It seems so old school to try to classify social computing metrics but I keep getting the same requests from various internal teams, who are sometimes not familiar with some of the metrics, don't understand them, or simply use other metrics better suited to Web sites rather than social sites. A second goal is to evaluate the qualities of these metrics to determine if they are useful (e.g. using the SMART analysis approach). A third is to see the relationship of the metrics to each other—whether there are dependencies, or if some metrics are more meaningful when reported alongside or compared with others.
To give an idea, while it's considered outdated by others, some still look for Pageviews, and Unique Visitors--classic web metrics better suited to measure how people visit pages, than interaction from social environments. Similarly, "Interaction" itself becomes another stopping point for metrics. These are the metrics most commonly recorded by social software tools: number of posts, the number of downloads, the number of connection invites, etc.
In working with
our social computing researchers we're also looking at Network Effect
metrics such as the Topics (what people discuss) that come out of the
system, or the ratio of consumption to a person's content
Other departments such as marketing teams have an emphasis on Engagement metrics, considering how much a person is becoming involved in a social environment, an event, a marketing offering, or other engagements. Other engagement metrics aren't specific to marketing only. For example, thought-leadership metrics include the ratings on content someone has submitted, or how often they have been quoted or retweeted by others. A more complex one is to determine the Impact a person has on their target audience.
To go further along on marketing metrics, these can even build up towards the sales pipeline—how many interested individuals are there, are they potential sales leads, have they actually asked for sales info, has that lead been validated, and then closed. Joe Cothrel, Chief Community Officer of Lithium suggested similar ideas in an article for Strategy+Leadership magazine back in 2000, on conversion rate from a visitor to a sale, as applied to social environments.
Outside marketing and sales, there are other indicators that relate to business value metrics. Some suggestions in a recent email exchange with Dr. Walter Carl, Chief Researcher of ChatThreads and a member of WOMMA's board on metrics include cost reduction (using this tool to communicate is a lower cost than other existing ways), accelerating adoption of any business philosophies, values or company directives, processes that minimize lost revenue, etc.
Lots of Metrics, but what are their qualities?
So what should be
obvious is that there are lots of metrics, categories, subclasses,
variations, and inter-relations that different organizations or even
different teams within the same organization utilize. What
constitutes business metrics and delivered value for one team may not
even be relevant to another. So I'm still surprised when people ask
for a generic ROI methodology.
All the same, the
next step is to look at the qualities of these metrics. I mentioned
the SMART acronym earlier which are basic questions if a given metric
type or unit is:
Specific (specific and targeted to an area of measurement),
Measurable (a data point that can be captured and collected),
Actionable (robust data that can be analyzed and utilized by a stakeholder),
Relevant (a realistic, meaningful and consistent measurement),
Timely (current and possible to collect in good time).
all these qualities, there will likely be a problem with either
collecting the data in a way that is meaningful and available in time
for use in a business.
There are other qualities that I think are important to consider as well:
Is it scalable in quantity? Can you capture larger and larger volumes of data or does it become computationally intractable
Can it apply across social environments of the same type? Is the metric relevant to a single social environment, or can it apply to many environments of the same structure (e.g., a discussion forum)?
Is it scalable and still meaningful across different social environments (e.g. A blog and a forum)?
Does it drive behavior? Does it encourage that person or other people to interact further?
Is it credible? Is it a measure that is accepted by other teams, organizations or even industry-wide?
Is significant as a performance and/or a diagnostic metric? Performance metrics are useful for comparisons across like types. Diagnostic metrics help determine the state of the system.
Is it a quality metric? That is, counting it does not really describe the value contained within it, so you need a secondary way of looking at the contents.
Is it helpful to look at it across different demographics? This is very insightful in some metrics, and just not necessary in others.
I'm sure there are more relevant qualities, but this is already quite a lot to think about. These qualities can help decide which metrics are the most useful or what they can tell us, independently of the others.
is to look at which metrics should be reported alongside each other,
or which ones depend on others directly or indirectly. That's where
things start to get real interesting and much more subjective.
No conclusion here because this is on-going work trying to map out all these variants of metrics, but here's to hoping it inspires others to think and work along these lines.