Interview with Jim Sterne About Social Media Metrics

Jim Sterne     Social Media Metrics Book

What made you write the book “Social Media Metrics: How to Measure and Optimize Your Marketing Investment”?

Social media is all the rage. It’s the Shiny New Thing and everybody is jumping up and down, saying, “It’s the most important development of the decade!” I happen to agree, but once the excitement is over, once one understands the principals of being sociable online, the question remains: How do I measure the value that my social media efforts bring to the organization?

For the individual, the payback is clear: Ego pumping, respect building and friendship embellishment. But for a brand, a product or a company, we need to focus on how to measure the results of a business investment.

Who’s your target audience?

Marketing people. Social media experts will look at this book and think, “Yeah, that makes sense. I knew that.” For the other 99.99% of marketing people on the planet, this is an introduction to the business logic of social media. For those who are excited about social media, this book gives them the ammunition they need to explain their desire to spend money to others in their organizations.

Isn’t social media just a buzz phrase created by consultants? Others just call everything “Internet”. I mean, why is it important to talk about social media measurement specifically now that it’s is such an integrated part of the web?

The “World Wide Web” is just that piece of the Internet where websites live. Email is separate from the Web. Newsgroups and discussion forums are different animals. Blogs, video sharing, tweeting and more are all on the Internet but are not of the Web. So why not just talk about Internet measurement? I prefer to talk about marketing measurement.

We used to talk about marketing as being Above The Line (advertising, branding, positioning, etc.) and Below The Line (marketing brochures, seminars, face-to-face sales calls, etc.). Both of those still happen on the Internet. Social media is a new animal. So while we have the old metrics of reach, frequency and attitude above the line, and various measures of engagement in the sales pipeline and business outcomes below the line, we now have a means of listening to people talk about us out there. Measuring overheard public opinion is different from “market research” which is measuring what people tell us directly.

Can you name the three best success stories of data-driven social media initiatives that you are aware of?

This is all evolving so fast that examples are old before the end of the sentence. Amazon succeeded so well because they invited people to write and post book reviews in their online store. That was social media before we knew to call it social media.

Companies have been asking for feedback from the start. But when Dell (Idea Storm), Starbucks (My Starbucks Idea) and Pepsi (Pepsi Refresh Project) turned over the ranking of that feedback to their customers that things really took off.

What’s the best social initiative? Depends on what the organization’s goals are. What’s the best data-driven initiative? Any program that actively monitors their result and adjusts their strategy and tactics in response.

Every time something new and fresh comes around there’s a risk that we enter geek mode and start measuring things that don’t really matter—do you think many organizations have lost themselves in pointless metrics rather than what drives revenue up, costs down, and increases satisfaction?

I think early adopters are guilty of getting lost in pointless metrics just because there’s data.

“Oh look! There were only 3 “u”s in the previous sentence but more than 10 “e”s. How does that compare to writings from all our other customers?! What might that tell us about Jim’s propensity to buy??”

But these are early days. Many companies are taking their time and deciding what counts rather than simply look at what can be counted.

What would you say to those who have number of followers on Twitter as a KPI?

I’d say, “Gee, you must be the most popular kid in school.”

Engagement: metric or excuse? Final verdict?

Engagement is a very real metric but it’s not a standard. A kilometer is a standard. Effort, drive, ambition are all critical and relative, but they are not numerically comparable.


You can find Jim’s book on Amazon or through your other reseller of choice.