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How to calculate the value of social advocacy

How to calculate the value of social advocacy

By Steve Richards, MD, Yomego 

Social media has long been dogged by one simple question: how can you measure it?

There are of course elements that can be measured – reach, retweets, fan numbers. But all of these overlook the bigger question of what it means to have people advocating (or otherwise) your brand in a social space.

Why “advocacy”? Well, it quickly and easily describes the activity that brands hope to generate when they invest in social media. The creation of advocates via social interactions can generate returns for a brand that range from a ‘like’ or follow to a blog post – but it’s the sum of all this and more that matters when working out social media’s value to a business.

We developed a model composed of modular elements that cover everything from motivation to unprompted sharing and more in between. Taken as a whole, the system provides a comprehensive view of a brand’s levels of customer engagement via social media channels, but can also be looked at more granularly, or as modules.

Here are five things it’s essential to consider when calculating the value of social advocacy.

1. Don’t just look at micro-metrics

As mentioned, social media interactions between brands and fans or customers are built on things such as ‘likes’ and follows’. But these things are just a first step – not an end in themself. Customers need to take these steps in order to generate permission for social communication to take place – and likes and follows do feed into a brand’s success in social media – but counting them alone won’t tell you anything about the actual value of social to your larger business aims.

2. Do begin at the end – and look outside social media

In order to genuinely understand the value, or returns, that social generates for your company, you need to begin by looking at your overall company objectives outside of social media.

As point one suggests, it’s not enough for a stated aim to be ‘get 10,000 followers’. The aims of your business might be about customer acquisition or retention, improved customer service and ultimately, sales and profits.

You need to begin building these more concrete metrics into your social media measurement in order to give social the credit – and the budgets – it deserves.

3. Think about weighting

Social media metrics have been guilty in the past of adding spurious weightings to generate values for elements such as a tweet, a follow or a retweet.

Be wary of this sort of thing. Marketing metrics are generally moving away from this sort of tactic. In public relations, for example, AVE or advertising value equivalent used to be used to generate an ‘advertising’ value for editorial column inches – but this has largely been abandoned as it isn’t robust enough to stand up to scrutiny.

Multiplying a tweet by two or a follow by 1.5 simply generates meaningless numbers – and social media has enough real numbers to be dealing with without inventing pointless ones.

4. Look at adding in concrete financial details

It is important to understand value in a logical extreme, where possible. We take known values within a business (these might be, for example, ticket sales value for venues or subscription numbers) and tie those in to the model.

By doing this, you can begin to understand the real, financial value of social to a business. This is something that all brands will need to begin doing – and doing robustly – if social media is ever to stand up alongside other media channels. TV, radio, outdoor and more all have their own methods of attributing value – and while not perfect – they are good enough to stand up.

5. Be constantly open to change

As social media moves so fast – and no model is completely perfect – we know this is the only way to create something that won’t go out of date in weeks, or months, or as new channels arrive on the scene. Anyone looking at the value of social media needs to understand that this state of change is pretty much the only thing that will ever remain constant and be open to continual development.

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