In social media, traditional result measurement tools often leave holes and we are left with a set of quantitative metrics (such as impression numbers and advertising equivalency value) that help tell a story but often skirt around the main plot point. Such ROI metrics can fail to take into account the true value of social media ' the relationship value. We were recently challenged with such a case ' a campaign that heavily leveraged a group of bloggers, a particularly tightly-knit niche, with the goal of reaching this group and creating relationships between them and our client (a brand specializing in products that also fall into this niche category). Like all true relationships, this one took time to cultivate and grow. Through the course of many months filled with emails and exchanges we knew we met the goal and had successfully developed a group of brand advocates that would pay off with many years of loyalty, purchasing and recommendations to others.
Now the next challenge: measuring the value of these relationships! Our traditional ROI model looked good ' indeed the campaign had impressive numbers on the quant side with total impressions, engagements and ad equivalency value all tallying strongly. But the heart of the matter was the story told in the emails from bloggers that raved about their newfound love for the brand, and the posts from their readers that confirmed these blogger/influencers were powerful advocates. To tell this story we had to use a ROR (return on relationship) model.
To do so we turned to our new advocates, the bloggers, and asked them to complete a short survey on their brand perceptions before and after we made contact with them and on the likelihood of their advocacy down the road. While we expected favorable comments back, we couldn't have predicted how strong their response was! All confirmed that as a result of our relationship-building campaign they now felt they knew the brand well and would be much more likely to purchase it in the future. And as an added bonus: they had all told others about the brand - many others in fact, as many as several hundred word-of-mouth recommendations per blogger!! (And all this in addition to what they had written publicly on their blogs!)
So what was our ROR? Well, we found that our outreach to these influencers had yielded several hundred positive brand mentions per blogger. And we also know that the recommendations of influencers (like friends, social network peers, and 'experts') are a powerful and direct driver in the purchase cycle. Measuring ROR isn't an exact science, it's an essential aspect of telling the full story about the performance of any social media campaign.