Social Media Measurement and the Stages of Change

brandsavant logoFor the best science and insights in the business I frequently turn to my colleague Tom Webster, whose blog, BrandSavant, has been exploring social media metrics these days. Tom is adept at pointing out the risk in over-relying on purely transactional data and reminds us frequently (one of my favorites) that baseline data is one of your most useful metrics. Most companies tend to rush in and worry about measurement later. On the web we are lucky, as some of this can be done after the fact: certain transactions are inherently trackable and come with a date and time stamp! I think Tom and I would agree though the ex post facto method will leave out some of the more relevant data points.

New media and internet business people have touted our ability to measure “things” as far superior and accurate as compared to traditional media. Traditional media surveys a manini segment of the population once or twice a year, hope those people are telling some version of the truth, and then they extrapolate like hell to come up with numbers. “Each magazine is read by an average of 3.4 people!” Really? (Please hear that “really” in your head through the voices of Seth Myers and Amy Poehler on Saturday Night Live.) New media people measure every things that shows up on a web page, then try like mad to turn it into something meaningful, aka sentiment analysis. I love that everyone is trying, yet we have by no means nailed this challenge.

Yesterday Tom was looking at some of things that are not easily measured, aka “The Unmeasured Power of Social Media” and why we should not be blinded by just sales data as in many cases it cannot tell the whole story. He was referring to a recent article from my other colleague Chris Brogan, on Social Media Metrics. Chris was sharing one of his faves, the value of conversion: How many of those warm fuzzies turn into sales? Of course that is relevant to business, and dare I say we “social media types” have gotten a little defensive at times from the onslaught of skeptics who maintain that social media is nothing more than a few warm fuzzies. Yes, conversion matters to us too.

So now that it’s on the table, of course we business people know that some things can be literally measured, some things cannot, (PR anyone?), and at the end of the day we can learn other ways to assess the value of our efforts in the marketplace.

Which takes me back to my earlier career as a health coach for Johnson & Johnson. You all know how hard it is to change health behaviors, right? Well, JNJ supported a researcher, Dr. James Prochaska, over 20 years leading to not only an understanding of behavior change but also the development of a coded system for creating behavior change. Would you believe that a 10-minute phone call between coach and client once a month for 6 months could translate into a 15-30 point drop in blood pressure or 10-20 pounds of weight loss or cholesterol down by 10-20? It did, over and over again.

The secret to our success was being able to assess the stage of “change readiness” and then collaborate with the client on a stage-appropriate behavior change that was not just palatable but welcomed by the client. While the human interaction was very important, the foundation is quite defined and could be applied in numerous ways, technologically speaking. Curiously enough, the first “stage” of change readiness is defined as “Not interested in change at all.” The brilliance of this methodology though was that there are prescribed things we can do to move a person from that stage to the next! Compare this to the traditional treatment for smokers. First, there are only two stages in most trained health professionals’ minds: smoker and non-smoker. So then if you encounter a smoker, your “only” option is to make them a non-smoker by enrolling them in a smoking cessation program – 80% of which fail. Not because the program or the patch doesn’t work – they do – but because most smokers are not at the actionable stage for quitting when others intervene upon them!

I have often wondered what would happen if we transferred this knowledge to business. We talk a lot about targeting based on evolving data of first demographics then psychographics and what I now call “friendographics.” What Tom describes in his post, is that early stage of market behavior: “thinking about buying a car” that by definition will not lead to a car sale transaction in the next 24 hours or in a single measurable transaction. I know Tom; he is far too thoughtful to act that quickly no matter how slick your sales offer or compelling your tweet. But if you have the patience to help educate Tom about the benefits of your vehicle and know how to engage with him in a “stage-appropriate” manner, you are well on your way to having not just a happy customer but one who will share his transaction with his followers. How do your strategies match up to the “stages of sale” as I will call it, and that Tom laid out so clearly below? (Emphasis mine.)

..consumers move from problem recognition, to information seeking, to evaluating options and eventually to a sale (and to post-sale behaviors, loyalty, evangelism, etc.)

Adding in “his followers” is the gorilla in the marketplace that has changed business today. This is the power that social media platforms bring to any transaction. Building the assets and the strategies to use these platforms smartly is not easy by most counts.

It’s what I’ll be addressing head-on next Tuesday in my keynote address at the Hawaii Social Media Summit (#HISMS), hosted by Technology News Bytes: Social Media – More than Tweets the Eye. The seminar series tickets are mostly sold out however you can join the Expo from 12-5 pm for only $3. We’ll have a booth there for our “coming soon” KnowHow Cafe along with the Hawaii Chapter of the Social Media Club. If you are an early riser, please check out my related appearance on KITV 4 Tues, Oct 5th, around 6:15 am Hawaii Standard Time. Tweet them your questions and comments: @kitv4, @mahealani, @danmeisenzahl.