Brownies Good. Beans Bad.

Have you heard of conversational monitoring software?

When I hear that, I think of spying on my older sister when she talked to her junior-high school aged boyfriend even though she was not allowed to have such a thing. Do you know how I accomplished "conversational monitoring" back then? I coughed really loud as I picked up the telephone receiver in the room upstairs and then pressed mute and laughed my ass off when she said, "Did you hear anything? No. Okay. Go on." And then I used her conversation as collateral to get to sit with her cool friends on the bus or to demand an exchange of green beans for dessert.

I grew up and now I still try and find ways to monitor conversations, although the payoff is not nearly as seductive as my mom's double fudge brownies. In the world of marketing and public relations, we look to metrics for explanations on how and why we do what we do or don't do. Calling it the Holy Grail of metrics, some say weighted media costs are far better than ad value equivalency, even though one is inherently more attractive than the other while both of them appear the same. What is the real difference between weighted media costs and ad value equivalency?

Ummmm...who cares? Pretty much, it can be looked at all the same or can be part of a strategy for measuring success. This recent article does a good job synthesizing the differences and the similarities. Basically, it says that one is about trying to dissect and measure positive media coverage that results from pr work while the other is about taking credit for any and all media mentions- without regard to positive or negative spin - and calculating a similar cost if the space had been purchased as ad space.

Executives, corporate robots, marketing managers, fiduciary stakeholders, spenders, savers, bean counters and other people who answer to other people and lose sleep when their answers are less than transparent and their dollars and senses get lost in translation; these are the people that demand data proving ROI. (After all, we all can't be as lucky as the U.S. military when they used social media to capture Saddam.)

And while it's a sure thing that people are stupid and that data can be manipulated, it's also a pretty good bet that people who spend money on things like social media campaigns, public relations and communication strategies want to know that their money was, in fact, well spent. And we can't blame them. They hire people like us to take advantage of our skills to build best-laid plans for successful marketing. And successful social media marketing is marketing that brings in additional money above and beyond normal traditional marketing sales.

Which ultimately is impossible to document because nothing happens in a vacuum. So, instead, we turn to metrics to deliver the punch we need to show that our hard work pays off. Did we change perception? Did we influence buying decisions? Did we place one product or service above others? Did we affect overall reputation of product or service or company? Did we build a foundation upon which an existing team can create long-term and super duper long-term success? These are questions folks ask.

These are plenty of tools available to provide a starting point for answering. Google Analytics, Radian6
Omniture Site Catalyst, HBX, Scout Labs, Crowd Conversion, Visible Technologies, Razorfish SIM score; just to name a few. Whatever software or strategies you implement, nothing will matter as much as the interactions you have with customers via social media. In fact, the same software can get you to brand heaven or eventually lead you down a path straight to brand hell.

What you want:
Positive interactions

What you don't want:
Negative interactions

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