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Written by Doug Bryan, Vice President, Analytics, iCrossing with Dan Crumley, Jeff Edwards, and Stan Pugsley

The numbers are impressive: Facebook has more than 900 million active users posting 3.2 billion likes and comments each day;1 and its estimated that Twitter has 500 million members2 generating 33 billion tweets per day.3 The opportunities for marketers to build connected brands in real time through social media are staggering. And yet, many marketers are still groping their way through social media, missing opportunities to build their brands because they lack accurate ways to measure the value of social relative to other digital and traditional media outlets. To complicate matters, leading social networks have created novel metrics that make comparison difficult even within the same network.4 No wonder the CEO of the Association of National Advertisers commented, Digital, which we thought was going to be the most measurable medium, turned out to be the least measurable.5 Its clear that brands need a way to measure social like any other media in order to maximize its value. This white paper introduces a new framework to measure the value of social media against other forms of paid, earned and owned media.
Our criteria for good metrics are: + Useful: Can it be used to compare results between posts, social media networks or media types? + Transparent: Is it easy to understand in seconds with no hidden parts? + Actionable: When the metric changes significantly, is it clear what to do? Our framework consists of posts, themes, impressions, engagements and conversions, and metrics for each. But, more importantly, we intend to help you build a connected brand with social.


Key features of our measurement framework are: + Measure impressions, engagement, and shares per post + Measure conversions + Segment all measurements by content calendar theme


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The following diagram illustrates the framework:


increase relevance

impression engage

post -----------theme



followers of followers

Posts are published into the social graph, creating impressions among a brands immediate social circle or followers. (In order to use the same term for all social media platforms, we always call the inner circle followers.) Some visitors engage with a post, increasing its relevance and potentially generating more impressions among brand followers. A special kind of engagement, simply called a share, generates impressions beyond the brands followers, among the brands followers followers. Its this leap outside of a brands inner circle that holds so much promise for increasing reach and conversions. After all, word-of-mouth earned media is the most trusted kind of advertising.6 The high-level framework metric categories are: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Social graph: the static structure of the social network, including the number of brand followers, the number of brand followers followers, etc. Posts: number of posts per month, number of posts by theme, etc. Impressions: total earned impressions7 Engagement: any kind of engagement with a post, such as the number of likes, comments, clicks, shares, etc. Sharing: engagement that generates impressions among followers followers Conversion



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Measurement filters
There are a number of measurement filters that allow marketers and analytics teams to drill in to better understand performance. The following filters may be applied to any metric: + Content calendar theme: We recommend always including brand and non-brand as themes. Brand posts are from the brand itself and non-brand posts are by followers and followers followers. Content calendar themes may include product categories or brand attributes. For example, product categories for a big box retailer may include skin care and summer clothes, while the retailers brand attributes may include high quality and great service. Posts may have multiple themes, such as a post about high-quality summer clothes. + Post format: These are attributes of a post, such as length, number of brand mentions, number of links or the actual post format, e.g., text, image, video, etc. Research has shown, for example, that the number of brand mentions in a post negatively impacts sharing.8 + Calendar part: Time of day, day of week, day of month and month that posts occurred. + Network used: Facebook, Twitter, etc. + Device: Whether the visitor was using a desktop computer, tablet or phone. The device can greatly affect engagement. For example, for one client of iCrossing, the top social networks driving desktop traffic to their website are Yelp, reddit, Twitter and YouTube, while the top networks driving mobile traffic are Facebook, Yelp, Twitter and Google+. + Trend: Compare metrics to the same metric yesterday (day over day change), last week (week over week), last month (month over month) and last year (year over year). + Velocity: Count per day, per week or per month. For example, engagements per day. + Longevity: The number of days that the count has been greater than zero. For example, days that a post received impressions. Many Facebook posts have low longevity of just one or two days, while blog posts that get high SEO positions can receive impressions for months. + Target demographic: These filters only count events from visitors who are in the brands target demographic segment. For example, if the brand is targeting men between the ages of 35 to 64, this filter would only report impressions, engagements, shares and conversions for people in that segment. Note that this data is not available for all events or all social networks.

Social graph
A brands followers are what scientists call within one degree of the brand. Followers followers are two degrees from the brand, and so on. The number of people within a couple of degrees of a brand is a key driver of total impressions since thats how many people you could reach through sharing. On average, everyone on Facebook is within 4.7 degrees of each other.9 People who follow a brand often already think highly of that brand and are good customers. But is there any reason to think that followers of followers could also be good customers? Yes, as indicated by the old adage that birds of a feather flock together. People who like a brand are more likely than average to know others who may also like that brand. In fact, telemarketing campaigns have shown that targeting followers of a brands followers can increases sales 300 to 500 percent.10 Also, people are more likely to share posts from followers of their followers than to share posts from their immediate followers.11 There are a couple of reasons for this. First, information from close friends is often redundant since close friends share many of the same information sources. Second, its a numbers game: you have a lot more followers of followers than you have followers. The importance of followers' followers is well known in offline social network research12 and its encouraging to see that theyre important in online social networks as well.



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Key features of our measurement framework are: + Number of followers + Number of followers' followers + Churn rate: un-followers / followers + Potential amplification: number of followers' followers / number of followers + Reciprocity: number of people or brands that the brand follows / number of followers Reciprocity measures whether a brand is involved in its social network or if it is just using social media like email to blast messages. Since reciprocity is key to developing trust in offline social networks, it may also be important online.

Posts metrics are relatively simple, just counting and percentages: + Number of posts + Theme share: number of posts in a specific theme / total number of posts + Format share: number of posts of a specific format, e.g., images, videos, etc.) / total number of posts

While much has been written about customer equity13, follower equity is new and rapidly evolving as social media visitor behavior matures and social networks change their ranking algorithms. There are at least three components to follower equity: + Conversion: the follower converts by purchasing something, filling out a survey, etc. + Engagement: engagement with a post increases the posts relevance, therefore increasing the likelihood of additional impressions. This is similar to the way clicks on Google searches increase rankings. + Sharing: directly increasing impressions. A 2011 comScore study of Facebook sharing showed that, on average, a followers share is seen by 12 percent of their followers, or 34 people.14 However, for the 1,000 Facebook pages with the most followers, that increases to 81 people, so each follower share generates an additional 81 impressions. This multiplier effect decreases as the number of followers increase:

followers (MM) 10 20 30 40

followers of followers multiplier 50 30 25 20

followers of followers impressions (MM) 500 600 750 800

For example, Starbucks has 24 million followers on Facebook.15 Not all of their followers see every brand post, but enough do to generate three percent reach, or three percent of U.S. internet users. Some of those followers share posts, which their followers see, generating another five percent reach, for a total of eight percent of all U.S. internet users. Now, if the followers followers also shared the post, then that would generate impressions among followers followers followers. However, research indicates that most posts do not propagate that far.16



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Key impressions metrics are: + Number of followers + Number of impressions + Cost per 1,000 impressions (CPM) + Reach + Frequency + Impressions / post + Impression rate: impressions / follower (This, of course, can exceed 100 percent through sharing) + First degree impression rate: impressions among followers / followers + Second degree impression rate: impressions among non-followers / followers of followers + 1M club: number of posts with 1 million impressions + 100K club: number of posts with 100,000 impressions + 10K club: number of posts with 10,000 impressions As with most of the metrics described, not all of them are readily available for all social networks.

An engagement is any interaction with a post or brand, such as playing a posted video, liking a posted photo, mentioning a brand on Twitter or writing a comment to a blog post. Less than one percent of the followers of the 200 biggest brands on Facebook engage with brand posts. If you exclude likes, that number drops to only 0.45 percent of followers that engage with brand posts.17 This, of course, varies greatly by brand. For example, one MTV show has a 45 percent engagement rate (engagements/ impressions).18 Engagement metrics include: + Number of engagements + Cost per engagement + Engagement post frequency: engagements / post + Engagement rate: engagements / impressions + Reach: percentage of the population that engaged + Frequency: average number of times a person engaged + 1M club: number of posts with one million engagements + 100K club: number of posts with 100,000 engagements + 10K club: number of posts with 10,000 engagements + 1K club: number of posts with 1,000 engagements We dont call out clicks as a special engagement type because earned social media behaves more like display ads than paid search ads. Thus, much of the value is from impressions and engagements, not necessarily just clicks.19



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All shares are engagements, so the number of shares will always be less than or equal to the number of engagements. Share metrics are mostly the same as engagement metrics: + Number of shares + Cost per share + Shares post frequency: shares / post (Avinash Kaushik calls this the amplification rate20) + Shares rate: shares / impressions + Reach: percentage of the population that shared + Frequency: average number of times a person shared + 1M club: number of posts with one million shares + 100K club: number of posts with 100,000 shares + 10K club: number of posts with 10,000 shares + 1K club: number of posts with 1,000 shares + Reciprocal share rate: number of times the brand shares others posts / number of brand posts Reciprocal share rate measures whether the brand is only concerned with its own messages or is more broadly concerned with content that is relevant to its followers, regardless of the source. For example, if Coca-Cola posted a funny joke, should Pepsi share it? Probably not, since theyre fierce competitors. But what about non-competitive peers, suppliers and channel partners? For example, sharing Kraft Foods posts may be a good way for Safeway grocery stores to engage with their followers.

A conversion is a special kind of engagement that generates economic value or is the end goal of an online marketing effort. An IBM study found that shoppers clicking through to retail websites from Facebook are two to three times more likely than average to convert, indicating that social media finds good prospective customers.21 The metrics for conversions are similar to those for engagements. However, since conversions often take place outside of social media networks at a brands website, we limit conversions to those from people who have seen a social media impression. Conversion metrics are: + Number of conversions from people who received a social media impression + Cost per conversion (a.k.a. cost per action or CPA) + Conversion post frequency: conversions / post + Conversion rate: conversion / impressions + Conversions / engagement + Conversions / share + Reciprocal share rate: number of times the brand shares others posts / number of brand posts As with all metrics, not all conversion metrics are readily available on all networks.

Impression value
Impression value measures the business value of an impression and answers questions such as: + Is a Facebook impression worth more than a Twitter impression? If so, how much more? + Is a post on the theme of high quality worth more than a post about great service?
You must first understand the business value of impressions in order to measure the CPA or ROI of individual posts, post formats, content themes and social media networks. Conceptually, measuring value is straightforward. First, determine how you define worth by picking



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a single business goal, such as conversions, revenue or brand awareness. Then, use predictive analytics to identify relationships between events (impressions, engagements and shares) and the business goal. If necessary, run an experiment to validate that the relationships are causal. Three common approaches to this type of predictive analytics are: 1. 2. 3. Distributed attribution modeling Contributed attribution modeling Media mix modeling

Attribution modeling works well when you can record events individually and identify which visitor is involved. For example, when you can count impressions as well as who got the impressions and whether they later converted. Media mix modeling works well when you cannot track events at the visitor level, but can count events in aggregate. For example, if you know how many retweets there were, but dont know who retweeted them or whether those people eventually converted. There are two classes of attribution modeling, distributed and contributed, as shown in the following chart. Distributed attribution assigns all the value of a conversion to some combination of events, regardless of whether the events actually caused the conversion. For example, if a visitor sees one impression and then buys a $5,000 necklace, all the value of that purchase is assigned to the one impression, even if the visitor would have bought the necklace without the impression. The most common attribution model used today is last click or last touch, which is a distributed model where the last event gets all the credit. Distributed attribution models measure the likelihood to convert of people who saw impressions and thus actually measure ad targeting effectiveness rather than ad effectiveness.22 That is, they measure how well impressions get in front of those who convert.

first touch weighted by touch position equal weight equal weight equal weight modeled random segmented clone by touches clone by segment

distributed (a.k.a. response, targeting effectiveness)

contributed (a.k.a. incremental, uplift, ad effectiveness)

in-campaign split

post-campaign split

Contributed attribution models measure ad effectiveness, or how well impressions cause conversions. Contributed attribution modeling splits a population into two test groups, where one group gets the event being measured and the other group does not. Then, you compare conversions between the groups. During a campaign, you may split into groups based on randomly selecting visitors or based on a visitor segment such as geography. Geography is often used to measure paid search and TV ads.23 It is also common to split after the campaign during analysis based on the statistical similarities of groups.24 Media mix modeling has been used for decades on offline media where data is scarce. It may also be used to measure social media when impression-level data is unavailable. Media mix modeling requires deep statistical skills like those provided by full-service digital ad agencies such as iCrossing, and third-party service providers like MarketShare, ThinkVine and Marketing Management Analytics.25 Note that you can use these predictive analytics techniques to measure the value of any kind of event: posts, impressions, engagements or shares.



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The vital few metrics

The previous sections describe too many metrics to be actionable for many marketing managers. Pareto analysis has a wonderful concept of the vital few, commonly known as the 80-20 rule, whereby 80 percent of the value comes from 20 percent of the sources. It holds for metrics too. This section lists our recommendations on the vital few social media metrics. They are based on our framework and the simple model that: + Number of shares + Posts generate impressions + Impressions generate engagements, shares and more impressions + Impressions and engagements generate conversions

The vital few metrics are:

+ Posts Number of posts overall and by content calendar theme

+ Impressions Cost per 1,000 impressions Impressions overall and by theme Impressions per post overall and by theme

+ Engagements Cost per engagement Engagements overall and by theme Engagements per impression overall and by theme Engagements per post overall and by theme

+ Shares Cost per share Shares overall and by theme Shares per impression overall and by theme Shared per post overall and by theme

+ Conversions Cost per conversion Conversions per impression overall and theme Conversions per engagement overall and theme Conversions per share overall and theme



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Network-specific metrics
The data available from the different social networks varies greatly and the distribution of that data is likely to become a competitive advantage for the networks. Many of the metrics described above are not available on all networks. This section summarizes what is available using the categories in our framework.


followers, unfollows

fans, unlikes, friends of fans

subscribers, unsubscribers

Social Graph

followers, following, unfollowers



direct messages, tweets, retweets, replies

posts, comments, paid stories

uploads, comments


posts, comments, responses


accounts delivered to (a.k.a. reach), impressions (a.k.a. exposures)* favorites, clicks, user replies, retweets, direct messages

impressions, page views, unique page views, organic reach, paid reach, viral reach, total reach, photo views, external refers responses, comments, clicks, comment rate, video views, interactions, people talking about this shares, likes, shares/post, shares/impression, likes/post, likes/ impression

views, unique viewers, mobile, outside YouTube, referred views, viral views

views, photo views, video views

visitors, views


comments, likes, dislikes, favorites, popularity

comments, clicks, video views

comments, likes/ view, likes/post

retweets, mentions


embeds, shares, shares/view, shares/post, likes/view, likes/ post

+1, shares, shares/view, shares/post, +1/ views, +1/posts, mentions

shares, shares/ view, shares/post

* These are estimates from sources like TweetReach.com. Twitter does not report the number of accounts that a tweet was delivered to or the number of times it was viewed.



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To get started measuring social media, select a conversion action, some themes and a few social media networks. Select one or more conversion actions. Ideally, these will be the same as those that you use to measure other digital media. Examples include sales, revenue, website visits, website page views, time on site, submitting a find a store form, online registration, completing an application, foot traffic in stores and calling a call center. Select a few themes to start with. Pick some that the brand would like to promote, such as low prices and high quality, and some conversational ones such as retirement planning and summer vacations. Select a few social media networks. There are many to choose from in each country. In February 2012, the top U.S. social network sites, as measured by unique visitors, were Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, Myspace, Tumblr and Pinterest.26 Then start testing and learning. Test different post themes, time of day, day of week, formats and lengths to see what drives impressions, engagements, sharing and conversions.

Find out more at www.icrossing.com Call us toll-free at 866.620.3780 Follow us on twitter @icrossing and @thecontentlab Become a fan at facebook.com/icrossing




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1. Catharine Smith (2012) Facebook S-1 Amendment: New Stats from Q1 2012 and More, The Huffington Post, April 23, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/23/facebook-s-1-amendment_n_1446853.html 2. Shea Bennett (2012) Twitter on Track for 500 Million Total Users by March, Media Bistro, January 13, http://www.mediabistro.com/alltwitter/twitter-active-total-users_b17655 3. Dave Larson, (2012) Latest Twitter Stats and a Few Predictions, Tweet Smarter, February 23, http://blog.tweetsmarter.com/twitter-stats/infographic-latest-twitter-stats-and-a-few-predictions/ 4. David Cohen (2012) ALERT: Facebook page audiences will plummet, AllFacebook.com, March 28 http://www.allfacebook.com/insights-change-2012-03 5. 6. Jack Neff (2011) Coca-Cola, AT&T and others out to reinvent web measurement, Advertising Age, September 19 92% of consumers worldwide say that they trust earned media such as word of mouth from friends. Trust levels for other media are: 58% for owned online media, 50% for email ads, 36% for online video ads, 33% for online banner ads, 40% for SEM, 36% for ads on social network sites, 33% for mobile banner and video ads, 29% for mobile text ads, and 47% for paid TV, magazine and newspaper ads. See: Nielsen (2012) Global Consumers' Trust in 'Earned' Advertising Grows in Importance, press release, April 10 http://nielsen.com/us/en/insights/press-room/2012/nielsen-global-consumers-trust-inearned-advertising-grows.html 7. We dont use audience here to avoid confusion with traditional audience measurements used in TV and print advertising from firms like GfK MRI and Nielsen. 8. Thales Teixeira (2012) The new science of viral ads, Harvard Business Review, March, pg. 2527 http://hbr.org/2012/03/the-new-science-of-viral-ads 9. John Markoff and Somini Sengupta (2011) Separating you and me? 4.74 degrees, The New York Times, November 21 http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/22/technology/between-you-and-me-4-74-degrees.html Related Facebook blog post: http://www.facebook.com/notes/facebook-data-team/anatomy-of-facebook/10150388519243859 Academic research paper: L. Backstrom, P. Boldi, M. Rosa, J. Ugander and S. Vigna (2011) Four degrees of separation, http://arxiv.org/abs/1111.4570, November 19 10. Shawndra Hill, Foster Provost and Chris Volinsky (2006) Network-based marketing: identifying likely adopters via consumer networks, Statistical Science, 21(2):256276 http://www2.research.att.com/~volinsky/papers/statsci-hpv.pdf 11. Eytan Bakshy (2012) Rethinking information diversity in networks, Facebook Press Room (newsroom.fb.com), January 30 http://www.facebook.com/notes/facebook-data-team/rethinking-information-diversity-in-networks/10150503499618859 12. For example: Mark Granovetter (1973) The strength of weak ties, American Journal of Sociology, 78:1360-80. Mark Granovetter (1974) Getting a Job, University of Chicago. Ronald Burt (1992) Structural Holes: The Social Structure of Competition, Harvard University Press. Thomas Valente (1996) Social network thresholds in the diffusion of innovations Social Networks, Elsevier Science, 18:69-89. Morten Hansen (1999) The search-transfer problem: The role of weak ties in sharing knowledge across organization subunits, Administrative Science Quarterly, 44:82-111. Ronald Burt (2000) The Network Structure of Social Capital, chapter in Research in Organizational Behavior, Volume 22, Robert I. Sutton and Barry M. Staw (eds.), JAI Press 13. For example: Robert C. Blattberg, Gary Getz, Jacquelyn S. Thomas (2001) Customer Equity: Building and Managing Relationships as Valuable Assets, Harvard Business Press




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14. Andrew Lipsman, Graham Mudd, Mike Rich, Sean Bruich (2011) The power of like: How brands reach and influence fans through social media marketing, comScore and Facebook white paper, July 15. Kunur Patel (2011) What's a Facebook fan worth? Depends on how many friends they have, Ad Age Digital, July 26 16. Dunvan Watts, a top social network researcher and author of the seminal book Small Worlds, has observed that almost nothing spreads. Instead, the vast majority of all adoptions happen within just one degree of the seed. That is, the vast majority are friends of friends, not friends of friends of friends See an interview with Watts at, How we see it: Three senior executives on the future of marketing, McKinsey Quarterly, July 2011 17. Matthew Creamer (2012) Even sexy brands struggle with low engagement on Facebook, Advertising Age, February 28 18. Simon Dumenco (2012) How MTV and Its Shows Got to 100 Million Facebook Likes, Advertising Age (AdAge.com), March 22 19. 85% of the value of display ads is from impressions, not clicks. See, Understanding the New Consumers and Creating a Strategy to Reach Them, Gian Fulgoni, Executive Chairman, comScore, at Internet Retailer Conference, 2010. Results are based on a comScore / Starcom study. See also, The Click Remains Irrelevant: 'Natural Born Clickers' Return, comScore press release, September 14, 2009. http://www.comscore.com/Press_Events/Presentations_Whitepapers/2009/The_Click_ Remains_Irrelevant 20. Avinash Kaushik (2011) Best Social Media Metrics: Conversation, Amplification, Applause, Economic Value, October 10, http://www.kaushik.net/avinash 21. Facebook and IBM Marketing Solutions (2011) IBM and Facebook Present: Social Marketing and Measuring Impact, Webcast, December 1. Note however that such clicks are only 1% of retail website traffic. 22. A good paper on distributed attribution is, Xuhui Shao and Lexin Li (2011) Data-driven multi-touch attribution models, in Proceedings of the 17th ACM SIGKDD International Conference on Knowledge Discovery and Data mining (KDD), ACM Press 23. For example: Brendan Kitts, et al. (2010) Attribution of Conversion Events to Multi-Channel Media, in Proceedings of the Tenth IEEE International Conference on Data Mining, December 14 24. Donald B. Rubin and Richard P. Waterman (2006) Estimating the causal effects of marketing interventions using propensity score methodology, Statistical Science, 21(2):206222. Also Donald B. Rubin (2006) Matched Sampling for Causal Effects, Cambridge University Press 25. Luca Paderni (2011) The Forrester Wave: Marketing Mix Modeling, Q3 2011, Forrester Research, September 21 26. Facebook 159 million (m) unique visitors per month, YouTube 127m, Twitter 38m, LinkedIn 36m, Myspace 25m, Tumblr 21m, and Pinterest 18m. Source: comScore Media Metrix, February 2012.