So much has happened since August, when I published my research report, A Framework for Social Analytics. I collected some of that progress in my 2011 wrap-up, in which I concluded that the social media honeymoon is, at last, truly over.
Why do I believe we’re in a new phase? Because, even with the frothiness of this past year, I am starting to see more and more heat around measurement, and more companies coming to us with measurement, analytics and ROI at the top of their lists. They’ve invested, and now it’s time to look at the returns. Here, as they say on the BBC, are the main points:
- Enterprise integration will become a priority for social media measurement: SMMS, web analytics, CRM, BI, ERP, CMS; social data is coming from all sides now.
- There is already increasing demand for/progress toward more actionable, and ultimately predictive, analytics to improve decision making and reduce the resource pressure on individuals and teams. That means real-time alerting, benchmarking and beginning to deeply understand the digital “new normal.”
- Expect more differentiation, especially between “social natives,” “enterprise natives” and “data natives,” as companies begin to clarify exactly how they intend to use social media analytics tools.
- Analytical expertise will become (is becoming) a highly sought-after skill. There’s no lack of data; integration and interpretation is the biggest bottleneck.
- Social media measurement will place an increasingly significant strain on people, resources and organizations.
- Social analytics will force the issue of what organizations value, which social strategies and initiatives are performing, and which are not.
What I’m seeing–even in the past few months since the report was published–is that while the technology continues to evolve, the human impact is actually shaping up to be the biggest disruption–and opportunity–for the measurement of social media.
Why is this? No matter how much data, resource or expertise you have, social media measurement is hard. And when you do it effectively, it shines an equally bright spotlight on successes and on failures.
- For enterprise users accustomed to more mature insight tools like web analytics and market research, social measurement tools are still a work in progress
- For analysts, marketers and social media strategists, sentiment analysis is (and will always remain) flawed, and samples are (and will remain) a moving target.
- For management, there is a steep learning curve as they strive to undertand how to think about the data in the context of other enterprise data–and make decisions based upon it.
- For employees, social data analysis requires education, time, resources, trial and error and deep immersion to be truly useful.
- For everyone, the data required to tell a cohesive story is scattered and requires tremendous resource and silo-bashing to view in context.
Finally, social media measurement requires a certain suspension of disbelief and a willingness to embrace a discipline that, today, is anything but disciplined. That means challenging comfort levels, resources, fear of the unknown, and voting with your feet on what is important to your organization.
2012: The Year of Digging Deep
It’s a thousand times easier to take tried-and true metrics such as impressions, for example, and mutate them to serve social media goals. But that strategy ignores the fact that social media is fundamentally different from traditional media: it needs its own measurement playbook.
In 2012, the companies who succeed in deriving value from social media and, more importantly, from their relationships with their communities will have these characteristics in common:
- They will understand that social media–and measurement–is fundamentally a change management issue.
- They’ll need to approach social media and measurement with an open mind, even as they insist on accountability.
- They’ll take the time to understand the data and begin to establish benchmarks.
- They’ll be willing to dig deep, be realistic about and plan for the organizational impact.
- They’ll draw boundaries around, but learn to accept, the pitfalls and imperfections of social data and incorporate these learnings into their strategies.
- They’ll need to be willing to face–and stand up for–the hard truths about what is and isn’t successful for their business.
As I said in my last post, the social media honeymoon is over. In 2012, we’ll face the challenge–at a corporate level–of making these new two-way relationships work.