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Social Business: Distinguishing the Misleading Metrics from the Meaningful (feat. Laurie Shook)

It is my great pleasure to present my colleague,  Laurie Shook, as a guest blogger. Laurie brings her vast social media expertise and passion for enterprise 2.0 to introduce a new series on: How to Measure Enterprise Social Success. In Part one of three below, she takes a look at some of the metrics that companies bandy about, and an evaluation of which metrics are misleading and which ones are meaningful.

Social Business: Distinguishing the Misleading Metrics from the Meaningful

Part 1: How Do We KNOW how We are Doing?

There’s an old adage, “That which gets measured gets done.” With that in mind, enterprise social champions have to measure their internal collaboration success if they expect to gain more corporate mindshare or funding for 2012.

But how do you measure enterprise social success? And how can enterprise social advocates set realistic expectations for what’s achievable inside the firewall, given the runaway success of consumer-focused engagement platforms like Facebook?

In the business space, there is no shortage of chest thumping from social enterprise collaboration vendors with a product to sell, such as IBM and SAP. IBM has some truly impressive statistics, according to an article from Mark Fidelman in the Business Insider. IBM boasts:

  • 17,000 individual blogs (WOW!)
  • 198,000 employees on Twitter
  • 1 million daily page views of internal wikis
  • 400,000 employee profiles on IBM connections, IBM’s social networking initiative platform

Mark Yolton, Senior Vice President of SAP, indicates that their Jive-based Employee Network attracts 40,000 unique visits per month.

How do you scale those numbers down to realistic goals for your organization? The most important thing is to get a realistic assessment of the current state of social employee collaboration, and to track it over time. Even if a readily available metric isn’t the best, progress over time still matters. Consider some possible measurements:

Total Employee IDs or Profiles on the Platform. The validity of this measure is heavily dependent on how the platform was implemented. If the organization has single sign on, and all employees are automatically set up, it is hardly a valid measurement. Likewise, if the platform is intrinsically integrated into the employee directory or email, it may not be fair to count all users as social users, since they may simply be looking up phone numbers or answering email.

Total Contributors. Although it’s great to measure the most ardent participants, it may under value results if that’s all that is tracked. As in consumer social media, the “lurker” factor is quite high. Potentially, total readers may exceed contributors by a factor of 5 to 10.

Cumulative Statistics. Cumulative stats like cumulative posts, cumulative page views or cumulative visits are popular because they sound so HUGE. But a more meaningful measurement looks at usage over time, so that scale is understood and trending is clear.

Average Time Per Session. Comscore tells us how much time we spend on Facebook every month. Shouldn’t we do the same with our employees? This type of measurement should be handled with care because potential for misunderstanding is high. Some will (erroneously) conclude that employees aren’t getting their work done because they off chatting. And, if enterprise collaboration systems live up to the conceptual vision, they become the employee dashboard and are always on.

Based on these concepts, here are some of the statistics that make the most sense as key performance metrics for the enterprise social collaboration platform.

Average Daily Platform Users or Unique Visitors. If masses access the platform on a daily basis, it’s an indicator it’s useful and integrated into daily workflow. The long term goal should approach 100%, or the organization’s comparable email usage rate.

Active Monthly Groups. This is a good measurement for successful collaboration around identified business problems. It will help qualm the fears of those who think enterprise social is social and not work-related.

Incremental Questions, and % of Questions Answered. An active community has lots of questions, and a vibrant community has lots of answers. A community with infrequent questions is moribund.

Monthly Contributors as a Percent of Monthly Users. While average daily users measures breadth of engagement, this measurement helps to measure the depth of employee engagement.

Incremental blog posts, wikis added, documents added. Measuring content creation tracks the underlying benefit of enterprise social. Moving institutional knowledge off the desktop and out of email into searchable, accessible space is the grand vision of enterprise collaboration.

If we measure and track it, we’ll get it done!

Next in the “How to Measure Enterprise Success” series:

  • Part 2: How Do We THINK We are Doing? Enterprise self-appraisal as measured by the Blogtronix survey “The State of Enterprise 2.0 Collaboration”. Highlights from the study.
  • Part 3: How are We Doing EXTERNALLY? An analysis of the Social Business Index released last week by Dachis Group, which attempts to measure social engagement related to companies, their markets, partners, and their employees.

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Elizabeth

Elizabeth is a strategic communications leader with nearly 20 years experience in both internal and external communications. She is a passionate advocate for developing communications that foster a stronger relationship between the organization and its employees. She is a global keynote speaker on employee engagement and HR communications. Elizabeth is a certified professional in Employer Brand through Universum Global's Employer Branding Academy.

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