The Social Media Monitoring Metric We Need, But Can’t Get

April 11, 2011

Social media monitoring tools continue to proliferate in number and advance in functionality. The better tools not only show who’s talking about your company and where, but also display sentiment analysis, trends over time, competitive share-of-voice, measures of influence, engagement and more.

But there’s one critical metric that remains elusive to measure. It’s admittedly a squishy measure, not likely to sit well with the social media ROI crowd; it will make your CEO’s eyes roll and your CFO blanch, but those who really get social media intrinsically know how crucial this is: karma.

Karma - A Crucial Social Media MetricIt’s not a term likely thrown around in strategy or budget meetings, but it is real. And real important. Answers.com defines karma in a couple of different ways, both of which apply to social media marketing:

1) “The total effect of a person’s actions and conduct during the successive phases of the person’s existence, regarded as determining the person’s destiny.” Modifying that just a bit to fit here, karma is the total effect of a company’s actions (and those of its customers and other industry influencers) and conduct in social media, which will play a major role in determining the organization’s destiny.

Social media’s effects are often indirect, which makes “hard” ROI measurement challenging. Put another way, it’s the opposite of search engine marketing (smart companies use both). When a company places a search ad through Google AdWords or another search engine, it wants the audience to take a specific action, normally to convert to either a sale or a lead. Social media, on the other hand, isn’t about driving a specified action; it’s about affecting what people think of the company, how they feel about it, how they perceive it.

Good social media marketing creates positive karma. It doesn’t always or even often lead to an immediate conversion action, but in the long term most certainly plays a significant part in “determining the organization’s destiny.” As one well-publicized example, Dell completely reversed the “Dell Hell” perception of its customer service and eventually significantly increased sales by embracing social media. Comcast similarly changed the perception of its service–creating good karma, if you will–by listening and responding to customers on Twitter.

On the other hand, the mis-use of social media can risk having the opposite effect. GoDaddy CEO Bob Parsons may have injured his company’s brand by posting a video of a recent elephant hunt in Zimbabwe. Lots of people are outraged. Then again, controversy hasn’t hurt the GoDaddy brand in the past. The company has run sleazy ads during the Super Bowl and on Parsons’ blog for years, yet it has grown consistently despite (because of?) these practices. So, will the GoDaddy CEO’s most recent actions result in good karma, bad karma, or a wash? The answer may very well determine the future trajectory of the company, but again, there’s no way to measure it today.

2) “A distinctive aura, atmosphere, or feeling.” Social media helps create this feeling about a company. Advertising is product- or service-focused: buy our product or service because it does A, B and C. Social media is higher level: do business with our company because we’re smart, helpful and trustworthy. If a firm’s online actions demonstrate those attributes, and the social media activities of customers and other industry influencers reinforce that image, then good karma is (arguably) created.

The path to enlightenment may be long and challenging, but fortunately generating good karma through social media is reasonably straightforward. Hard to measure, but easy to conceptualize:

  • • Live your values.
  • • Be true to your word.
  • • Pay it forward.
  • • Promote and engage others.
  • • Don’t be a jerk.

The strategy for creating good karma through social media isn’t much more difficult than that. But measuring it remains elusive.



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5 Responses

  1. It’s so true! Reciprocation and relationship-building are the basis of good social marketing. Depending on your market it can sometimes take a while before you start seeing it come back to you…but it will. Just treat your tweeps like you’d want to be treated. Now to figure out how to put it in monetary terms for the CEOs out there :)


  2. Tom 

    Thanks Leah. Patience is indeed a virtue – but often an under-appreciated one in an age of Google Instant and 140-character attention spans.

  3. Great post. It’s hard to believe social media has been around long enough for us to have lost sight of the basics, but it seems we have. We have forgotten that practicing social is the digital equivalent of the golf game with a client or prospect: not much business is discussed, but relationships are built and strengthened.

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