Measuring the Impact of Social Media

I went to the Social Media Influence conference today and overall it was a really good event, with lots of different brands, companies and people talking about how Social Media has enriched their activities. There were some great virals shown, like the Starbucks Red project video shown by their Digital Director Alexandra Wheeler.

There were also some really interesting stories told, one of which was told by Mobbie Nazir, from Brew Digital. She described an instance when all flights in Europe were grounded by the Iceland ash cloud. This posed a massive problem for the Anthony Nolan Trust who needed to get organs to the UK to get linked up with recipients. Through the use of twitter, the organisation was able to acquire a spare seat on the Eurostar from Brussels to London. They tweeted:

‘URGENT! Our courier stuck in Brussels carrying marrow. Needs 2 get on Eurostar/tunnel from 8pm UK      time 2nyt. Can u help’

And, within an hour, Eurostar had replied as the message was Retweeted all over the place. Amazing.

Now how do you measure what 140 characters impact is? Can it be measured by lives saved? Does that count anywhere as a metric? Sure, saving lives absorbs all sorts of attention in social media, the same way it does in traditional media, but this is not an isolated incident where twitter has been able to produce a crucial offline result. A few years back there was a student who tweeted his way out of an Egyptian prison. Twitter also played a crucial role in drawing attention to the Iranian election and censorship of the citizens and media reporting.

Funders like numbers. 1 million hits on youtube. 50,040 fans on facebook. 6298 connections on linkedin. The term ROI (return on investment) came up so often today, arguably more than the term social media! I completely understand the need for metrics and knowing how far brands, organisations and campaigns are reaching. But, I think that measurement is something that shouldn’t be correlated with numbers alone. There needs to be a social metric. A ‘lives saved’ metric. A ‘get out of jail’ metric. The human factor. Afterall, all of this social media buzz is based on creating meaningful relationships with clients, fans, supporters, etc. Why can’t a social metric also be valued? Although it’s very hard to measure, it’s just as important as the numbers bit.

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