics such as Net Promoter Score, Brand Equity measures and so on. This is because it includes perceptions not just about brand image and whether the product “does the job” but a holistic set of five key factors that influence actual ‘preferred choice’ behaviour. These factors are: Relevancy; Identification; Accessibility; Value; Confidence. For more information about these please visit our web site.

How do we know these work? Because we have predicted individual choice behaviour as tracked by loyalty cards and through customer sales programmes for 12 months ahead with very high degrees of accuracy, and not just for one or two people but for millions. In other words, “been there, done it, got the t-shirt”.

Into this framework has stepped social media data – and when you look you find you can classify social media comments using the same types of code frames as we use for verbatim comments collected via traditional market research. We have the same positive, negative and neutral spectrum. And we have the same five dimensions as mentioned above. And they give the same read on what is happening to underlying consumer preference. The only difference – it is more immediate and because of that, more valuable and more actionable.

Tracking social media comments enable you to see over time whether a particular social media campaign has moved the needle on any of the five key metrics – and whether positively or negatively. Amplification measures enable you to scale the likely impact onto overall effective brand preference. The only remaining step is to prove the relationship between Effective Preference and sales. That can be achieved via both market research surveys (which directly show the links between, for example, a brand’s ENP score and that brand’s share of wallet) or by modelling actual sales data using ENP as one of the explanatory drivers.

So this is the real way to measure the value of social media to long term brand building. And as our clients know, it works.

ENP is probably the most important brand metric that you have never heard of.

But master it and you will master the fortunes of your brand.

So you may well hear more about it in the future.