Lessons from eMetrics Day One: Measuring the Value of Social Media

Volusion is at eMetrics and we’re learning a ton! Check out what we’ve learned about social media marketing and how you can use it to your business’ benefit.


Hello! My name is Ashley, and I’m a Marketing Analyst on Volusion’s corporate marketing team. This week, I left Austin for my other favorite foodie hotspot: San Francisco. When I’m not trying as many great, local restaurants as possible, I’m attending eMetrics, the premier conference for web analytics and site optimization. The conference runs until Thursday. So over the next few days, we’ll publish some highlights on marketing and e-commerce from my favorite sessions.

To kick things off, here are notes and comments on one of my favorite sessions from day one: John Lovett’s Social Media Marketing Secrets.


Social media marketing

John Lovett, Senior Partner of Web Analytics Demystified and former Senior Analyst at both Forrester Research and Jupiter Research, spoke on the value of social media and how to measure that value.

In his introduction, he highlighted the ongoing debate in social media today: Does social media have ROI or not? Or, at the very least, should social media be predominantly measured in terms of how much revenue it drives?

If you’re an avid blog reader, then you’ll recall we discussed this topic in a previous blog post — arguing that there is no ROI in social media, since it’s not an investment, and there is very limited “ROI” in terms of direct revenue. Based on his presentation today, Lovett seems to agree. He pointed out that while social media can drive revenue, it’s really just a drop in a business’ revenue bucket and, more importantly, does not demonstrate social’s full value. For example, via a combination of sources, including shop.org, comScore, and IBM/CoreMetrics, he obtained the following data points:

  • Total sales during the holidays were 580 billion.
  • Online holiday sales were 42 billion.
  • Black Friday alone saw 1.04 billion in sales.
  • Holiday sales from social media? Just 3.5 million.
    • That’s <1% of holiday revenue. In fact, if you graph these metrics on a bubble chart, as he did in his presentation, then social media’s bubble is almost invisible, engulfed by the sales of other channels and in-store.

So what is our continued fascination with social if not sales? He found that 45% of surveyed client-side marketers didn’t think revenue was even relevant in relation to social media. Instead, marketers cited the following as more popular primary goals for social:

  • Exposure
  • Dialogue
  • Interaction
  • Support
  • Gaining advocates

To develop a successful social media program that achieves goals like the ones listed above, Lovett recommended the following steps, which he coined “the inside-out approach”:

  1. Establish corporate goals.
  2. Establish objectives for social that support corporate goals.
  3. Establish how to measure those objectives — what KPIs speak to success?
  4. Pick what channels or platforms you will use — for example Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Note that selecting the channels to use comes last.


How Volusion measures social success

I was pleased to hear Lovett’s recommendation, as it is strikingly similar in spirit to how we manage and measure our corporate social channels here at Volusion.

Objective KPI Metrics Benchmark: Year-to-date
Improve brand awareness % of SaaS ecommerce conv. owned benchmarked against competitors X% Y%
Improve customer satisfaction and opinion Sentiment rating X Y


To help us keep our decisions via social channels in keeping with our social objectives, and, in the end, mapping up to our corporate goals, we create tables — like the sample one above, plus a few more rows. Our “objectives” include goals like following:

  1. Improve brand awareness.
  2. Drive industry conversations.
  3. Display thought-leadership.
  4. Improve customer satisfaction and opinion.

Those objectives go in column one. We then establish how to measure those objectives, which includes metrics like the following:

  1. % of SaaS conversation that includes “Volusion”
  2. % of SaaS conversation related to our product roadmap
  3. # of unpaid mentions of our content or brands in third-party sources — not just tweets or likes, but pickups in other blogs and articles
  4. Community size
  5. Sentiment rating

Those metrics go in column two, next to the objective they specifically speak to. (For example, #3 speaks to thought-leadership while #4 and #5 speak to improving customer satisfaction and opinion.) And finally, based on these goals and our KPIs, we picked primary (Twitter and Facebook) and secondary (Pinterest) social channels that we felt would best help us maximize our KPIs, and therefore advance our objectives. At this point, we just pull the actual values for our KPIs, and we’re ready with c-level data points that demonstrate the effects of our social media program.


If you’d like additional ideas on how to provide KPIs that speak to common social media objectives, then check out this post as well as Lovett’s book. (I plan to read it!) We’re also big fans of these blogs from Radian6 and LunaMetrics.

If you would like to learn how Volusion could help you with either your analytics or social strategy, then please reach out to us! Tweet us (@volusion) using the hash tag #VolusionAnalytics or contact a Volusion associate via our site.


Ashley was a Senior Analyst, Digital Analytics, at Volusion. She has a BA in English from UT at Austin, an MLA from St. Edward’s, and over five years experience as a web analytics practitioner.

2 Responses to “Lessons from eMetrics Day One: Measuring the Value of Social Media”

  1. Faith Brickel

    Very interesting. I have been really working the Facebook , pinterest,Twitter and blog aspects. However I find that while I have achieved a great reach I don’t see a big ROI. Linking to the website or specific product doesn’t seem to get a big reaction. Not sure where to go with it now.

    • Ashley Moreno

      Hey Faith! We’re all struggling with this. In his presentation, Lovett offered a reason why: “shiny-new-object syndrome.” When social media first came out, huge companies started touting the sales social media was driving. And we all hurried over in hopes of seeing the same thing. But in time, we’ve been able to put those sales numbers in context, and their actual contributions are relatively small. But we’re not abandoning social. Why? Where is the primary value if not in sales?

      Social media provides the same level of opportunity as the telephone or email. It’s a new communication platform that has lots of applications. To see how it could contribute to your organization, start with why your organization needs social — not a specific platform — but a new communication capability. What can’t you do via phone or email or events or another channel that you have today, but you could do via social? An aspect of customer service? Thought-leadership? Reach/free or “earned” impressions? Leverage customer voice? Risk management? And then work out from there. Once you know what you want to do with social, then brainstorm metrics that would speak to whether you’re succeeding. Do you know what one or two primary goals you might focus on? And then maybe we can help identify metrics that could help measure success.


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