This is a guest post by Ben Smithee.

In the world of market research (you know…that mythical land of statistical analysis, in-depth interviewing and the warm and fuzzy focus group) we are seeing a new type of shift in measuring ROI, impressions, likes, RT’s and all of those other mystical social media metrics. In the evolving social economy (also known as the interwebs) I see new marketing and advertising strategy leading to new forms of measurement. I like to think of it as “social measurement”, or the measurement of your campaign or initiative’s ability/likelihood to be shared on the social web.

Think about that last statement again, “the ability/likelihood for your campaign or initiative to be shared on the social web”, what do you think?

It’s no secret the emphasis on social advertising and marketing is taking an influencer approach. We see things like Mayors on Foursquare, friend, like and comment counts of Facebook, and follower and klout scores on Twitter. Companies and brands are looking to make marketing and advertising impact through interruption and inclusion in conversations and experiences that are already occurring between you and your friends. They seek to maximize efficiency of message spread, aka virality, by identifying the core influencers to target on a personal level, and having them act as brand champions, heralding the horns of influence.

So, in the land of influence we as researchers, marketers and advertisers are starting to look at new forms of identification and measurement. As people become the medium for the message, and brands seek out influence, we are tasked with identifying those who are most likely to move the word of mouth needle.

Social Measurement Factors

When creating campaigns and initiatives around influencers and brand champions, 3 main key factors come into play:

Relevance
Shareability
Conversion

Everything starts with relevance, and I think many marketing and advertising blunders can be avoided if you just simply head the relevance warning. Relevance can be the difference between the trending video on YouTube and an #EpicFail. People do not naturally avoid or hate advertising; they just expect it to be relevant. With the evolution of truly targeted platforms, such as the plethora of location-based apps, there is no reason for disconnect in the land of relevance.

“Shareability”, or the ease of sharing information, is something I see many companies forget about. They come up with great campaigns and extremely creative ideas, but fail miserably by not allowing me to easily share it with my friends! It’s hard to have an influential effect if the influencers cannot EASILY share the message.

Conversion is what it all boils down to in the end. Impressions are great, and having 500,000 “likes” is a great accomplishment, but if it doesn’t have a level of conversion attached to it, what is the real value? Conversion starts in the strategic planning phase and rears its ugly head throughout the entire campaign. From the very beginning, you must establish end-goals and identify what it is you actually want people to do. It sounds like a simple concept, but I have seen so many brands get caught up in the search for cool and making a viral video that they forget that the end goal is to cause people to buy something, adopt an animal, or some other tangible and measurable action. Identify conversion points early, and make sure you have the ability to specifically attribute each end-action back to specific initiatives and channels.

The future of marketing, advertising, and social measurement is still in a fast-changing mode, but as things evolve and expand, those three metrics of relevance, shareability and conversion will remain as core foundations for success.

What are your thoughts, and how do you see the metrics of buzz and influence changing over time? We would love to hear your comments.

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About the guest blogger: Ben Smithee is a Managing Partner at Spych Market Analytics, which provides innovative solutions for companies seeking a better understanding of the Gen Y and Millenial market segments. He can be found on Twitter here.