Social Media Audits (L9)

Social media audits are an analysis/inspection of an entity’s (whether company, person, group or institution) online communication, more specifically social media footprint at a particular moment in time.

Please check the lecture notes from 2013 with more information also on SWOT and PESTLE but also the notes from 2012 elaborating more on some of the templates we mentioned during the lecture. .

Over the years, social media audits have increasingly become an important element in a communicator’s toolkit as they enable those conducting them to either gain market knowledge and insight, understand their competitors or identify strategic directions for development. As social media audits are informed by the client’s objectives and needs, there is no single template. Areas of focus can include visibility/reach, usability/functionality, integration/cross-channel communication, measurement/metrics/monitoring and/or branding and much more.

Remember: a social media audit should help you identify strategic directions for development (but also help you identify the opportunities and strengths to use and the threats and weaknesses to address). 

You have various models on myBU (check the readings folder).

You can also check several research and conference papers using social media audit concepts in their methodology:

Adi, A., Erickson, K. and Lilleker, D. (2014) Elite Tweets: Analysing the Twitter Communication Patterns of Labour Party Peers in the House of LordsPolicy and Internet. 

Adi, A. & Hobby, N. (2014) Social Media in Higher Education. 1st Corporate and Marketing Communications in Asia Conference. Bangkok, Thailand. Conference Proceedings (p. 16-33).

Adi, A., Erickson, K. & Lilleker, D. (April, 2013) Elite Tweets: Analysing the Twitter communication patterns of Labour Party Peers in the House of Lords. Twitter and Microblogging: Political, Professional and Personal Practices. Lancaster, UK.
Adi, A. & Grigore, G. (November 2012) Pfizer’s social media uses in Europe. MediAsia 2012. Osaka, Japan.

Adi, A. (September 2012) Bringing Practice into the Classroom: the evolution of a social media audit exercise. Media Education Summit 2012. Bournemouth, UK.

Adi, A. and Moloney, K. (September 2012) Communicating the Occupation. A comparison of social media and public relations in a national and local setting. Social media, Journalism and Communication Symposium. Canterbury, UK.

User generated content (L7)

After you had an incursion into online communities and target audiences during Anastasia’s lecture, it only makes sense to spend a little more time addressing some of the myths associated with user generated content and the theories that aim to explain its uses.

Make sure you check the posts from the 2012 and 2013 lectures on the same topic.

The myths

We started the lecture by identifying the myths and assumptions surrounding the incorporation of user generated content in a communication strategy. These include:

  1. Everybody has access to the internet (check the “Digital Divide” to see that is not the case)
  2. Posting is easy (it could be physically and process-wise easy BUT what are the implications)
  3. Creating content is easy (BUT does it do what it is aimed for?)
  4. Creating content is cheap (that if we assume that subscription/creating of the accounts is free BUT disregards the time needed to create as well as the time needed to gain the skills to create effective content)
  5. There are plenty of online distribution channels (maybe too many SO do you know which one is the right one to choose? Remember the Social Media Landscape and web trends lecture)
  6. Engagement is simple, straightforward and sustainable (yet every platform has a very different definition of engagement. Moreover, with platforms growing in popularity attaining visibility is increasingly more difficult requiring therefore more effort, more time and more content).

Independently, all these statements have an element of truth however put together they point to a limited understanding the uses of social media fueled mainly by a superficial approach to technology and its growth. It also points to a marketing/selling/pushing approach to communication rather than an immersive and responsive approach highlighting thus the separation between companies and users (us/them). Heller, Baird and Paransis “Customer Relationship Management From Social Media to Social CRM” report (2011 – on myBU) focuses on the differences in perceived importance associated by consumers and businesses for their online interactions. While for the consumers their communication for brands gives more importance to “what’s in it for them”, companies continue to belive that consumers follow them because they have a genuine interest in them.

The theory

Fueled in part by these myths and the recognition of a different approach to digital media between business and users, researchers and practitioners alike have aimed to identify the factors that influence the generation of content by users.

Beck (2008) offers an extensive review of the 5 determinants of user generated content production and the theories affiliated to them (the Prezi has more details; make sure you check the reading on myBU). The determinants are:

  • group size (having a bigger audience, does not necessarily guarantee it will be more active/engaged – check the “long tail” theory again)
  • topic and purpose (shared purpose and shared ideas tend to lead to higher engagement; also good to think here of our talk about crowdsourcing as well as the utopian and dystopian views of technology and the Internet: the Internet does not bring together only a company’s/person’s/idea supporters but also their opponents)
  • usability
  • member characteristics
  • policy and safety

The application

The bad

Most of the examples we looked at, showing user generated content “gone bad” stem from the companies’ poor understanding of social media, poor research into the target audiences and online communities or the underestimation of how online communities react and communicate.

The good

Some of these examples show the positive reaction and engagement of users in social media campaigns, other show the users unpromted reviews of products/services or reactions to current events.

  • Dunkin Donuts’ #Coolatta campaign.
  • Daym Drops’ epic review of Five Guys Burgers & Fries.
  • the very visually and creativity driven #whitecupcontest from Starbucks
  • Cameron’s Conference Rap by Cassetteboy (made possible by new changes in legislation in the UK which make parody videos legal)
  • Other examples include Litter Robot and their YouTube competition, #UWRightNow campaign of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Tourism Queensland and Iceland wants to be your friend. You can read more about them on Mashable and Postano’s blog.

Learning points for your strategy engagement_Thunderbird 2014

  • Prepare the audience (know the rules of the platforms; user expectations)
  • Assess your risks and benefits
  • Think of the balance between the user value vs the brand value (this should be informed by user needs vs brand needs)

Make sure you check Thurderbird’s Engagement 3.0 report.

Goals. Objectives. Tactics (L5)

We have dedicated this week looking at the concept of strategy and how its main elements – goals, objectives, tactics and KPIs – can be formulated so that they provide clarity, clear purpose as well as a more staighforward way of assesing effectiveness.

While we have defined terms we also noted the differences some of the disciplines informing this course bring.

We have concluded however that we will generally define strategy as a plan that lays out what one wants to do and how it will be achieved.

Strategy: What you want to achieve and how you are going to achieve it?

A good strategy relies on a good understanding of the business/communication environment. This includes both internal and external factors, competitors as well as the business itself. This will help strenghten your ideas and help you formulate better goals (goals are general, conceptual statements about what the business would want to achieve).


To be met goals will have to be “split” into smaller, more measurable statements that reflect your desired outcomes (or Key Performance Indicators – KPIs). Well formulated objectives should provide information on the target audience and the channels used, based on which both the tactics and the plan to implement them will be developed. Also, objectives and goals need clear verbs such as improve, support, change, maintain which, to a degree, give a sense of direction.

Goals can be related to reputation, relationship or task. Objectives are based on awareness, acceptance or action. KPIs are based on knowledge, presiposition and behaviour. Goals are more general. Objectives are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely (SMART). Chaffey has some good advice on setting goals.

Now consider a mix and match:

Goals Objectives Outcomes
reputation awareness knowledge
relationship acceptance predisposition
task action behaviour

Remember, goals dictate objectives, objectives dictate tactics. The choice of channel comes last.

Here’s an example:

Goal: Reputation

Outcome 1: Knowledge

Objective 1: Create buzz for x client over the 3 weeks of the campaign

Objective 2: Increase positive associations of x client with y% at the end of the 3 weeks of campaign

The tactics and metrics associated with the client and campaign can be determined from here, the choice depending on the target audience and the USP of the client.

Remember that digital media can be used for a lot of purposes including sales, customer service, business intelligence and which can aid advertising, marketing, public relations and human resources efforts. The clearer you are with what you want to achieve from the start the easier it is to stay focused but also to monitor progress and measure effectiveness.


  • The Zero Moment of Truth (includes handook, videos and other useful resources)
  • Chris Brogan’s blog on social media strategy
  • Brogan, C. (2010) Social Media 101: Tactics and Tips to Develop Your Business Online, John Wiley and Sons, London. (Google Books preview available)
  • Safko, L. (2010) The Social Media Bible: Tactics, Tools, and Strategies for Business Success, John Wiley & Sons, London. (Google Books preview available)
  • Scott, DM., (2007), The New Rules of Marketing & PR, John Wiley, London. (Google Books preview available)


Web trends. Web culture (L4)

Digital media is changing at a fast pace.

Social Media Trends

Some of the trends predicted at the end of 2013 – such as the rise of image services, mobile growing in importance – have already been fulfilled this year. The companies and groups that have incorporated these changes have been winning the digital space. This includes Ikea and the British Monarchy but there are many more out there doing a great job – see Instangram and Pinterest.

The key elements to keep in mind for the next year are:

  • integration of channels and types of media but also of offline and online strategy (see links below for readings on the importance of aligning the online strategy with the offline one)
  • dominance of visual communications (this includes both video, short video, photograhs, infographics and more)
  • personalisation (this includes hyper-personalisation too)
  • automation (this mainly refers to big data, planning and automated insights)
  • mobile

However, these are only trends of practice and technological development that influence how communication industries implement their plans. The implications of these developments are wider and with a much larger impact. To determine and fully understand them, an incursion into the theories that have defined the web and the scholar’s views about this environment are needed.

Web Culture

We are usually aware of the positives related to the emergence and rise of the Internet. We celebrate the growing rates of Internet adoption and penetration around the world, increasing in many cases our demands and claims for accessibility (see here the expectation to have wi-fi in hotels and restaurants while abroad and the demands of reducing or even cutting of roaming costs including data roaming). But access to the Internet, like every technology, comes at a cost. The assumptions that “everyone has access to the Internet” or that “everyone should know how to use the Internet” lead to in some cases to a widening digital divide and in others to a wider discussion about media literacy and human rights.

Digital Divide

For instance, access to the Internet also requires knowledge of how to use it. This is why, in many cases, deciding to move an entire aspect of a business online can negatively affect the service and contact with some users who either do not have the technology, do not know how to use it or both. Instead, what organisations should do, is provide customers multiple options of contact. While doing that, organisations should also consider the human and financial implications of a wider contact option provided to their customers and stakeholders.

Responsibility. Utopian and dystopian views of the Internet.

This also brings questions about whose responsibility is it to ensure people have access to the Internet. Finland’s access to broadband as a human right in 2010 puts the connection within the responsibility of local/national governments. This, however, has been expanded to also cover promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression as called by United Nations Special Rapporteur.
Such an inclusion has multiple meanings: one the one hand it recognises the necessity of an infrastructure for the technology to be used, on the other hand it recognises that conflicting interests that would lead some to use the internet. These interests (and the fact that technology gains value depending on who uses it) is made especially clear by Evgeny Morozov and his “Net Delusion” book (on myBU).


The Hive Mind

Morozov’s dystopian view of the Internet, is countered by many other utopian views (see utopialist). Some, for instance, are focusing on the he advantages of connectivity, of working remotely and reaching out to people and communities that think alike without being bound to the traditional setup of offline organizations. Check Shirky’s (2008) book Here comes everybody (excerpts available on myBU) for more details.

But crowdsourcing (an alternative term for the hive mind) has its pitfalls too:

  • when associated with idea generation questions about ownership, intellectual property, copyright and exploitation of the concepts need to be answered;
  • when associated with funds, the purpose, use and alternative uses of the funds in case the original project does not come to fruition need to be disclosed;
  • when associated with collecting data (whether for a university research project, market research or governmental reporting), the uses as well as the methods of data collection and disclosure need to be communicated openly.

The Cult of the Amateur

The growth in popularity and use of Internet, like with the growth in popularity of reality-tv and talent shows, reflect a societal trend according to which talent is hidden in plain sight and can be discovered or uncovered with the aid of technology. This is what also feeds the myth of the user generated content (the easiness to instill it, the easiness with which is created and its value). We’ll revisit user generated content later in the semester when we’ll speak about audiences and later on about content development and planning.

However, far from being positive, Andrew Keen (2007), describes a rather a apocalyptic view of the Internet when speaking about the cult of the amateur. He suggests that without standards, taste, and institutions to filter the content that the amateurs will produce, the Internet will surely destroy us (check also Lessig’s review, especially his reaction to intellectual property claim Keen makes).  If you were to consider any of these 5 singers dubbed the next Rebecca Black , you could argue that Keen is right.

Technological determinism

This is very much about the relationship we have with technologies and whether technology drives what we do or vice versa. Neil Postmas’s Amusing Ourselves to Death is a particularly good read.


Think of Forthsquare, Farmville or any other online space with games-like features where the users get into a high state of concentration and engagement. Gamification is not easy. It requires a story-line, it needs to credible and it needs to grow gradually increasing the level of the challenge as the story progresses. Some great examples are here.

The Long Tail

Is mostly about segmentation and online communities. You can see Chris Anderson’s own explanation here.




Csikszentmihalyi on Flow 

Epstein, D., Nisbet, E.C. and Gillespie, T. (2011). Who’s Responsible for the Digital Divide? Public Perceptions and Policy Implications. The Information Society, 27: 2, 92 — 104.

Keen, A. (2008)  The Cult of the Amateur: How blogs, MySpace, YouTube and the rest of today’s user-generated media are killing our culture and economy. Nicholas Brealey Publishing Ltd.

Morozov, E., 2012. The Net Delusion. Public Affairs.

Shirky, C., (2008). Here Comes Everybody. Allen Lane.

Practitioner response to the brief (L3)

Although this year you will not be sourcing your own clients but rather work on a brief that we provide you with, the way you respond to a business problem is similar whether you seek it or it comes to you.

Research is essential

Research is at the foundation of understanding the client, its business/communication context, its needs as well as those of its target audience.

Without it, you will not be able to produce the right message for the right people to reach them in the right place as Jules has put it. Please make sure you check last year’s lecture notes as they very well apply to your brief.

Additionally, a good understanding of how social and digital media work and what motivates people to communicate, engage and share content online is also important. Remember particularly our definition of social media from our second lecture when we stressed that this an environment focused on people, their friends, needs and interests and therefore is an environment where disruption is not necessarily constructive. Moreover, when deciphering your briefs and seeking the audience and the right channel, also remember that each online platform is, in itself a business, with its own target audiences and “service” offer. Your challenge is therefore finding where your client’s audience can be found online and how your client can positively contribute to the audience’s experience online.

Jules’ lecture (see slides on myBU) also provided you with good and bad examples of understanding and tackling that challenge.

This is a pitch

So please do not contact your clients (when you get them). In a business scenario, when you will receive a brief you will be expected to treat it as the definite piece of information from your client. It is therefore expected that you use your resources and creativity to find out more about the client and make your proposal.

Introduction (L1) and the Digital Media Landscape (L2)

Welcome to the new semester and the new academic year at BU!

We started this week with an overview of digital media and the course, its aims and assessment.

Here are some of the premises that inform this course and that we’ll use as guiding principles:

  • digital media is continuing grow at a fast pace
  • digital media is a very cluttered space
  • digital media jobs do not always maintain the purity of the degrees you are currently pursuing (knowing how to cross the line between PR, advertising, marketing and politics/political communication will be an asset so learn from one another)

Your assignment this semester, therefore, is an opportunity to work for a real client on a real problem inviting you to use both your critical and analytical skills as well as your creativity to propose to them digital media strategy and campaign.

Details about the assessment are included in the Unit Guide, already shared on myBU. Further details on word count, submission, deadlines, plagiarism and support are also included in the document.

The digital media landscape: not so new, very cluttered and user focused

We spent our second lecture talking about the current digital media landscape reflecting on the recent history of the web and the changes and expectations it brought with it.

As we were starting DCS last year, Google had changed its search algorithm and Instagram had launched the 15 seconds video. Now Instagram has its new lapse feature, Google continues to innovate with its algorithm while also expanding its affiliated services and video is really taking over the web.

(not so) New media

While exploring the some of the major points in the history of social media, more than once we emphasized that platforms that are currently popular have been around for at least ten years. This interactive history of social media from avalaunchmedia is quite insightful.

The new services and platforms emerging are therefore packaging, in many cases, concepts seen before updating them to the behavious, demands and technology available today. For instance, photo services like Photobucket but also Polaroid inspired platforms like Instagram that combined their community features and shareable content with smarphone app technology.

The growth of interest, adoption and penetration of social media reflect similar patterns with the adoption of websites in the 1990s, a new medium at the time perceived to enable companies to control their own messaging while also reaching wider audiences at reduced costs compared to traditional media. As companies, big and small, get more ethustiastic about the new media considering their potential, consumers’ skepticism grows. The examples and inforgraphics in the Prezi will make that difference in vision obvious.

This presents a need for digital media literacy which includes a technical vocabulary, an understanding of technology and how it works as well as the various forms in which (shared, owned, earned, social or highjacked) media content can be created and disseminated.

This also highlights a need to understand strategy, develop and implement it. The Digital Communication Strategies unit will address most of these needs.

We also indicated that at the core of social media lie the elements specific to web 2.0, namely the rich user experience, the perpetual beta, nieche audiences. Of particular relevance here is Chris Anderson’s “Long Tail” which highlights the importance of nieche and bespoke audiences and their loyalty and support of online brands and concepts. Moreover, understanding at the centre of social media is the user and its experience is essential, too many companies and organizations online nowadays continuing to use social media as mouthpiece which, in the long term, can be more detrimental than not havaing any social media presence at all. We will revisit these concepts throughout the semester.

Further readings:



Job hunting 2.0 – lecture 21

We finished our series of lectures this semester by looking at some creative approaches to job hunting for two reasons: there are more social media/digital media jobs available and employers pay more attention to what candidates do online. Check these two articles on Forbes about jobs that did not exist 10 years ago and about how and why employers use social media for recruitment.

Getting noticed as well as being able to demonstrate that not only you understand but also actively use social media are two important elements when seeking such jobs.

Your options therefore include:

For some examples o where to find social media jobs, traineeships and placements please check the final slide on the Prezi below.

Campaign evaluation – lecture 20

For the last week of lectures this seminar (we’ll have drop-in tutorials next week), it is time to have a look at your group project and what it entitles. During our Monday lecture we revisited the brief looking again at what would be expected in each section and reminding you what content/lectures to check that can help you in writing up those sections.

Anna has also posted on myBU a document with some more advice (is in the announcement section) which I highly recommend that you check.

Your report for this assignment should be based on your critical analysis and reflection of what you have done with your group project. The emphasis therefore should be on your in depth justification of your choices (of digital media, of strategy) and of your decisions (measurement, tools, planning, strategy adaptation and more) as well as on the specificity of your target audience and objectives.

Goals, objectives, tactics

These are very important in every campaign. Please revisit lectures 5 and 6.

Remember that goals are general and conceptual, while objectives are specific and measurable. A goal usually has more than objective. Lecture 5 provides you one example of working towards SMART objectives, by making you think of how you link your goals with your outcomes or KPIs.

Beth Kanter‘s post and embedded powerpoint provides you with very good examples on how you conceptualize and operationalize your goals and objectives. Chaffey also has some good advice on setting goals. For more information also check AMEC’s valid metrics framework.

Below there are also some more examples, inspired from Olivier Blanchard’s book (Social Media ROI – on your reading list).

Goal: Increase sales

Objective: Increase frequency of purchase with X% among target group by week Y of campaign

Tactics: Use Facebook to provide target audience with discounts for repeated purchases (this then becomes increase frequency of purchase coming from Facebook discounts with x% among target group by the end of the campaign)


  • positive of net new mentions of product/company
  • number of likes before/during campaign
  • number of shares during campaign
  • click-throughs on offer related links
  • number of repeated purchases/customer

Goal: Relationship – Improve customer service

Objective: Increase by x% the number of inquiries solved via social media by the end of the campaign

Tactics: Use Twitter account as customer service outlet (this then becomes increase x% of inquiries solved via twitter)


  • number of mentions qualifying as an inquiry (per week/per month/per campaign)
  • number of replies qualifying as an answer to an inquiry (per week/per month/per campaign)
  • ratio of inquiry to response messages (per week/per month/per campaign)
  • number of solved inquiries by the end of the campaign
  • Target audience

Make sure that your target audience shows careful consideration, is a reflection of your consideration of your positioning in comparison with your competitors. Lecture 6 has more details on segmentation. Also check the demographic classification for the UK.

The implementation of the campaign

Your content plans are highly important here. Paul Sheehy’s lecture (on myBU) about storytelling and the lecture on user generated content can be useful for this section. Explain how your content plan is appropriate for the goals and objectives you set up and justify your implementation of the plan.

The evaluation of the campaign

This section requires you to examine and evaluate the results of your campaign. Make sure you justify the metrics you chose. Having SMART multiple objectives that reflect your goals should help. How do the metrics chosen reflect your goals and objectives. Did everything go to plan? If not, how and why did you adapt – your plan, your objectives, your monitoring, your measurement? What are the strenghts/weaknesses of the measurement tools/formulas you used? What are the strenghts/weaknesses of your tactics?

Conclusions and Recommendations

Was your campaign successful? If yes, how? If not, why? Should you continue the campaign, what would you recommend doing. Please ensure that these recommendations are so specific that the person taking over from you can take over and implement them.

Read more:

Social Media ROI – lecture 19

Brad Fry’s lecture was a good introduction to our discussion about ROI. His reference to conversion funnels and their associated models has been particularly useful, information which I recommend that you revisit when preparing to write your campaign evaluation section for your group projects.

To further clarify and expand on the discussion about measurement and evaluation of social media efforts, our lectures focused on the views of two practitioners: Olivier Blanchard, known as thebrandbuilder and author of the book Social Media ROI, and Susan Etlinger, Industry Analyst with Altimeter Group and author of A Framework for Social Media Analytics, including six use cases for social media measurement.

1. There is no such thing as social media ROI.

Social media is a channel. ROI is a business metric, a financial equation related to the gain and cost of a specific activity. Hence, ROI is not channel specific BUT ACTIVITY specific.

So next time someone asks you to tell them about the ROI of social media, ask them to rephrase their question and be specific. The question should really be what is the ROI of x activity in social media undertaken in y time frame?

2. There is only one way to calculate ROI.

ROI = (Gain from Investment – Cost of investment)/ Cost of investment

In order to be able to calculate ROI, you to need to think about your objectives as well as about how you will obtain them. In this sense, the process from investment to financial impact needs to go though action (as in your tactics), reaction (as in the target audience reaction to your tactics) and non-financial impact (in metrics, targets that you will use to evaluate the impact of your action) before you can actually calculate ROI. To make this process more straightforward, you should think of actions in terms of “before” and “after” or “cause” and “effect” terms.

Establishing a baseline, creating activity timelines, analysing sales revenue and number of transactions, accounting for transactional precursors, overlaying data and looking for patterns should be part of your planning and analysis. Olivier Blanchard’s slides below together with this post and video will give you more details about these steps. Pay particular attention to the F.R.Y (frequency/reach/yield) method to evaluate transactions. Olivier’s powerpoint below has more details about FRY.

3. Reporting ROI should as simple as the formula is.

It should include clear information both about the gain from as well as cost from the investment. Blanchard’s post about 101 success stories will show you how a correct reporting a ROI should look like. Here’s a good example:

38. IBM. Crowd-sourcing identified 10 best incubator businesses, funded for $100 million, generating $100 billion in total revenue for a 10-to-1 ROI with a 44.1% gross profit margin. (Barnraisers, 2010 cited in Blanchard, 2012)

4. ROI is just ONE element in the social media measurement toolkit.

As I have already indicated in previous lectures, that social and digital media can be used for a variety of purposes from sales to human resources, issues and crisis management or research and development. Only some of these goals and objectives would generate revenue, hence only some of these activities could generate ROI. (This is one of the reason why you need to revise and adapt the click attribution models presented by Brad Fry as well). For all other objectives, there are other measurements to be used.

Susan Etlinger’s Social Media Measurement Compass published in her Framework for Social Media Analytics represents 6 specific business uses for social media. Out of the 6, ROI can be clearly attached to only 2 of them. To all the others, measurements could include sentiment, conversation, influence, reach….They are not ROI. So when you talk about measurement of customer experience or innovation, be clear about what you measure and call it what it actually is.

Susan also offers a list of themes, insights, metrics and actions related to each of the 6 goals as well as a sample list of measurement formulas. While I find the examples to which the formulas are linked to be quite broad, I believe there is merit in her attempt to provide a more focused approach to measurement.

We’ll have a chance to explore in more depth analytics and metrics and the way they answer/reflect objectives in the lectures to follow. In that context, we’ll revisit Susan’s challenges of social data.

5. Objectives need to be SMART. Objectives dictate tactics. Tactics dictate metrics. Metrics indicate what analytics and analytics tools you can use.

Remember that you need to use social media strategically not because it is there or just because you can. A strategic use includes the evaluation of the ways in which social media can help you achieve your goals as well as the analysis of the degree to which social media has helped you achieve them.

Measuring the brand universe – Folk Digital guest lecture – lecture 17

After having dedicated two weeks to exploring the analytics tools available for the most commonly used social media platforms and think about how we can best assess whether you met your goals and objectives, we have invited Brad Fry, Director of Strategy Insights (@BradFry) at Folk (@Folkdigital), a story-telling agency based in Poole, to speak about how they measure their social media campaigns. Brad’s work includes using “web analytics and business intelligence tools to gather insights into Folk’s client’s businesses or target markets” which help provide insight that drives and influences strategy.

Brad’s powerpoint is on myBU and I highly recommend that you go revisit it. While very focused on the ROI aspect of online measurement, Brad’s presentation makes a lot of valuable remarks. I’ll highlight them below.

Brad started his talk with a re-cap of what a brand universe encompasses, that is the totality of channels used by a brand to communicate with their target audience(s) and have contact with them. There are over 100 channels at marketers’ disposal (revisit the lectures from the beginning of the semester about the social media landscape) however most companies, and in particular SMEs with which most of you currently work for your projects, use only a limited number of these and they usually include websites, blogs, Facebook, Twitter and email.

The traditional ROI model

Brad spoke about the traditional ROI (return on investment) model that puts emphasis on the conversion rates and transaction averages. His example is below:

If your website has 50,000 visits @ 2% conversion rate = 1,000 sales

1,000 sales @ £50 ATV (average transaction value) = £50,000

While this model is simple and easy to use it is only fit for transactions at the peak of the conversion cycle – that is those actions that lead a user to a purchase. However, a user’s activity online is not always so directly related to a purchase. On the contrary, a user’s interaction with a brand universe can be repeated and in various forms (via Facebook, search, a mention on Twitter), which means that the current model disregards all those intermediary steps which lead to the final conversion. This explains perhaps the reason why customer service and public relations have been struggling in the past to justify their effectiveness, impact and value of their efforts.

The multi-channel attribution model.

So if our 50,000 visits lead to @ 10% signup rate => 5,000 subscribers

10% of subscribers become customers within 12 months =>  500 customers

 25% of customers become loyal, and purchase 3 times a year

The multi-channel attribution model therefore considers the contributions towards the end target of each channel. It relies heavily on Google Analytics and the way in which conversions are defined by the platform (this is mainly because Google Analytics is free and is usually part of the analytics toolkit).

Google Analytics tracks and reports: 

1.Where you came from
2.If you’ve been here before
3.What you looked at
4.What you searched for
5.What you bought

All the activity therefore happening outside Google Analytics (and a lot of it does – such as emails opened, posts on Facebook, content viewed on YouTube and more) is therefore unaccounted for. Therefore, to be able to measure these efforts one should have a brand/communications hub, a presence to which all activities on social media are channeled towards. This is why, for businesses in particular with financial goals, having a website or blog is highly recommended (as they can use Google Analytics to track these elements of conversion).

Multi-channel funnels

The multi-channel attribution model operates with various funnels, that is provides more weight (or importance) to one element out of all the user’s interactions with the brand within the brand universe.

Brad’s example was that of a user’s purchase of a dress (a process which takes place over two weeks):

  • A shopper reads a post we wrote on Medium about party wear, she bookmarks the page.
  • She signs up to our newsletter and likes us on Facebook
  • She visits the site three more times from email and Facebook links
  • She visits the site after searching for [cocktail dresses]
  • She visits the site after clicking a bookmark (last click)
  • She buys a dress

The Last Click model

The last click model, in calculating ROI, would consider as relevant (and therefore give credit to) only the final action before the completion of the purchase (the bookmark click, in our example). This means that all other interactions are unaccounted and disregarded.

The First Click Model

The first model on the other hand will credit the action that triggered the brand interactions, therefore the one that enabled the user to discover the brand. In Brad’s example this would be discovery of a post on Medium. While this could be particularly useful for instance of public relations, marketing and advertising campaigns, as Brad very well points out most platform reports back data from the point of purchase up to 90 days. This means that high engagement products (university courses could fit in here as well), this model does not assess the true first click but rather the most-recent first click (in that 90 days spectrum).

The Last Non-Direct Click Model

The Last non-direct click model attributes value to the first before last point of conversion. In Brad’s example this is search (or paid search). Like with the previous models, while this can help calculate the value of one channel, it disregards the input and value of the others.

This leads therefore to

The Linear Attribution Model

This model, to address the challenges of the funnels discussed before, proses to provide an equal share to all brand interactions leading to the purchase. This means that all actions in Brad’s model will be considered to have had an equal influence on the shopper and her purchase decision. While this solves the problem of attribution it also brings the challenge of maintaining a competitive edge between the channels.

The Time Decay Attribution Model

This model provides different wight to all channels depending on the recency they have been interacted with. Therefore, the oldest the interaction, the less the weight and influence towards the final purchase. This is by far a better model than the last click attribution one even if it still provides more importance to the last transaction.

The Position Based Attribution Model

Is a combination between all. It provides more weight to the first and last click and distributes (either equally or otherwise if your strategy requires so) the remaining weight to the intermediate channels. This is something worth considering however, this model too has its challenges, confirmation bias (changing the percentages to reflect your results) being its biggest.

Challenges with measurement

Brad’s final part of the lecture was dedicated to reflecting on the challenges of measurement in particular to those providing a single customer view. With the possibility of accessing content not only via a variety of platforms but also via a variety of devices, tracking a customer’s journey and interaction with the brand becomes very difficult if not impossible. This makes reporting, particularly of unique visitors ineffective since a unique visitor will always be considered via the entry point he/she makes to the platform. So if a user visits the website via their desktop computer and then again from their tablet, it will be reported as two unique visitors rather than one. This is the same with mobile interactions.

How does this apply to DCS?

Brad’s talk was very insightful however the conversion funnels that presented are more extensive than the kind of activities that you undertake part of the DCS group project. The attribution models however (conversion funnels) can also be used in relation to your campaign objectives but you need to consider in that case how much of your work can be captured, monitored and measured that way. Perhaps the time decay and position based models should be the ones you should consider at this point, particularly when thinking about the interplay between the three channels that you use.

As for a general learning point, Brad’s lecture emphasizes how important it is to have an understanding of measurement concept and of the advantages and disadvantages of the tools used. Finally, a clear, logical assessment of what is that you measure linked targets and objectives is essential.