social media book reviewsWhen Intuit wanted to analyze market sentiment about TurboTax, they used Radian6 to collect approximately 40,000 blog posts about Intuit and its competitors between January 1st and April 15th of 2008.

“None of [the team working on this project] felt artificial intelligence was going to come to their aid any day soon,” says Jim Sterne in his book, Social Media Metrics: How to Measure and Optimize Your Marketing Investment.

That should give you some idea of the state of social media analytical tools, particularly for analyzing market sentiment. With a few exceptions, they are practically nonexistent.

Social Media MetricsSo why did Sterne write a book about measuring something with nonexistent tools? I finally found the answer to that question on page 156: “I try to avoid getting deep into specific tools in my books. They change so fast that enumerating specific systems or services ends up more confusing than not over time.”

So if you want a book that actually contains detailed instructions for using social media analytical tools, you’ll have to keep waiting. This is NOT that book.

Sterne’s book tells you WHAT to measure and what NOT to measure. And he gives very general advice on how to do it without going into too many technical details.

He gets off to a good start by quoting J. C. Penney: “Give me a stock clerk with a goal and I’ll give you a man who will make history. Give me a man with no goals and I’ll give you a stock clerk.”

So don’t even start a social media marketing campaign until you set some goals. What do you want the campaign to do? What results do you want to see? Which key performance indicators (KPIs) will you measure?

To make it very simple, Sterne proposes the Big Three Business Goals:

  • Raise revenue
  • Lower costs
  • Increase customer satisfaction

That’s it! You really don’t have to worry about anything else.

If the work you do does not result in an improvement to one or more of these Big Three Goals, then you are wasting your time, wasting money, spinning your wheels, alienating customers, and not helping the organization. You can always think of something to earn more, spend less, and make customers happier.”

Social media can absolutely help you lower the cost of doing business. You can use Facebook and Twitter to survey your customers. Who needs focus groups, questionnaires, and expensive market research reports?

Your team can search the Twitter archives for any mention of your company or products, respond to the comments they find, and build a global, first-class customer service department.

Sterne’s book contains many case studies of companies doing just that. The book’s organization follows the traditional sales cycle:

  1. Get your market’s attention.
  2. Earn their respect.
  3. Get them to like you.
  4. Get them to interact with you.
  5. Convince them to buy from you.

He devotes a chapter to each one of those steps.

And he brings up some very interesting points. It’s easy enough to count how many followers, fans, and subscribers you have. But do they really read all of your tweets, Facebook updates, and blog posts? How do you know?

Sterne would ask, “Does it really matter?” It doesn’t matter how many fans, followers, and subscribers you have. It doesn’t matter how many people comment on your corporate blog. It doesn’t matter how many people buzz up your news release.

Only one thing matters: did they take action? Did they click your banner ad, visit your website, or pick up the phone and call your company?

If not, you are obviously not engaging them. And if you’re not engaging them, they probably will never buy your product or service.

In Sterne’s words: “While social media becomes more and more important from the standpoint of getting the word out, the impact of that word is still going to be measured by the number of people it drives to your web site, your store, and your wallet.”

Sterne does give many resources and websites, presumably of companies that are developing social media analytical tools. Companies like Omniture, Tealium, and FMS Advanced Systems Group. He calls the FMS tool “nascent,” meaning it may not be ready for prime time just yet.

But it’s up to you to go to the websites, take a look at their analytical tools, and see if they will give you the data you need.

In the chapter on Getting Buy-In, Sterne seems to imply that you should just ask your technical people to develop their own tools!

And did you know that there are apparently robots that can scrape, follow, friend, tweet, and retweet? “When it’s time to tote up how many people had an opportunity to see your message,” Sterne advises, “make sure you’re only counting people.”

But of course, he never tells you how to do that. Are there any analytical tools that can distinguish between a robot and a person? If there are, Sterne doesn’t mention them.

So in the absence of good social media analytical tools, you might just stick with your web analytical tools. Do you get more activity on your website when you blog or tweet? Do your sales increase when people buzz up your blog post on Delicious, Reddit, or Digg?

Try to correlate your social media campaign with metrics available now. And remember, it doesn’t count unless it results in a sale, a savings, or a satisfied customer.

Check out 4 Ways to Measure Social Media and Its Impact on Your Brand.

Social Media Examiner gives this book a 3.5 star rating.

Is anyone out there using social media analytical tools, “nascent” or otherwise? If so, we’d love to hear about your experience. Leave your comment in the box below.

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  • To be quite honest with you, I would never have the patience to read through a 156+ page book if it does not tell me the HOW.

    Look forward to reading your other post on social engagement measurement.


  • Interesting article and book. Is the 3.5 star rating out of 5 or 10?

    Thanks for input from the book and your opinions on it.

  • Nat

    I agree with Anna, not sure why I would take the time to read this book for the same reasons! Thank goodness we have you to do that for us and give us this fabulous review!

  • Eric, that would be out of 5.

  • Pixi

    Pity Radian 6 is sooooooooooo expensive. Nice tool but we got some guys to come in an give us some pricing. . Would be nice if they had an option for smaller agencies with smaller budgets. I would definately recommend Scoutlabs, Brandseye and Socialmention

  • Tim Shier

    Thanks for the BrandsEye mention Pixi!

    Very interesting book and I’m included to agree to their approach of tool neutrality. Just about every business needs something different and it’s certainly not a case of “one size fits all”. I recon they just trying to make sure their book remains relevant for as long as possible…

    Great post Ruth and thanks again for the mention Pixi.

    MD – BrandsEye

  • Ruth Shipley

    Nat and Anna:

    I was a little disappointed also. I felt that the book’s subtitle was very misleading.

    But I can understand his reasoning. Tools change so fast, his book would be obsolete very shortly after it was published.

    But he DOES give very specific advice on WHAT to measure and what NOT to measure. For example, a fan who engages you is “worth more” than a fan who just subscribes to your blog posts.

    So you can actually “score” your fans and assign higher scores to those fans who rate your posts, comment on them, post their own stuff on your Facebook wall, etc. And if they call you, that’s even better! And once you have given every fan a score, you can focus on communicating with the highest scoring fans.

    Because they will be your evangelists. They will be the ones who will retweet your stuff the most. They will be the ones who will “like” your posts. They will be the ones who will recommend you to their friends and followers.

    So I think everyone can still benefit from this book. Just don’t expect to learn about any tools expect those that are in development. He talks a lot about companies that are developing social media analytical tools. All you have to do is visit their web site and subscribe to any blog they publish.

    And does it really matter how many people view a particular page on your web site, how long they look at it, and where they live? If they don’t pick up the phone and call you or contact you in some other way, all of those web analytics that you spend so much time collecting DON’T MATTER!!!

    The only thing that matters is customer engagement.

  • Ruth Shipley

    Correction: “So I think everyone can still benefit from this book. Just don’t expect to learn about any tools EXCEPT those that are in development.”

  • Ruth Shipley

    Yes, Radian6 is for the “big guys.”

    I think Visible Technologies, Techrigy/Alterian, Buzzmetrics, Cymfony also let you track brand mentions. And they may be cheaper than Radian6. Sterne mentioned these resources in a table on page 157.

    Does anyone know any other resources for tracking keywords? Besides Twitter of course.

  • Ruth Shipley

    Maybe Sterne created a Facebook page or other site where he could post the actual tools.

  • Social media metrics have provided our existing clients yet another tool to track their Return On Investment (ROI), in addition to quantifying ‘what to expect’ type percentages with prospective customers.

  • Ruth,

    Great article, and frankly your summary of the three areas to measure is worth the price of admission in and of itself!

    As far as free tools to measure this stuff, I don’t know of any.

    I have, however, found 2 tools that I think are really cool:
    1. – it’s an aggregator like nothing I’ve ever seen.
    2. SM2 by Alterian (formerly techrigy). I am starting a 30-day trial, but have been using their freemium version. It’s amazing that the freemium is the full version, but limited to 1000 results (a result is one mention of your search query on the web)
    – it has tremendously detailed ways of slicing up the information, graphs, etc…is exportable in several different ways, AND, the 1000 results don’t mean 1000 results and your done. It means 1000 results worth of information that you can access in the reporting and research. Once you delete a result, it’s not in the 1000. Think of it like a glass of water. You can export results of the full glass, and then empty it and start over. I compared it to Radian6, and it seems as good if not better.

    Anyway, I hope that helps some of you who are looking for tools…

  • Actually i was looking for a book to give me detailed instruction for using social media analytical tools so I guess this isn’t for me.

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  • Alex morven

    I don’t have anything else to include on to your article – you basically spelled everything out. great read!
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