On Measuring Brand Advocacy in Social Media

Information is free. Word of Mouth is priceless. If only we could reconcile the two to place a bottom-line value on social media.

How important is social media to your business? AMI’s 2010-2011 SMB Social Media Study estimates that 4.8 million SMBs in the U.S. use some form of social media for business purposes. From brand preferences to escalating the purchase process, AMI projects that by 2013, social media messaging will impact $53 billion in annual SMB ICT spending.

Last night at the Brand Advocacy Series sponsored by Zuberance, social media panelists from JetBlue, Microsoft, Big Fuel and Zuberance weighed in on the social media monetization game. Namely, how can we quantify brand advocacy to determine sales? The consensus: WE DON’T KNOW. What we can do, however, is glean the relative importance of brand advocacy through the quintessential marketing question:

How likely are you to recommend this product to a friend?

Beware of anyone claiming to measure how effective this gauge is. The truth is, we don’t really know that either. But it’s the best we’ve got. A 2010 report from Forrester determined that 18% of consumers trust bloggers for product recommendations, while 92% trust brand advocates.

Brand advocates will continue to be trusted so long as they are transparent. While it’s important to thank a brand advocate, it should never be a quid pro quo. You wouldn’t send someone fifty bucks to recommend you for a job. The same goes for online advocacy.

How do you create brand advocates among SMBs? Explains Umang Shah of Microsoft, it’s important to understand what matters to your customers. TALK to them. Social media, however, can only facilitate the dialogue. Through consistent outreach and engagement, you can identify your customers’ needs to make them better at their jobs.

Your Universe is Not the Universe.
There’s comes a caveat with every Next Best Thing in social media measurement. Relative importance scores are just that: relative. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Net Promoter Scores should measure value, not through a comprehensive landscape appraisal but by sifting through the granular and placing context.

Sound fuzzy? It sure is. Nobody really knows how to effectively measure social media. We do, however, have some good ideas.

Rebecca Schlachter is the Director of Predictive Analytics and Modeling at AMI-Partners. She is especially interested in social networking tools and insights while she attempts to maintain her own relevance.