Social Media Forum
How do I know it's working?
Variety of tools aid in assessment
By Tom Wetzel
The questions most often asked by both agents and companies have to do with the value of social media. From those not yet participating in social media, the question is: All I see is lot of chatter—what's the value in that? From those already participating, the question is: How do I know whether or not my social media activity is producing any benefit?
The answer for both groups is the same—measurement.
The social media do generate measurable value, provided one participates in the right way. The trick is knowing what and how to measure.
In knowing what to measure, you first need to know what communications and information problems you intend to solve or what gaps you need to fill. Do your other communications tools such as brochures and press releases produce the results you want? Even if you aren't taking on new employees, is the quality of the current applicant pool acceptable, or could it be better? Could your customer retention rate be improved? How effective are your efforts to attract new business? Does the agency across town appear to be growing more rapidly than your firm?
If your company or agency is still trying to decide whether to jump onto the social media bandwagon, don't do it just because everyone is saying you should or because it is the hot new trend. Do it because you have specific objectives you intend to reach with its use.
Monitor & measure
If your company or agency is already participating, are you monitoring and measuring your activity?
By "monitoring" I do not mean checking your Facebook page once a day to see what comments have been posted. And by "measuring," I do not mean checking to see if the number of followers or friends on your site is increasing.
Monitoring and measuring a firm's social media activity is a constant process that needs to take place on three levels:
• Follow the conversations about your company—the praise and complaints and general comments and concerns.
• Follow the conversations about your competitors. What are they talking about and how are they responding to their followers and friends?
• Follow the conversations about insurance issues in general—what consumers like and don't like about agents and companies and what insurance concepts and practices they do not understand.
Aside from just reading the posts and tweets and blogs from other companies, agents and consumers, you should also measure the activity over time. Social media measurement is not just citing the number of tweets and the increase in traffic to your Web site.
There are dozens of possible metrics that can provide clues as to how your social media activity stacks up to the competition and what you can do to make it better. These include knowing what topics generate the highest traffic and what time of day produces the most posts.
Plenty of tools
At last count, there are more than 450 social media monitoring tools, ranging from free-of-charge to thousands of dollars per month. While the components found within most social monitoring tools are similar, the effectiveness of the tools varies widely.
Search capability: Tools review a variety of social media sources including blogs, microblogs, networks, etc. Because most tools do not cover all types of social media, it is important to utilize a variety of tools.
Content: Depth of content results vary by tool; therefore, it is important to utilize a variety of tools to ensure that important content is captured. All tools allow content to be accessed from within the site.
Analytics: While all tools search content of posts, some attempt to perform analysis to understand sentiment (positive, neutral, negative), strength/reach (likelihood your brand is being discussed), and passion (same authors repeatedly discussing the brand in a positive or negative manner). Analytics can be speculative, and a manual review of data is needed to understand how a brand is perceived.
Statistics: Some tools provide data concerning the average number of "mentions" per day, and last time mentioned. Some provide the ability to select the specific media to be reviewed (e.g., Facebook and Twitter only). Some tools provide frequency of keywords, sources, and users/authors.
History: Most tools provide the ability to search over a specified time period; however, duration differs by tool.
Dashboards/Reports/Graphs: Some tools offer trending of results by category over an extended period of time via dashboards, reports, and graphs. These often can be downloaded.
Some of the tools worth a look include Alterian SM2 , Radian6, Social Mention, Viralheat, Cision, Scout Labs, Addictomatic, TweetDeck, HootSuite, Google Alerts, and Twazzup.
Social media touch every insurance operation in some way and have the potential to deliver measurable benefits to every one of them. Companies and agencies need to craft a social media strategy with their needs in mind, and then monitor and measure consistently.
Tom Wetzel is president of a full-service, insurance-exclusive marketing communications/public affairs firm that helps agents and companies navigate social media. He can be reached at email@example.com or through his Web site (www.wetzelandassociates.com). Tom's blog is at www.thegoodrisk.com. He is also on Facebook at "Social Media Management for Insurance Industry," LinkedIn and Twitter.