Live From SXSWi: Social Capital & The Hunt For The Magic Metric


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If marketers know one thing it’s that social media is huge. But when it comes to measuring impact and influence, most companies are awaiting a magic metric.

That was the takeaway from the panel “Social Capital: The Billion Dollar Digital Future,” which took place yesterday at South By Southwest Interactive. The panel featured some sluggers like Richard Margetic of Dell, Bill Parkes of nFusion, Zach Hofer-Shall of Forrester Research and Michael Spataro of Visible Technologies.

The panelists agreed that brands need to be involved in social media, regardless of whether they sell to a mass audience or work in b2b marketing. “If you’re in the b2b space there might be only one person in the company who can buy…and they are on social media too,” Parkes said.

But rather than simply preach the power of social media, the panelists discussed the dirty secret of social capital: lack of industry benchmarks. Smart organizations are pushing resources to capturing outside conversations about their brands. Dell has nearly 60 people across different offices listening in on the global online chatter. Yet, the panel largely agreed that the idea of responding individually to every person who tweets about your company is a pipe dream.

“Brands can’t scale talking to everyone talking about you out there,” Spataro said. Rather, businesses need to focus on uncovering the social influencers in their market and then win those influencers’ hearts.

The trouble is there’s no standard for defining influence. It’s not that there’s a lack of metrics, it’s that there are too many. “There are too many competing metrics right now,” Hofer-Shall said.

The industry is due for a slim down. Right now, startups are trying to produce unique metrics they hope will become benchmarks. Companies are largely defining influence and social media success on their own. But in the years to come standards will emerge, and organizations will take to measuring their efforts according to these standards.

Richard Margetic, Director of Global Social Media at Dell.

In the meantime, the panel seemed to imply that a standardized metric would require two key elements: the ability to merge online data with offline data and a channel agnostic approach.

Margetic said that Social CRM is moving in such a way that soon you’ll be able to “connect what you do with Twitter and Facebook with a zip code.” Indeed, marketing automation focuses on delivering this convergence of data sources. Savvy marketers are no longer happy with just having access to a collection of names. They want to track a buyers behavior, both online and offline, and apply that knowledge to their campaigns.

Secondly, the future wonder metrics would need to be applicable across a variety of channels. “Twitter could die,” Hofer-Shall reminded the audience. It wasn’t all that long ago that MySpace and Bebo were the hot new media properties. A future industry standard would be just that – something you can use across the industry. It couldn’t be limited to the social sphere of one or two platforms.

Until that day comes, companies need to actively engage prospects and customers on social media, and diligently define and track their own measures of success. Who knows? Your metrics might become an industry benchmark.

Are you actively listening and engaging buyers on social media? What would your vision of a perfect benchmark look like?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jesse Noyes
Jesse came to Eloqua from the newsroom trenches. As Managing Editor, it's his job to find the hot topics and compelling stories throughout the marketing world. He started his career at the Boston Herald and the Boston Business Journal before moving west of his native New England. When he's not sifting through data or conducting interviews, you can find him cycling around sunny Austin, TX.


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