Why Measuring Success Using Social Media Tools Isn’t Always Cut and Dried

Is there anything more cliche than using a tape measure as the graphic for this post?

At a recent event, I met with a wonderful woman who sells artisan crafted premium dried Italian sausage. She readily admitted that she wasn’t very technologically savvy, and that her primary use of Facebook was for Farmville (this after I’d just made a very disparaging remark about the game). She wants to roll out this new product and achieve national success in selling it. How would I help her plan for the human digital channel?

My first thoughts were that video content, mobile marketing, and email marketing would be her best bets. Face it: no one is sitting around on Twitter saying, “I really wish I had the best North Denver style dried sausage while watching this football game.”

And yet, here’s why Twitter or Google+ would be a good part of her plan. Relationships. Relationship building. Let me explain.

This dried sausage, especially the spicy variety that I sampled at the event, appeals to men more than women. It also is very salty and invites second bites. It also would go amazingly well with bourbon.

HOW TWITTER WARMS UP MY SLUSHY BAR FRIEND WHO CAN HELP

Bourbon as an industry makes its home in Kentucky. When I was fortunate enough to tour Maker’s Mark with the legendary Jason Falls, and I got my tour from the assistant master distiller Denny Potts himself, I learned that there are several bourbon distilleries in that region, and that touring these has become a growing business. They make bourbon in other parts of the world, but this is the big concentrated core of it all.

I know all of this because I met Jason via the social networking experience, and came to be a friend in real life. Because I know Jason and stay up to date with his comings and goings, and because I comment back and forth on his various postings, I’m comfortable asking Jason for an introduction to some of the spirits people in this region, so that I, in turn, can introduce this woman to them and so that she might open up a sales channel.

RELATIONSHIPS ARE THE NON-MEASURABLE EVENT

Twitter won’t track to sales of delicious small-batch spicy dried sausage made from the finest ingredients and using a generations-old recipe. It will, however, facilitate introductions and relationship-building that will lead to orders being placed.

YouTube videos might tip the scale on someone deciding whether or not to try this product. You, yourself, might be thinking, “Hmmm. I’m not sure the term ‘dried sausage’ sounds delicious.” Watching a video of a tasting event might change that opinion, especially if she dares to leave in a few people saying they don’t care for it for one reason or another. “It’s too salty for me,” a taster might say, and YOU might think, “I LOVE salty!”

Email marketing and mobile marketing might help some. Co-op marketing would definitely help, if she’s able to pair this with the bourbon experience, for instance. And these sorts of channel activities are measurable and can be tracked for return on investment.

But how will you track your relationship-building efforts? (Hint: you can, but it might feel weird). Instead of going onto Twitter and just randomly hitting the retweet button a few times and posting a few ads for your business, start thinking of this tool as another part of your relationship management efforts. And every time I say “Twitter,” replace that with Google+, Facebook, and maybe LinkedIn, depending on your industry and whether they’re especially active in updating.

GOOD SALESPEOPLE KEEP RELATIONSHIPS WARM

I dropped a line to Keith Ferrazzi, one of the most famous networking experts of our time, introducing him to Julien Smith. I felt no worry that I could make this introduction, because I stay fairly connected to Keith via his social media output. It lets me feel like I’m up to speed on what he’s been doing, plus it gives me the chance to promote his efforts when they seem interesting, and to comment on what he shares, to let him know I’m there.

I don’t need anything from Keith. I just value the relationship. It’s the same way I stay up to speed with Dan Pink and Dan Heath, and Charlie Green, and John Jantsch and Carrie Wilkerson, and all kinds of other people who I value and who I want to maintain good relationships with. It’s just a lot EASIER to do this via the social channels, and it promotes more opportunities to connect in other ways.

BUT WHAT IF WE STICK TO PURE MEASUREMENTS ONLY?

“What’s Twitter going to do to impact sales?” You might hear this when working with clients. At that point, it means you might not have cast the tool (and any of the social networks) in the best contexts. The human digital channel (the “people” part of the online world versus the “website” part) can most definitely be measured for sales activity, but if you’re looking at it as strictly a transaction tool and not a relationship-based selling component, that’s the problem.

In business, metrics matter. Make sure you account for both activities in your accounting. It will go far in setting expectations of desired results, plus it will guide activity chains that should lead to improved value. Don’t skip the hard numbers, but don’t jettison the soft value that lead to new avenues to gain more of said numbers.

Now, excuse me. I have to keep up with what Matt Ridings is doing (he obviously loves bourbon), and my friend Tim Hayden (master of mobile and experiential marketing), and Christopher Penn (marketing ninja and data wizard), and many more. Because I might find another artisan sausage maker who needs a relationship with someone who knows how to do much more than me, and I’m going to have to keep my relationships warm on Google+ and elsewhere.

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  • http://www.jeffmolander.com jeff_molander

    What you’ve done (in your 4th paragraph), Chris, is identified “niche need.” Right? Why not take that further? Why not find more niches for this product… rather than justify what we already know is necessary to achieve success? Businesses have been needing relationships (to succeed) since the beginning of time, after all.

    Chris, is “the big opportunity” with social media reduced to conversations and relationships or is there more? I think there’s more.

    Respectfully, I think it would be smarter to keep on doing what you started off doing– focusing on finding ways to uncover niche need and exploit it (rather than fall back on “relationships” as the way forward).

    What if we all started asking ourselves better questions as a means to launch niche products using social media?

    Example:
    “What can social media do for me?” is the typical question. “How will it make sales for me?”

    Good ones but let’s change these to: “How can social media help me earn attention and sales transactions by providing customers’ with something they’ve never experienced before?”

    If we ask these kinds of questions we get closer to asking *more* questions like:
    “If I found out where my target market was on social platforms could I use social media to quickly show (prove to) my target market how this sausage helps create exciting, new experiences for customers who are addicted to complimentary hobbies/foods… and if so how might I do that?”

    Example:
    Let’s suppose there’s something unique about these sausages: They’re made without sulfates or the meat is 100% bison. Can this solve a health-related problem or help customers achieve a wellness goal?

    “Could social media be applied in ways to help niche customers that are looking to achieve a wellness goal or avoid a health risk… and if so how might I do that?”

    She could even take that UVP and leverage it to the max: Educating health-conscious consumers on the dangers of sulfates in most sausages– a serious risk that many sausage lovers don’t even know they engage in.

    That’s powerful stuff: helping someone learn of and solve a problem they don’t even know they have. Seems to me that this is a great relationship and trust builder… actions speak louder than words.

    Just my two cents :)

  • http://www.blurbpoint.com/ Internet Marketing Company

    People just generally follow the social media blindly if others use it but not think about their need why they want to use the social network.  And this is the  best article to think on this matter.
    And if one build the plan before making usage of social network , then can get more better than other and can build more relationship with other that be more crucial for any business. Thanks for sharing such great article with us.

  • Anonymous

    My first thought was that this was another Klout post.  Thank goodness it was about something far more important.

  • http://twitter.com/phillyrealty Christopher Somers

    Chris – This is something that deserves 2 or 3 reads.  You are right in that it is not as easy as just “do video, have a website, track data, do SEO” and poof.  Each business and each product will have a different mix in terms of what might be best. 

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  • http://www.afmarcom.com/ Angelique

    I predict that, once again, you will be the author of one of my newsletter’s “recommended articles.” (Psychic predictions: also hard to measure!)

  • http://www.ryanhanley.com/2011/11/29/how-small-business-can-leverage-social-media-to-fight-back-against-their-big-business-competitors/ Ryan Hanley

    Chris,

    It seems that no matter what kind of measurables you have w/ an Online Business Presence there has to be Buy-In… Any decision maker deciding solely based on metrics will never be pleased.  

    If the buy-in on relationship building and branding isn’t there issues will always surround. 

    Thanks for great content!

    Ryan H.

  • http://flavors.me/40deuce 40deuce

    You make a really good point here, Chris. It’s not easy to always track the relationships that you make through life, but yet they’re some of the most important parts of doing business. For example, as a community manager I’m here to help our customers and try to bring in new leads, but that’s only part of what I do. A lot of my time is spent building relationships with people like you and a lot of other people out there. Now I may not be trying to get you to buy our product (right now), but I know that by developing these relationships I have people I can talk to at other points when I may need some help with something or to bounce ideas off of or to just know that we have a good relationship and you would feel happy sending people my way.
    Relationships are one of the most importnat things that we can get out of using social media, but unfortunately you can’t always measure these relationships.
    It’s good to have some real business goals that we can accurately measure, but don’t throw the relationship building out the window because you don’t have a good formula to measure it with.

    Cheers,
    Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos

    (ps – on the Sysomos blog today we have an article talking about how some companies have no ways that they’re measuring their social ROI. It might be nice if you left a comment over there talking about what you did here in this article.)

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  • http://www.marketdrum.com/author/admin/ Samer Forzley

    Measuring the value of relationships is hard, I was working on an online marketing strategy with a company that is a bit older school, and the issue is of measurement is a block for their management team. While I made many arguments for the value of the relationships on of the VP’s on the management team insisted that there is no moving forward without a number, I need a number….

    Anyway, Finally, I asked him, what is the value of the over 500 connections he has in his LinkedIn account, and he could not tell me, I asked him, why he spent so many hours to build that network, and he said he uses to connect with suppliers, and customers. I asked him if is willing to give up that network and delete all his connections, he said no way… He dropped the issue of measuring connection

    I have used this line of reasoning now a couple of time and found that it connects with business leaders who are older school, but understand that a roll of decks is important, Linkedin is a digital deck, and other relation you make online are just the same, just a different format. If it gets them over the hump so be it.

  • http://www.googlingsocial.com Chris Lang

    Know what I find interesting Chris Brogan? Is that since I subscribe to this blog thru email via FeedBurner, it sends thru the social media links to share, but not the + 1 button to share to Google+….

    Maybe something you can push up the ladder to Natalie Villalobos or Louis Gray?

    Probably why the Tweets on this post are at 203 and G+ shares are only at 14. Again something that analytics would have skewed. Again, the human factor that would have been striped out by only looking at DB data…..

  • http://www.blueclover.com/ Tim Hayden

    It is a tangled web that we weave and surf upon, my friend. Too many of us forget to trace the arteries that come from coffee shop encounters, side-saddled seats on planes and trains, and the sum-days we spend experiencing our passions far from any digital node.

    Log what you can and track what matters most, online and offline.  More importantly, Amen to he/she who pauses for review of how it all fits together along the map to success.

  • http://www.blueclover.com/ Tim Hayden

    It is a tangled web that we weave and surf upon, my friend. Too many of us forget to trace the arteries that come from coffee shop encounters, side-saddled seats on planes and trains, and the sum-days we spend experiencing our passions far from any digital node.

    Log what you can and track what matters most, online and offline.  More importantly, Amen to he/she who pauses for review of how it all fits together along the map to success.

  • http://BestSellerAuthors.com Warren Whitlock

    People are sitting around talking about ANYTHING on Twitter. 

    I did a search of “sausage football” and found lots of conversations
    On Google +, there was only reference to this piece. On Facebook, not even that.

    There may not be someone talking about a particular product, but your friend would do well to talk to the many people discussing sausage during a game

    Counting them is about as useful as expecting to see unicorns in your data, but there ARE real people happy to talk about anything… and they buy more from those they know, like and trust

  • http://BestSellerAuthors.com Warren Whitlock

    People are sitting around talking about ANYTHING on Twitter. 

    I did a search of “sausage football” and found lots of conversations
    On Google +, there was only reference to this piece. On Facebook, not even that.

    There may not be someone talking about a particular product, but your friend would do well to talk to the many people discussing sausage during a game

    Counting them is about as useful as expecting to see unicorns in your data, but there ARE real people happy to talk about anything… and they buy more from those they know, like and trust

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  • Deb

    How do you find the time to keep up with all of your contacts?

  • Deb

    How do you find the time to keep up with all of your contacts?

  • Anonymous

    I think that measuring all these numbers with all those analytics tools around is just the tip of the iceberg.. and how deep is that iceberg, or more likely, how deep is your relationship with your customers?  I wonder if someone will come up with a tool measuring such accurately, but it’s unlikely, unless you can read minds and see beyond a person’s desire for your product/service. Spell complication..

  • Anonymous

    I think that measuring all these numbers with all those analytics tools around is just the tip of the iceberg.. and how deep is that iceberg, or more likely, how deep is your relationship with your customers?  I wonder if someone will come up with a tool measuring such accurately, but it’s unlikely, unless you can read minds and see beyond a person’s desire for your product/service. Spell complication..

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  • http://www.jeffmolander.com jeff_molander

    Purchase intent is not really an outcome… it’s a window on intent, not behavior. Lifetime value to the brand is an outcome but this research doesn’t give us a practical way to connect the dots. In the end what we’re talking about here, Richard, is based on the belief system that says, “social media is (perhaps) a better way to advertise.” What I’m saying (in my other comment) is that “social media is a better way to create and capture demand.”

  • http://www.jeffmolander.com jeff_molander

    Purchase intent is not really an outcome… it’s a window on intent, not behavior. Lifetime value to the brand is an outcome but this research doesn’t give us a practical way to connect the dots. In the end what we’re talking about here, Richard, is based on the belief system that says, “social media is (perhaps) a better way to advertise.” What I’m saying (in my other comment) is that “social media is a better way to create and capture demand.”

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  • http://twitter.com/strictly strictly

    Explained so simply, and yet so many still don’t get it. Well done again.

  • http://twitter.com/strictly strictly

    Explained so simply, and yet so many still don’t get it. Well done again.

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  • http://www.plrinternetmarketing.com Warren Wooden

    “relationships are the non measurable event”

    So true, and actually such a powerful statement. So often individuals, and businesses alike focus their attentions on the measurable stats and counters such as fans, or followers, when they should be engaging in the slower moving act of relationship building!

  • http://www.san-diego-marketing.com/ San Diego Marketing

    I agree, it really boils down to establishing a real and genuine connection with someone. There’s nothing more definitive and lasting than forging a real relationship online and turning them to loyal followers and friendships.

  • http://www.thestudyofsocial.com Matt Hixson

    I think you are right on with this.  Relationships are the key to social media and they are a result of when people interact not just because they are connected.  You can never automate building or maintaining a relationship but you can measure and predict how information moves in a social network based on the structure of these relationships. Your network of relationships is the most valuable asset that you have.  If you have a strong asset, you are able to make every social media campaign that much more effective and return the metrics you need for the business.  Sorry for the soap box but this is what I spend my life on right now. :)   

  • http://www.i95dev.com Henry Louis

    Hi Chris. Well explained again. I like your way of presentation. Nice informative post.

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  • http://jackalopekid.com jackalopekid

    Great article, Chris. It seems that relationships and results always go hand in hand.

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  • Huicanon

    Haha, when reading this blog really is making me hungry because of the introducing of the dried sausage. I think it’s really interesting to witness a procedure of using social media to promote a product. It is very real and quite practical to me for finishing my final project of the graduate lesson. The way you telling us the procedure is also interesting and fascinating. It flows very smoothly like you are telling a story. Another interesting thing you mentioned about is “relationships”, we need to build relationships and which will make our following work easier. It reminds me of the Chinese words “关系”(pronounce as “guanxi”).

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    Yes it was true Sales persons are always consider and representing a company so it’s clear cut thought of most of the peoples that sales person should be a comfortable with clients

  • http://twitter.com/BigHeadAsian Justin Moore-Brown

    It always hurts when people say “show me the ROI of social media”. Like you say there are ways to track certain measurements but I love how you emphasize that Social Media is best used for relationship building.

    How would you recommend responding to the “ROI question” when dealing with clients?

  • http://www.businessandsoftwarestrategyforglobalisation.com Mae Loraine Jacobs

    I definitely empathize with Justin. I definitely met a couple of clients who’d ask me such question. Usually, though, I just explain to them our main goal is to create sales and maintain clients, not to know if we successfully use Twitter or Facebook, among others. A lot of them just becomes quiet and begin to understand. It definitely takes more than social media tools to make a business. 

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