Vitrue, a company that works with marketers to develop a create and maintain a strong social media strategy, recently released the Social Page Evaluator, a free Web application that generates an estimated annual dollar value of a Facebook page based on varying factors like the number of Facebook users who like the page, the level of interaction and how frequently posts are added to the page.
“We work with large marketers and we get asked all the time, ‘What’s the value of my investment?” said Reggie Bradford, the CEO of Vitrue. “We wanted to help marketers and shed light on their investment.”
Bradford isn’t the only one hearing this from his clients. Steve Rubel, director of insights and senior vice president of Edelman Digital, a public relations firm, said he has been asked the question so many times he's coined a term for it—the "coat-on" question.
“As you are leaving a meeting and putting on your coat, the client will ask, ‘Oh, by the way, how are we measuring this stuff?'” Rubel said. “Now it’s even coming up before the meeting is over.”
That may be because companies are continuing to put more and more time — and money — behind their social media efforts and are needing to justify these expenses.
Vitrue, whose partners and clients include Procter & Gamble , AT&T
, Ford and other small- to large-cap companies,has seen a surge in the use of its Web application since its launch last week. About 27,000 Facebook pages were evaluated during the first 36 hours it was available, averaging out to about 750 pages an hour.
To find out the relative value of a Facebook page, users enter the URL into the application, click "evaluate" and a graph appears showing the current value of the page and the potential value of the page. The application offers insight and suggestions on contributing factors that could be affecting the page's worth, such as post frequency, and can adjust these variables to see how it would affect their value. Users can also compare multiple Facebook pages, allowing competitors to see who has the more valuable page, a feature that could be an interesting tool for competing brands.
Now, while Bradford said he is confident in his company’s formula to produce a relative figure of worth, he does acknowledge that the figure cannot account for an absolute value.
“Now, I think I need to point out that what you’ll see in the Evaluator isn’t the whole value of a page or fan,” Bradford states on his company’s blog. He explains that the application cannot account for all variables that would affect the value of a brand's Facebook page. Rather, his company's application provides one way to measure a portion of the value of a page based on earned media value, or the exposure they are getting through Facebook.
In fact, it is highly unlikely there will ever be a “magic number” when it comes to measuring social media’s value, Rubel said.
“There’s not going to be a Nielsen number for social media because by the time we make one it will be outdated…it’s going to always change,” he said.
Instead of giving a hard number when it comes to measuring the worth of social media marketing, Rubel said he responds to his clients by asking what kind of measurement they want, because there are multiple variables being measured in social media, including business impact and communication level.
Yet, despite the complexity of getting an accurate read on how effective social media is when it comes to brand marketing, one thing remains certain: it's not going anywhere, and brands need to have a social media presence because that is where the people are, Bradford said.
"Facebook is becoming the OS (operating system) of the Internet," Bradford said. "Everyone is on it, everyone is setting up a page."
So although the application may be an imperfect measure of a Facebook page's impact, it remains an interesting tool that may be able to provide marketers with ideas to improve their efforts on the social media site.
And with the application open to everyone — and thousands of pages already evaluated — it certainly has provided Vitrue with a vast amount of exposure for itself.
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