Certainly, there is a place for all of those metrics. In 2012, however, we need to challenge ourselves to become more focused on how social actually affects our business. Some of it will come to life in lieu of advertising, branding, and awareness. Some of it will be seen in click-throughs to websites and conversion rates changing. All of it cannot be how many new fans we all got, or which pseudo-celebrity retweeted our tweets.
As a PR pro who lives and breathes digital, I can't tell you how infinitely frustrated I get at the constant barrage of bogus stats and metrics that are bandied about by those who couldn't produce a simple case study on social media effectiveness if you paid them $15,000 for the day. In 2012 – even now, really – we need to move beyond these simple measures and figure out how they correspond, affect business goals, and change the way we do things.
Delta is most certainly looking at how its @DeltaAssist changes the number of calls into its call centers. Combined with overall volume of mentions and tonality, that is probably part of their measure for those activities. In a recent USA Today article, Coca-Cola SVP of integrated marketing Wendy Clark stated, “Fans are twice as likely to consume and 10 times more likely to purchase than non-fans.”
Clark and others like her have determined a real way that fans are translating into business and are, in some ways, simply doing more of that work.
Let's move away from the blatant “grab all land and try to be all things to all people” world that we're in right now. Should you register your brand's Google+ name? Absolutely. Same as you should any and all domains that make sense to do. Does it mean you should be duplicating your Facebook, Twitter, and other efforts on that platform? Probably not.
Set goals for each of the platforms you're participating on and make sure those objectives are realistic and actually address the customers, prospects, or employees who are taking part in those spaces. Your customers may never adopt your brand's Facebook page as a place to converse about you, but your employees might. Twitter might be a far more effective use for customer-service bandwidth than trying to make it a broadcast mechanism for your PR department. Most of these solutions – and goals – are not as far “out of the box” as you might think.
The net-net is, for the sake of your teams, clients, and customers (present and potential), set some smart goals and make sure what you're doing in social isn't simply “because we can.” Your Twitter handle might not change the world or sell thousands of dollars worth of product, but it might alter your brand's perception in the marketplace or cut costs in another way. Take a step back, assess the reality of each of these platforms, set smart goals and benchmarks, and move forward. Onward and upward to 2012 and beyond.