At last week’s Forrester Consumer Marketing Forum, Senior Analyst Jessica Liu led a session titled, “Marketers & the Giant Social Media Problem.”

Joining Jessica on stage were 3 leading brand representatives:

  • Matt Caldwell, Director of Social Media at Quicken Loans
  • Kelly O’Brien, Director of Social Media at Krispy Kreme
  • Alex Smith, Director of Marketing and Social Media Analytics at Marriott International

Jessica’s recent report on “How to Measure Social Programs” served as a good backdrop for the discussion with a focus on 3 different types of KPIs (key performance indicators):

  1. Content impact metrics – these are things such as likes, retweets, and other measures of how strong your social content is performing
  2. Marketing impact metrics – these are oriented around the customer life cycle and show whether a customer has moved from one stage to the next
  3. Business impact metrics – these are the holy grail and connect the dots to the bottom line of sales and brand health

So what did the panel have to say on the topic?

Matt kicked things off by lamenting the challenges presented by walled gardens and lack of data transparency and portability. Despite these barriers, Matt and his team have set up an attribution system that can tie activity through to applications and budget is allocated to the channels and placements that perform best. Matt also talked about how Quicken Loans leverages video on social media to complement its television strategy by reaching people missed on broadcast, such as first-time home buyers that skew younger. From an analytics perspective, Matt and team use Nielsen household data to look at unduplicated reach across TV and social.

Kelly catered to the crowd quite literally when she announced that 500 Krispy Kreme donuts were being delivered for attendees. Then she talked about how social analytics help her team reach new audiences and key moments. For example, they found people who were engaging with amusement parks shared an affinity for Krispy Kreme based on a general feeling of happiness and excitement. She also talked about how weather can be a great trigger for brand messaging as people love warm donuts on cold, rainy days. And she has data showing a corresponding sales lift. Krispy Kreme also syncs to TV programs and recently ran ads for zombie donuts on social media when The Walking Dead was on air.

Alex may have had the home-field advantage with the event at the Marriott Marquis on Broadway but he was handicapped with 10,000+ social media accounts across 30 brands. Alex talked about how his team created an elaborate attribution model in an effort to understand the role of social media across the entire customer, or in Marriott lingo… guest journey from travel planning to hotel stay. Of course, no model is perfect and sometimes certain channels – and stakeholders – don’t get proper credit for their contributions.

“Whether or not attribution is a problem depends who in the org you’re talking to.” – Alex Smith, Director of Marketing and Social Media Analytics at Marriott International

The bottom line when it comes to social media measurement is that progress is more important than perfection, especially when it comes to moving from content impact metrics to marketing impact and business impact. Thankfully there are tools available (subtle plug) to help you on this journey.