Measuring social media, or, how social is your media

Social media is not advertising.

Digital marketing is easy to measure. Marketers have figured out how to measure advertising across mediums — TV, print etc. In some ways we’ve gone even further: we’ve also figured out how measure the content that makes people view/read/listen to the mediums in the first place.

We’ve tried to do the same with the Internet. So we had hits and eyeballs, and then later page-views and click-through rates and  so on. The basic assumption that we carried over from traditional media is that the content sits in one place and the audience goes to that place.

But, on the internet, all media is social. It travels. It doesn’t stay put in one place. So we can’t measure it using page-views.

Now, here’s the thing about social media: It’s content, or media, that we co-create. All the platforms, Facebook, Youtube, etc. are channels that the content travels across.

So, the way to measure our social media efforts/campaigns is to measure how social our media is, or how our media is travelling. Here’s how I see the life-cycle of content on the web.

  1. Come up with a content idea
  2. Translate that idea into multiple forms (video, infographic, blog-post etc.)
  3. Post it across multiple channels
  4. Track likes, comments, upvotes etc.
  5. See if it starts to get shared
  6. See if it starts to get transformed, if people start to riff on it in someway
  7. See if the idea we have shared starts to become part of people’s conversations — they may not refer back to us but may use the idea we have put out.

Most measurement efforts stop at stage 5 at the moment. But it’s stage 6 and 7 that are most important, and in many ways, really hard to measure.

What’s even harder is for brands to move from thinking about their own story in terms of a 30-second ad-spot to a longer epic where audiences get to participate in both the creation and the telling of the story.

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