Social Metrics: Execs Care About Financial Returns, not Followers

Ann All

One of the continuing issues with IT metrics is that IT personnel tend to present them in wonky terms that mean little to business folks. Sure, 99.9 percent availability sounds good, but what does it really mean and why is it important?

 

Organizations may be facing a similar problem with their social initiatives.

 

Yesterday I attended an interesting webcast titled "Why Be Social?" featuring Jeremiah Owyang, Altimeter Group's partner of Customer Strategy, and Sandy Carter, IBM's VP of Social Business and Collaboration Solutions. (You can see the slides from the presentation here, and the entire replay here. And you can check out tweets about it at #sbweb.)

 

During the question-and-answer portion of the event, Owyang was asked about metrics. He stressed the importance of "giving the right metrics to the right audience."

 

The only metrics executives typically care about, said Owyang, are top-line revenue, market sentiment and lower cost. Organizations need to find a way to talk about those, perhaps by illustrating how social support results in savings by reducing call center volumes. Executives don't care how many Facebook fans or Twitter followers their company has.


 

Some other great takeaways from the webcast:

  • The No. 1 question she's asked by C-level executives, said Carter, involves organizational risk. The best way to approach risk management is to "assume something will happen online" and create plans for addressing situations such as an employee or a customer posting negative content. IBM formed a cross-functional "digital council" to create appropriate disaster recovery plans. It's important to be "proactive and fast" when responding to any negative incidents.
  • Develop a specific, small project for which it will be fairly easy to collect meaningful metrics, perhaps a Twitter promotion where you can easily see how many folks click through, to illustrate value to the C-suite and get some dollars allocated to social initiatives.
  • Consider a "remix" of the existing budget instead of asking for new investment, advised Carter. Install three new customer support phone lines instead of five and apply the difference to a social initiative.
  • Lay the groundwork for external initiatives by first using social channels internally. Practice makes perfect, and it's a valuable learning experience that should help organizations feel better prepared for social interactions with the outside world.


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