Social Media: It CAN be measured too!

If you keep up with the local Austin startup scene or even with new social media services as they pop up, then surely you saw the announcement from Spredfast about their Social Media Campaign Management Dashboard product. It would easy to dismiss this as just another hype-laden announcement about a new social media tool, but that would be rather short-sighted in this case.

Ken Cho headshotI recently had the opportunity to spend upward of two hours on the phone with co-founder Kenneth Cho (virtual high-five to another UT-Austin MBA Alum!), first to learn the philosophy and history behind the product, and then to take a guided tour through it firsthand. What I learned is that these guys “get it”, and the best is yet to come.

You see, this product is an evolution of Ken and his partner, Scott McCaskill’s, previous venture, Social Agency. The previous organization was focused on actually managing the social media campaigns themselves on behalf of their large business clients. Given the slow adoption of social media to date in the enterprise space, Social Agency was able to do very well in that capacity. Almost too well; they found themselves overwhelmed with managing a variety of disparate tools and services on behalf of their clientele.

So the SpredFast concept was borne. SpredFast is intended to be a tool for social media campaign execution and engagement. What does that mean? They built it to help with getting messages out, scheduling them, tying in the multiple channels, and publishing to those channels (channels in this product are the multiple SocMed “tools” out there such as Twitter, Facebook, etc.). But they didn’t stop there, because there are free tools for many of these activities  (e.g. HootSuite, my personal favorite), and their intent was to monetize the product to create a real business (novel, huh?).

I must say, for a first release of the product, what I saw holds a great deal of promise.

SpredFast GUIThe first impressive thing you notice is the intuitive GUI and seamless integration across the various tools that are included on the first release (more to be added in the future) – most notably Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Flickr.  You can manage all tweets, status updates, video postings, and photographs from right within the SpredFast product, including RTs and the like.

Even more importantly, they listened to what we’ve all been screaming about and built a measurement system right into the product. The model, while not yet a full ROI calculation, should prove helpful for measuring the impact of your efforts on the conversation and the marketplace. And all statistics should be fully accurate, since the product uses APIs to collect the data directly from each channel.

The model as it stands today includes three key areas as follows:

  1. Engagement - A measurement of what actions result from your ongoing social media activities. This metric includes number of replies, comments, Re-Tweets, bit.ly clicks, Facebook “likes”, and many other affinity-related behaviors.
  2. Reach – A straightforward count of how many people your social media campaign is, well, reaching. Metrics include number of followers, Youtube subscribers, Facebook fans, and other standard counting numbers associated with “direct reach” (i.e. being connected to you or your brand directly). In the next revision of the product, they are even considering adding extended reach indicators such as friends-of-friends or followers-of-followers.
  3. Activity – Quite literally, this is a measure of how many things you are doing on the various channels, including things like number of messages, tweets, and links that are published through a particular campaign.

SpredFast Three Metrics

For now, these indicators are most useful in telling you how influential your activities are (Reach), and then helping you benchmark whether your level of Activity is generating the appropriate level of Engagement. If your Activity/Engagement ratio is too high or too low, you either need to change the level of activity or change the actual approach, because something is not working as intended. Return-on-investment? That would be a stretch in this iteration, but what it can do it show a return-on-activity in the form of engagement.

In our extensive conversation, we dug pretty deeply into philosophies about social media, where it fits, how important it was, and some key areas where this product can be built out to truly reach the vision that Ken and Scott have in mind. Of course, I won’t steal their thunder by going into too much of that detail here, but I do recommend that you give this product a look. Particularly for those of you in larger or mid-sized companies where social media is still a work-in-progress, it can offer a starting point for measuring and justifying your efforts.

What other tools have you seen out there that may rival this approach? Some of the established players do have similar models (as indicated in Aaron Strout’s guest post from last week), but who do you think is best poised to get this right? And most importantly, what do you want to see measured to better gauge whether your SocMed efforts are working or not? Let’s discuss, because the power of social comes from free sharing and discussion among us.