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Part 2: John Bell on the challenges of measuring social media

When John Bell, head of the global 360° Digital Influence team – Ogilvy’s global social media marketing and communications practice, was in Sydney in June, Ogilvy PR’s Heather Jacobs caught up with him to talk about social media.

Following is part two of a three-part series on how brands can get started in social media, measure its impact, how Australia compares to the rest of the world when it comes to social media and the challenge of finding social media experts who also understand marketing and communications.

Question: There isn’t a global standard for measuring social media. Is there a push towards this and what are some of the challenges in measuring the impact?

John Bell: Everyone wants a standard measurement model that all their colleagues and peers will rely on. I predict that will happen, or a series of standards will emerge, over the next 10-20 years, but right now we just have to take it upon ourselves to measure impact for what’s good for the brand.

Question: What are some of the ways marketers are already using the measure the impact, such as engagement?

John Bell: Brand marketers are measuring engagement, but there’s no way to understand the ROI of engagement. It’s based on factors such as time spent, number of interactions, anything that’s indicative of me doing something with the brand, even something superficial such as “liking” it on Facebook or commenting on a post, or watching a video.

These actions are all indicative of some greater level of involvement and if you believe traditional sales funnel mechanisms, saying that people are aware of your brand means you now have them more involved and engaged.

A smaller number of that audience is now considering if the product suits their needs, whether they will buy it and a smaller number still will go ahead and buy it. That degree of engagement is useful to understand: are people engaged or not? So you can look on the Facebook admin wall and get a number of metrics or interaction metrics that are helpful.

The other trend is that a lot brands are putting value on the volume and quality of ‘word-of-mouth’. What are people saying about the brand? Are they being positive or negative? Are they associating the brand with what the brand wants? For example, are people associating Ford vehicles with fuel efficiency? Ford is trying very hard to make some of the most fuel efficient cars in the world, and emphasises that in all of its communications and is this reflected in the conversations online?

What a few of us are trying to do is to prove what we intuitively believe to be true - that the greater the volume of talk, and the greater the positive share of voice in the marketplace for a particular brand is indicative of preference for that brand over its competitors. And depending on what they are saying, of course, it could indicate intent to purchase.

Question: What if people are using social media to complain about a brand? How can brands deal with negative comments online?

John Bell: What’s interesting about negative comments is that there’s been an unintentional effect of brands developing social customer care outlets online. Twitter handles are meant to grab your attention if you’ve got something going wrong. If I were a cable service, Time Warner Cable, for example, the Twitter handles of other cable providers are meant to capture people who are complaining or having problems and take them into service, get them to customer care and get their problem solved.

Because it’s through Twitter, in this example, they are doing it and quite publicly, so they are getting a marketing side effect in that people are thinking, ‘Time Warner is listening to us, that’s good’.

The problem there is that we have trained consumers that if they have a problem with a product or service the first protocol is to complain about it to their friends online because that’s when the brand will step in and come to their aid.

It’s an interesting problem. I don’t think we, as marketers yet understand what -- if anything --  we can do to both serve the customer service needs that are happening in the public space but not encourage more of them.

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