Posted on February 6th, 2012
In Chapter 1 of Measure What Matters, Katie Paine explains why measuring and monitoring conversations are so important – and why no business, no matter how small, ever has a good excuse not to. With the proliferation of the internet, especially social media in recent years, monitoring is more affordable and accessible than ever before. Knowing what stakeholders are saying gives you a huge advantage over your competitors and if you don’t make the effort to listen to them, you’ll be left in the dust. As Pain says, “Today, if you’re not measuring the health of your relationships, you won’t be in business for very long (p.6).”
Going beyond simply “counting” and actually measuring processes and results allows a business to make better decisions about allocating resources – the number one task of any manager. It allows for solid strategic planning based on data versus hunches and provides insight into strengths and weaknesses.
Paine identifies “myths” that people and organizations believe in order to avoid sinking costs into measuring and monitoring. It is often avoided out of fear of “bad news”, but the discovery of inefficiencies saves companies a lot of money and the benefits far outweigh the risks. This relates to another myth – that measurement is too expensive to maintain. First, it’s not. Second, relative to the benefits gained, the cost is often negligible. Pain also says that measurement must also be both qualitative AND quantitative and be conducted throughout a program, not just at the end as a means of evaluation.
For any business new to measurement, Paine suggests a benchmark study or implementing a pilot program centered around a particular launch or event. Before this can happen, however, an organization needs to do a little soul-searching. Specific and measureable objectives, target audiences and their motivations, key messages, and the “what next?” should all be identified before moving forward. “Before you can achieve success,” Paine says, “you have to decide how you’ll know when you get there. (p.23)”
To identify these things, it’s necessary to “assemble everyone on your team” in order to achieve consensus and define priorities – and everyone needs to be on board, especially the people or departments who will ultimately have to make (often significant) changes based on measuring and monitoring findings.
In terms of the measuring process, it’s important to collect the right kind of data. Unfortuantely, affordability and accessibility of listening tools tends to amount to “a pile of useless data” and no actionable insights (p.26). To avoid this mistake, it’s important to zero in on (and measure within) relevant target audiences and not underestimate the importance of human beings in the decoding process. Despite how sophisticated these tools have become, it’s impossible for an algorithm to interpret context and tone with 100% accuracy. Therefore, it’s necessary to have a dedicated team (or individual, depending on the size of the organization) to monitor and analyze conversations. If it can be done in-house, even better; Paine notes that roughly 5 out of 6 times Google and Twitter searches outperformed commercial monitoring services (p.28).
The question is therefore not “Can we afford to measure and monitor?”, but “Can we afford not to?”. The answer is always “no”. But before an organization can put its ear to the virtual ground, it must always have clearly defined objectives and metrics for success. And (as with just about anything in business) it’s important to not just do it because everyone else is and end up with spreadsheets filled with meaningless numbers. You have to do it right; set the right goals, find the right data, and take the right steps to achieve those goals.