WebGuild: Web Analytics – Measuring Engagement In The Social Media Revolution

The WebGuiild is a Bay Area-based organization that is a melting pot of web professionals. They regularly run a series of events – the latest covering the prickly topic of Measuring Engagement in the Social Media Revolution.

For me, these were the main take-aways from this afternoon session:

* There is no real consensus on how we should measure engagement in social media
* You need to really listen to the conversation and pay particular attention to tone
* Everyone is a potential communicator: make it easy for them to talk about you

Panelists:

Andreas Weigend (moderator): former chief scientist at Amazon.com, now lecturer at Stanford with a particular interest in people and the data they create.
Carla Bourque: VP Media & Entertainment, Nielsen Online responsible for sales and client services for Buzzmetrics.
Rajiv Parikh: CEO, Position2, SEO expert.
Eddie Smith: VP Marketing and Business Development at Socialmedia.com, the social network advertising specialists.
Giovanni Rodriguez: Co-founder and managing partner at The Conversation Group.

Main points:

Andreas:
First data revolution: we start to see behavioural patterns on the web. Businesses have access to implicit data from the trail we leave behind when we browse pages on the web.
Second data revolution: people start explicitly sharing information about themselves, eg. activity feed in Facebook. This can be called ‘digital exhibitionism’.
Third data revolution: The value in this explicit sharing of data becomes apparent. Participants ask ‘if I engage, where is the value for me?’ Companies figure out how to deal with the economics of the data.

I’d suggest most of us are still somewhere between the first and second data revolution. We don’t see too many models that really give back the value to active participants in social media networks. For instance, how about micro-payments for my contributions to a technical forum?

In terms of what this means for metrics, Andreas has this to say:

Looking at unique visitors is poor a estimate – you have no indication as to how engaged the audience is. Looking at page views is slightly better, although this is passive.
Nowadays we have attention gestures which work as a good sign – tagging, rating, commenting, etc.
There is a further step which is putting the user at the center of the experience. Give people feedback about themselves. Yelp.com is offered as a good example of this.

Definition of social media:

Gio:

* DIY content: user-generated content, peer networks
* Public communication: eg. Twitter vs email
* Social component: viral, peer driven

Eddie:
Interaction around fun/entertaining things

Carla:

* Connections
* Tools that help us deal with the lack of time we now have

Rajiv:
The core elements are identity and distribution.

Conversational marketing:

Andreas:
In the old days companies broadcasted, which you could also call downcasting (ie. talking down to the audience). But now we have 2-way communications. In order for this to work, we must listen and respond to the feedback we get from the audience.

Eddie:
Initiating trust is important. This is where the concept of friendship becomes important. Marketers can initiate the conversation. A good example would be posting a video and inviting comments.

Carla:
You must be credible as well as relevant.

Gio:
Measuring the content of the conversation is important. In-depth sentiment analysis is one approach.
It is important to realise that collective conversation can lead to collective action.

Eddie:
A way to look at this on networks like Facebook is to count pokes and throws – whether your content is passed around.
What this means in terms of business models is a move away from transactional economics to relationship economics. Business is as much about forging these relationships, which can strongly affect the bottom line. Social media has a strong role to play in this.

Measuring relationships:

Andreas:
Measurement of the social graph becomes increasingly important. You must look at both the quantity and quality of interactions. Some members of a group are more influential than others. How do we measure this? How can we pinpoint our marketing to target ths group?

Gio:
Companies must realise that anyone in the organization is now potentially a communicator. So, we must train the workforce and help them apply social media to their jobs.
There is another fundamental switch in PR from relating to the media to relating to the public.

Andreas:
Companies like Yelp (restaurant review site) do a great job of turning the analytics inside out: tools like voting allow content to be displayed according to popularity.

One key point to end:

Rajiv:
Success can take time to achieve. Set a long timeframe for a social media campaign and make sure you test and iterate.

Eddie:
Don’t assume what works outside a social network will work within a social network. Eg. an online banner campaign may not translate well to Facebook.

Gio:
The most disruptive thing about this paradigm is that everyone is potentially a communicator. You need to bear this in mind when you interact with your audience.

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