Tracking social media has become extremely useful, especially for those who want to build brand reputation and ROI from their social media marketing initiative. Social channels directly link to traffic, following, and engagement, so measuring them can assist your business in a variety of ways.
Social media is an important part of the equation that brings traffic and fan following, resulting in the growth of brands. From the largest brands to the smallest startups, social media has been used and continues to be used strategically for a variety of purposes. Though I haven’t found a great social media analytics tool yet, brands and startups that do social media marketing have a clear need and desire to measure their ROI meticulously.
A social media infographic that surfaced about a year ago reveals what marketers look for in social media analytics:
- 72% measure the quantity of visitors and sources of traffic
- 63% measure the size of the network (this means the subscribers, followers, etc.)
- 56% measure the quantity of commentary and opinions that a social campaign generates
- 50% measure the sentiment of the commentary
All that data comes from people who measure social media metrics. Clearly, they regard social media analytics as important. But why?
I’ll try to answer that and explain ways in which social media analytics can be simplified so it’s highly effective.
Social Media Analytics: Then and Now
About a year ago, social media was used for marketing and ad campaigns, but it wasn’t very easy to determine ROI. One reason was that social campaigns were unlike traditional online campaigns, such as banner ads or squeeze page promotions.
In the latter, you would track every click, total the conversions, and calculate the ROI; but with the former, this isn’t possible. A user might look at your social ad/campaign and not click at all — but make a purchase directly some weeks later. Your social campaign might get shared and retweeted but it may not convert at into something tangible.
Furthermore, there was no way to measure these metrics to figure out whether your social media marketing was doing any good. This was one of the reasons General Motors pulled its Facebook campaign before plunging back into conventional fan pages and traditional media engagement.
Measuring Social Media: What, Why and How
1. What Analytics to Measure in Social Media?
If it’s a link, you measure the clicks. If it’s an ad, you measure the impressions. If it’s a video, you measure the views. If it’s a blog post, you measure comments and traffic.
But if it’s social media, what do you measure?
Likes, shares, favorites, retweets, comments, replies, mentions, subscriptions, Diggs, upvotes… perhaps the length and variety of this list stumps the average marketer or business owner who’s trying to figure out ROI from their social media marketing efforts.
Let’s go back to the infographic again:
- 72% measure the quantity of visitors and sources of traffic
- 63% measure the size of the network (subscribers, followers, etc.)
- 56% measure the quantity of commentary and opinions a social campaign generates
- 50% measure the sentiment of commentary
Traffic numbers, growth of followers, quantity of interaction, quality of interaction — let’s assume these are the four basic things to track (although there are many more, like demography, gender, age group, time of day, etc.).
In order to get the best out of every social campaign, you need to know what to measure. To determine this, you need to understand the purpose of running the social media marketing campaign. As is the case, the end goals dictate the measurement metric.
- If you’re looking to generate traffic, your metric should be: unique visitors from social websites where you’ve run your social media campaigns.
- If you’re looking to create a following, your metric should be: subscribers, followers on your social channels (Facebook, Twitter, etc.).
- If you’re looking to generate interaction, your metric should be: quantity and type of commentary (Facebook comments, Twitter replies/mentions).
- If you’re looking to generate revenue (which is the ultimate purpose), your metric should be: the precise dollar value of every lead a social post generates.
Some brands need to measure more metrics. A brand like Dove would want to measure the number of women that have clicked through a socially shared link. A brand like Apple might want to measure the peak time of shares and the traffic it generates, say, during a product launch.
It all boils down to intention: the ultimate goal you want to achieve corresponds to the metric to be measured.
It should be evident that likes, retweets, and shares don’t occupy an important metric goal because they are not of direct consequence here. For a small business, measuring the number of likes, shares, or retweets is pointless if none of it generates traffic/following/interaction/revenue or any other goal you have set for your social campaigns.
Furthermore, social is not just Facebook and Twitter; intensely passionate social media marketers know that an enormous source of traffic lies beyond these important social hubs. These include Digg, Reddit, StumbleUpon, LinkedIn, Delicious, and more.
2. Why Measure Analytics in Social Media?
Every effort you put in, especially toward marketing, should be planned and calculated.
Let’s say you take up guest blogging as a strategy to drive traffic to your website. As you go along with your guest blogging strategy, how do you identify the publishers that drive good traffic? How do you focus only on the ones that are effective?
All of that comes from analytics: you set up tools like Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools to figure out which ones are really good traffic sources and realign your marketing efforts to focus on those websites.
It’s the same with social media marketing, too.
At a time when social media marketing has become enormously important, it’s even more critical to measure the performance of every social media campaign you run.
3. How to Measure Analytics in Social Media?
This is the big question: how do you measure ROI of social media campaigns?
Tracking social metrics was hard in the past, but with some really amazing tools these days, it has become easy while retaining sophistication, with a ton of features.
For instance, here’s a list of tools that help in a complete and thorough social media analytics:
Google Analytics Social (http://www.google.com/analytics/features/social.html)
In most campaigns, this should be more than enough. Most of us measure traffic through social channels. Google identifies and tracks over 400 social channels, so this tool gets most of the data for you. With specific funnels/filters, you can track advanced metrics like conversions and the corresponding value of the traffic that funnels in through social websites.
This tool focuses on brand management through social channels. It’s used by some of the industry’s bigwigs. It’s all about social media analytics; Brandify monitors the social media activity around your brand (website) and helps you manage and enhance through recommendations. And it’s free.
Arguably the best tool designed to collect complete data about shares. Comes with a free trial.
Powerful social analytics that’s built for advanced users and brands that want to track a lot of things.
Yet another powerful social media metric tool that brings complete control over your social media campaigns.
A more focused metric tool designed to provide recommendations based on successful social media marketing practices, with HootSuite-like multiple-social media management features.
As usual, the web is often inundated with tons of resources.
On Using Facebook Insights
Although I’ve not been much of a fan of Facebook Insights, it does offer some good information on the growth and reach of your Facebook fan page. Tracy Sestili’s post gives a good sense of the various metrics that can be useful.
Google Analytics Social
This post is a must-read if you’re looking to make the best out of Google’s Social Analytics as it has evolved over the months. And this one takes it a step further to help you measure ROI generated by your social media campaigns.
Minilytics helps you understand the demographics of Facebook by letting you know which type of posts generate engagement, what time is optimal for posting, and how many fans you reach.
Social media campaigns are much more powerful than the usual ads run on websites. For starters, most campaigns are cost-effective, when the only costs involved are the human resource and time. Social campaigns are often more personal, because they occur on a platform that’s trusted. And with metrics in hand, social campaigns can be enormously fruitful.