Clear parameters drive C-suite support for social media, says Lenovo's Rod Strother

When reporting to the C-suite on the progress of social media, defining your parameters will ensure success and the all important buy-in, says Lenovo director of digital and social excellence Rod Strother.

Setting clear parameters helped Lenovo report social media success to C-suite
Setting clear parameters helped Lenovo report social media success to C-suite

My dad used to tell the story of a political campaigner knocking on my granny’s door one day, can­vassing for votes. She asked him who he was representing. Somewhat uncertainly, he looked at her and, watching her reactions very closely, replied: "Well, I’m representing the Conservative... Liberal… Labour, yes Labour party." Suffice to say, she closed the door on him.

Data overload

I’ve thought about that guy and what was going through his mind every time I’ve presented our progress in social media at Lenovo. With limited time in front of the C-suite, what do you focus on? Engagement? Participation? Community growth? I know they all want to hear what the ROI is. Where do we start? More often than not you end up drowning out the message you want to give by overloading them with data.

More often than not you end up drowning out the message you want to give by overloading them with data

With many experts all touting what we should measure and, of course, disagreeing with each other, last year we decided to develop our own approach. We had four key criteria in mind. Transparency in the methodology, so people could easily understand what we were measuring and how we obtained the results – not wrapping it all up in algorithms; all-inclusive, in that it would cover the key global social networking services; comparable, so we could measure ourselves against our key competitors and brands with ‘best in class’ social practices; and, if it was going to be comparable, it had to be based on public data.

Outside validation means credibility

To gain credibility internally it needed to have outside validation and not be based on yet another opinion (like mine). We thought of Forrester or Altimeter, but we’d been working with analytics company Socialbakers and knew it had access to all the social data, and had the data scientist who could work with our social-media analytics team. Socialbakers got the idea immediately and we spent the next 10 months putting together what is now called the Social Health Index (SoHI).

The Index works off four parameters – participation, acquisition, retention and sharing (PARS) – which we determined to be key metrics. (Yes, measures like driving leads to the website are also important, but that’s not public data.) On one level, we can deliver the ‘elevator pitch’ to a busy executive who just needs to know how we’re tracking month-on-month versus the competition. For those who are more involved in social media day-to-day, though, we can get far more granular in looking at the impact of their specific programmes and which areas may need improvement.

Put a stake in the ground

It’s vital for marketers to put a stake in the ground on what they feel it’s important to measure – something that gives a solid benchmark on which progress can be assessed.

We are just starting to see the trends forming, so it’s still early days to gauge overall success, but I’m very positive on it being seen as an essential metric within the organisation. At the very least, I think I’d have won my granny’s vote if I’d campaigned for it on her doorstep.


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Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).

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