Everyone today is jumping on the social media bandwagon, mostly because everyone is jumping on the social media bandwagon. But when it comes time to determine the success or failure of a program, most marketers cannot do so. In some cases, there are no easily identified metrics, and in other cases, the easily identified ones might be misleading.
One typical metric is the number of fans/followers/members/etc. This is simple to define and easy to track, but is it valuable? Unfortunately, there is no easy answer. It depends on the make-up of the fan base and the goal of the social media program. Is the goal to engage consumers in product enhancement exercises? Is the goal to offer online CRM services? Is it to keep customers abreast of news and/or promotions? Or is it something else?
The answers to those questions should probably guide the nature of the social media efforts, which in turn will help define the success metrics. For example, a coffee chain might do well engaging with millions of online fans. But does a toilet paper company need a fan page? Might other online/social media avenues be more productive?
Social media is a growing component of marketing communications plans. But as with any other tool, it's important to use it in the most effective manner, whether or not everyone else is or is not doing the same.