The question of social media measurement came up this morning in a discussion online, where Twitter user @Benm1969 asked how one can show return on the monitoring investment to his clients.
The thing about asking short questions in 140 characters is that the answer is often something that needs more space. So I'm responding to this issue here, rather on Twitter.
So, @benm1969, to respond, I'd ask first of all why the social media monitoring is happening. if you're having to prove a return on the monitoring exercise, it's best to look at why it's happening. One brand may do it to keep their finger on the pulse of a huge consumer swarm that will help steer PR, marketing and product development. Another brand might monitor just so see where their PR efforts are landing.
If it's to spot media issues quicker, then the ROI is all in the increased coverage. If monitoring is to get better networked, then the ROI could be in securing improved messaging and brand awareness, maybe through additional benefits like being invited to industry events. If monitoring is going to be used to improve online PR content, then the return might be in additional traffic to the site you're helping (company site, blog, or something similar) and if you're driving traffic, that should be linkable to sales.
More often than not though, in our experience here at 33, brands need to monitor online buzz, coverage and chatter about them not because someone's twisting their arm and insisting on ROI, but because they can't afford not to.