One of the groups I’ve joined on Facebook is the Social Media Mafia; an alliance of creative types, technologists and strategists who are collectively attempting to improve social media by challenging the technologies, the advocates and the doubters, and to plan further research into the phenomenon. The latest challenge for the Social Media Mafia group is articulated in the group founder, Chris Hambly’s blog where Chris explores the difficulties of measuring social media influence. I responded directly on his blog, but it’s worth reiterating that techniques for measuring social media are generally woeful – not just because there are no clear methodologies, but because even when you can demonstrate intention to purchase and brand recall through viral marketing, you still can’t show a direct relationship between buyer behaviour and social media influence.
All that aside, I believe the most significant weakness in strategic analysis of social media is that the measurement techniques used are often completely inappropriate, and occasionally completely misread. Because there is no generally agreed technique for identifying an appropriate data analysis method for various iterations of social media, there is little basis for predicting future behaviour among users of social media, thus it is particularly difficult to determine how social media can be monetised or have sustainability over time. I’m still convinced that the problem with evaluating social media is more about the differences between value and utility, but I’m hoping to articulate this more clearly in my next book!