Home > Marketing Viewpoints by Larry Chase & Company

Measuring Social Media: Insider Interview with Jim Sterne

Jim Sterne provides the answers to 3 basic questions on measuring Social Media:

  1. What exactly can be measured in Social Media?
  2. What are some useful tools for Social Media measurement?
  3. How will SocMed change the Online Marketing landscape?

Jim Sterne is the undisputed leader in the Web Metrics and Analytics world. His eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit now holds annual confabs in San Jose, Stockholm, Paris and London, among other cities.

Since the 1990's, Jim has authored numerous books on Internet Marketing including the seminal Web Metrics: Proven Methods for Measuring Web Site Success as well as his most recent Social Media Metrics: How to Measure and Optimize Your Marketing Investment. He's founding director and Chairman of the Board of the Web Analytics Association. In short, he's the "go-to" guy on Web Metrics.

I read his latest book and drilled down on the topics I found most useful to real-world marketers like you. Here now is that interview, artfully edited by Janet Roberts.

Influencing the Influencers and 'Influencity'

Larry Chase: In your new book, you have a chapter called "Identifying Influence." How do you do that?

Jim Sterne: The first way is by blunt force, meaning how many people are following you on Twitter. I have several thousand people I can reach out to through Twitter, my newsletter and my blog. Guy Kawasaki has several hundred thousand. Oprah Winfrey has several million.

LC: Does quantity become quality?

JS: At the first cut, yes, but not when the question becomes more specific. If we're asking, "Who can influence more web analysts?," now we have an argument.

Clearly, it's not Oprah, but one could say more web analysts listen to Guy Kawasaki than to me, just by the force of numbers. So his opinion carries more weight than mine.

There's no way to calculate it out. It's absolutely an intuitive process.

LC: In your book, you use a number of interesting terms, such as "Influencity." I like what it implies, but what is it?

JS: It's your ability to influence. Oprah has more Influencity than I do, unless the question is "Who is the best speaker at eMetrics?" Here, she has no opinion.

Social Media: Messy By Nature

JS: Look at the recent Nestle story.

Nestle has what we used to call a "fan page" on Facebook. Greenpeace has been targeting Nestle for using palm oil in its products because harvesting palm oil devastates the rain forests, which is gorilla habitat. So, Greenpeace has been portraying Nestle as gorilla-killers.

Some people posted the Greenpeace protest to their Facebook pages. Others used an image of Nestle's Kit Kat candy bar that had been altered to say "Killer" as their Facebook profile picture.

Nestle basically said, "We're aware of the problem. Click here and here to read what we're doing about that," and the conversation started to turn the corner.

Then someone at Nestle went onto the Facebook page and said, "You can't use our logo that way. It's illegal. You have to take it down." That triggered a storm of protest.

Facebook people went into a frenzy. Nestle was getting 10 to 15 posts a minute from people calling them "gorilla-killers" and not "liking" them for being rude and trying to control the Internet.

[Publisher's Note: We visited the Greenpeace website 48 hours prior to publishing this interview and saw the following statement on its home page: "A Sweet Victory: Nestle Releases Global Forest Protection Policy."]

Measuring Traction in Social Media

LC: Another term I saw in Chapter 3 of your latest book is "Message Multiplier Velocity." What is it, and how does it work?

JS: It works like this: I tweet something. The 3,200+ people who follow me might or might not see it. Five of them retweet it. There's not much velocity there.

But, if one of those five is Larry Chase, and he retweets my tweet, and 100 other people retweet it, and each of those [100] has 20 people who retweet it, now we have some serious velocity.

LC: In your book, you also talk about how many movers and shakers you have as followers. How can you determine where your message is most likely to get good traction in your target audience?

JS: Now we're going from messy to murky. This is where you get people asking questions like "Where can I buy a viral campaign?" Sorry, that can't be done. Viral campaigns just happen.

Social Media's Role: CRM Over Acquisition for Now

LC: Is Social Media a better listening and feedback tool than an outbound messaging tool?

JS: At the moment, yes it is, because we don't know how to do it well enough yet. It's also a branding tool.

Customers Controlling Customer Data

LC: You say in the book, "Within 10 years, consumers will be the sole integration point of their own information." Does this mean customers will control the data instead of companies?

JS: Yes. Regulation could force it because companies are going to make really bad mistakes around privacy, and legislation will come down like a hammer. I'm hoping smart companies will figure this out ahead of time, and that it could be the profitable way.

LC: My cynical side says it will happen the first way, but also, some customers will give up their data. Younger people seem to be less concerned about owning their data.

JS: Yes, but they'll get savvy very quickly. The thing about privacy is that it is opt in. "If I tell you more information about me, you'll give me more value."

Will SocMed Ever Go Away?

LC: Do you think people will get tired of communicating in 140 characters?

JS: No, because the Internet is a communication device and always has been. If you make it easy for people to communicate, they will use your communication method. Twitter found a way to make instant messaging a distribution list. It's a brutally simple concept and makes communication so much easier that it's not going to go away.

LC: How about Facebook?

JS: Facebook, or something like Facebook? They're all the same thing. The question we're asking now is, "Were they able to pull off managing a business?" There are so many things that have to go right for a business to survive.

LC: Isn't the jury out on monetizing?

JS: All we're doing is changing brands. You've got the ability for people to have an online identity they can share with friends. That's never going to go away, but someone will come along to make it easier, or more fun or more hip, and that could be a problem for Facebook.

LC: So, someone will out-Facebook Facebook.

JS: Yes, but Facebook "out-Friendstered" Friendster. It's a social networking brand, a way for you to establish an online personality and identity and to connect with people. That will always be valuable.

LC: How will we know which approach to Social Media works best?

JS: Good marketers will try dozens of things to see what's best. Everything works differently on different days of the week. It's all bringing home the idea that the way you win is by being customer-centric.

Think of marketing from the other side of the screen. How would you want to be approached? That's true in business and in life.

Resource List

Jim Sterne is a Web strategy consultant and founder of eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summits held worldwide. Jim recommends these two Twitter-based tools for more effective Social Media measurement:

  • Retweetist gives you a score for how often you're retweeted compared to everyone else.
  • Twitalyzer measures influence and engagement based on retweeting, recommends how to improve your Twitter presence and benchmarks you against leading Twitterers.