The 3 Functions of Social Media for ROI (Part III – Final)

September 14, 2013  |   Blog   |     |   Comments Off on The 3 Functions of Social Media for ROI (Part III – Final)


Understanding the 3 uses of social media enables organisations to outline a strategic development path and determine their objectives

Understanding the 3 uses of social media enables organisations to outline a strategic development path and determine their objectives

Execution is all about behaviors; or getting people to do more of the things you want them to, both on and offline. Generally speaking Execution uses micro tasks that combine to form part of a bigger objective or undertaking.

Execution-focused strategies can be amongst the most challenging to build, however they can also be the most fun, especially when utilizing strategies such as gamification.

One of the earliest examples of an execution strategy was seen when DARPA ran the now famous “red balloon challenge”. The objective was to see how the Internet could be used to co-ordinate activity online with the execution of tasks offline. To do this DARPA spread ten red weather balloons in public locations around the USA and offered a cash prize for the first group that could give the exact locations (longitude and latitude) of all ten balloons. Eight-hours and fifty-two minutes later the competition was all over with a team from MIT claiming the victory thanks to the following savvy incentive structure:

“We’re giving $2000 per balloon to the first person to send us the correct coordinates, but that’s not all — we’re also giving $1000 to the person who invited them. Then we’re giving $500 whoever invited the inviter, and $250 to whoever invited them, and so on” – MIT Website

Crowd-funding sites such as, Kickstarter or Indiegogo are other examples that sit in the execute section of social strategy. These sites tap into communities to secure economic resources, via donations that are then collated and directed to achieve defined activities e.g. to help put in a new water pump in a third world country or finance entrepreneurial endeavours. is a great example of using crowdsourcing to execution an organisational strategy is a great example of using crowdsourcing to execution an organisational strategy

On the other hand ReCaptcha and use executable strategies to tap into the problem solving abilities of a wide audience of individuals.

ReCaptcha’s are those things we come across online that ask us to prove we’re human by entering in two sets of barely-legible words or numbers. Most people aren’t aware that only one word is necessary to validate your humanity while the second word has nothing to do with security at all… the second word is actually all about digitizing old books where the aging font struggles to be recognized by OCR scanning software. When the scanning software finds an unrecognizable word reCaptcha takes the word, puts it into the human verification system and awaits the same response from a number of people before confirming the word in the text.

Ever had to prove you're human?

Ever had to prove you’re human? is a personal favourite in the execution space. It has cleverly tapped into group intelligence to solve puzzles in the scientific area of mapping proteins. came to prominence after a group of scientists had spent over a decade trying, in vain, to map a particular protein. The protein was seen as a critical stepping-stone for solving the AIDS puzzle. After a long and fruitless decade of searching, the protein problem was put onto used gaming mechanics to have users compete to solve pieces of the puzzle (the protein map) in exchange for points and prestige. After having not been able to map the protein for nearly a decade, users solved the problem in less than two weeks!!!


Figure 8 uses microtasks to have users compete and solve puzzles for science

Invariably all companies seek some form of execution at some point regardless of whether execution is viewed as engagement, purchases or sales leads. The secret to developing and delivering a successful execution strategy is to understand the behaviors required and in building a corresponding and integrated incentive structure.

Mapping your objectives

These three prime functions (inform, innovate and execute) are not only useful in understanding social media activity, but also in setting and measuring strategy.

All companies must see a return on their investment in social media so the starting point really begins with your company’s objectives.

Determining your company objectives breathes direction and purpose into your social strategy; and gives you the building blocks to start planning your first, second and third horizon activities.

All companies have objectives of some kind, so by overlaying and prioritizing these objectives, onto these three areas, you can start to see what your strategy needs to be comprised of.

Understanding the 3 uses of social media enables organisations to outline a strategic development path and determine their objectives

Understanding the 3 uses of social media enables organisations to outline a strategic development path and determine their objectives

If your company is focused on developing brand awareness then an Inform focused strategy is going to be the most relevant. Companies that are more focused on creating new products should put their efforts into the innovate space . Similarly execution strategies belong to those companies that have specific tasks they would like to see facilitated.

It’s important to notice recognize that each of these sections overlap and merge. Social communities are dynamic in nature and often shift between these three areas over time so whilst you may have your own very clear objectives, you must remember that it’s not about you and the needs of your community must remain the centre of any activity E.g during the Queensland floods, the Brisbane City Council’s twitter feed shifted from primarily an informing focus into a dynamic combination of innovation and execution as individuals and the response teams coordinated and directed their shared needs and resources.

It is critical to the health and relevance of a community to allow this dynamic shifting to occur. Ultimately a healthy community can only function if its needs are met… it is really up to the business to facilitate and progress its own development to the point where the community objectives are naturally aligned to that of the business – it is for this reason why companies with a culture of customer centricity do better in social media.

Even though the needs of the community should always come first, prioritizing and mapping business objectives, to the three areas, provides a focus. Understanding the area that is most relevant for what you want to achieve also has implications for the type of solution and technology you choose to use.

Defining Key Performance Indicators for Return On Investment

Once you have defined your objectives and audience, you are positioned to determine your underlying Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s).

Because of the dynamic nature of social media, it is recommended that you focus on a defined set of KPIs (two or three to start with) and, as opportunities and skill-sets develop over time, build capacity.

KPIs may vary depending upon the stage of development of the community. If a community is in the early stages of its lifecycle, then participatory and inform-based KPIs can be more important.  However as the community develops and becomes more sophisticated including Innovation and Execution KPIs will not only assist in demonstrating a business case, but will, over time, also demonstrate value to the community. For this reason we recommend starting with growth and engagement focused KPIs where community development is in the early stages.

Types of KPIs

Inform KPIs are the broadest the three areas and are associated with the early stages of a community’s development. These generally focus on the size of the community and, by extension, the effective distribution of content including:

  • Number of followers
  • Number of likes/comments
  • Number of shares/retweets
  • Total share of conversation
  • Mentions etc.
  • Pageviews
  • Conversion to website
  • Time spent on site
  • Netpromoter
  • Brand awareness

Innovation KPIs area are completely dependent on the specific area of innovation that has been prioritized.

If the priority for innovation is in product development, then the KPIs may be centred around: the number of new products to market e.g. Deloitte measure their innovation activity by the percentage of revenue derived by services that didn’t exist 12 months earlier. If the focus for innovation focus is in customer experience then the KPIs measurement may be around customer satisfaction; first touch resolution; the time needed to resolve an issue; the decrease in call volumes; or other similar customer-centric measurements.

Execution, KPIs are activity-driven and may include the number of words translated; the speed to map a protein; purchases made; <insert_specific_behavior> etc.

It’s important to remember that even though your objectives might sit within a defined segment, you should expect to see opportunities arise across all areas.



by @wardsco

Scott (31 Posts)

CEO Digital Infusions

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