Synopsis — Businesses are advised to begin using social media in their online marketing plans if they haven’t already done so. Every day the evidence grows that an investment in this form of marketing can be beneficial at a relatively low cost. At the same time, opportunities for advertising in such entities are expanding, hinting that social media may well be the next battleground for presence among potential customers. However, if one does become involved in social media marketing, one must be prepared to put time not only into creating and promotion, but also in measuring the results of campaigns and exposure, in order to be certain that the investment is paying off.
In her article “Does Your Social Media Measure Up?” Krista Neher discusses this situation, sharing her experience with setting up tracking and measurement campaigns for social media on behalf of numerous clients. Illustrating her points with a plan composed of a number of steps involving creating measurable social media up front and then monitoring and tracking that social media, Neher details activity, engagement, and business value metrics that are important to include in your plans, with an excellent chart included in the article that summarizes the salient points to include in each.
If you are planning to expand your business into a social media presence, or already have done so but haven’t yet put together a comprehensive measurement system to ensure you are getting the best bang for your buck, read this article for some great tips and a comprehensive list of the metrics you need to be tracking in order to make your foray into social media a success.
The complete article follows …
Does Your Social Media Measure Up?
Businesses rush to the social media revolution, but many have trouble identifying the ROI (return on investment) or business value from their efforts. Social media can produce extraordinary results for any business from large, multinational corporations to small, one-man shops. For example, Dell has sold millions of dollars worth of products and a small pizza chain called Naked Pizza enjoys their highest sales days, both because of Twitter promotions.
Despite success stories like these, many businesses have trouble finding ROI from social media. One of my Fortune 100 clients had tracked social media results for about a year, and hired me to do some consulting because they felt something was missing. As a measure of their efforts, they provided a report showing how many followers and fans they had, as well as how often they posted. When asked how many people engaged with their content and how it met marketing objectives, they were completely lost. Over the next few months, I worked with them to define clear goals and objectives, build in testing, and create a comprehensive and balanced tracking and measurement campaign tied directly back to business results. The model I created was replicated throughout the entire company, and involved the steps I will now share with you to help you figure out if your social media measures up.
Phase 1: Creating Measurable Social Media Up Front
Step 1: What Do You Want To Achieve? — The starting point for measuring social media is having a clear idea of what you want to achieve. The number-one mistake of the business owners I train every year is joining social media sites like Facebook and Twitter without considering their objectives beforehand.
To measure success, you must first know what it looks like. Start by clearly defining marketing or business goals and objectives. Are you looking to find new customers? Create additional purchases from existing customers? Generate brand awareness? Convert prospects who currently use competitors? Generate sales leads? Provide customer service? After defining your goals, you’ll be able to put together metrics to help understand how effective you are at achieving them.
Step 2: Create Your Plan With Measurement In Mind — The next step is to build your social media plan with measurement in mind, creating a plan that incorporates measurement opportunities. For example, if offering special deals or promotions through social media, use a distinct discount code to track the redemptions. If tracking webinar sign-ups or whitepaper downloads, create a separate social media landing page to track them. The key is making your social media assets as trackable as possible up front, as this helps you prove the value and measurement on the backend.
Step 3: Build Testing Into Social Media Efforts — Many different paths to success exist in social media marketing — the same approach doesn’t work for every business or audience. Small differences in execution can dramatically impact the outcome. To continuously optimize your social media execution, you must proactively build testing into your efforts. The best testing keeps everything constant except for one variable and then measures the results. With social media, it might not be possible to keep everything constant, but try to make it as close as possible, so you are isolating just the one factor for testing.
For example, on Twitter you may try posing your post as a statement versus a question. Do you get more responses and retweets to the question or the statement? What about incorporating humor instead of straight posting about the subject? Try posting a coupon code at different times of the day to see if your audience is more responsive in the morning or afternoon. There is no magic bullet in social media, and no one-size-fits-all content plan that guarantees results. The best approach is to test and learn.
Phase 2: Monitoring And Tracking Social Media
Once your plan is executing, start to track and monitor your activities. Tracking and monitoring is the first important step in identifying the value of your social media activities. The three types of statistics to track involve activity, engagement, and business value. Many people confuse activity and engagement metrics for business value. While these may indicate business value, they do not necessarily show that business value is being created.
1. Activity Metrics — The most basic type of social media metrics are activity metrics, which track the level of activity and consistency in your social media efforts. Their importance lies in helping you see how active you are, which can affect engagement metrics. Tracking your activity level helps you judge if you are putting forth the effort required to get results. Business owners new to social media sometimes stop their measurement here, hiring a consultant or agency to post content for them, and judging the effectiveness based on the frequency and content of the posts. The problem is that merely posting content doesn’t ensure the creation of business value. If people aren’t actively engaging in your content and it isn’t driving business results, you may be missing the mark in social media activities.
2. Engagement Metrics — Engagement metrics are the next level in social media. They aim to track the actual level of engagement that your efforts are generating (i.e., are fans, friends, connections, or followers actually viewing or participating?).
Because the ultimate goal of most social media efforts is to drive some level of connection, if your campaign isn’t generating interaction (views, clicks, responses, etc.), you may be posting content while nobody is listening. Business owners on Twitter, in particular, assume that engagement from their social media activities must equal business value somewhere. The problem is that this may be true, but it isn’t necessarily true. If social media engagement doesn’t lead to more favorable impressions of your business, a broader awareness, or direct sales, the engagement may not actually be driving your business.
3. Business Value Metrics — The only real way to know if your actions are paying off is with business value metrics, which look at the actual business value created. Business value doesn’t have to mean making a direct sale immediately through social media, but the metrics should relate back to your marketing goals and objectives, as outlined in Phase 1. If the goal is to generate awareness, the business value metric may be number of views of a video or a blog post, while a customer service goal equates to a business value of reducing call volume or email requests. The key to identifying business value is to link back to your objectives. Selecting the right ones may take some creativity, but they should always link back to your marketing goals.
Tools For Tracking And Measuring
The final consideration concerns tools needed to track and measure. Start with free options and, if possible, upgrade to more expensive ones if your needs are not being met.
1. Free — One of the best of the free tools is Google Alerts (alerts.google.com), which notifies you of blog posts or other sites mentioning your business. Twitter Search (search.twitter.com) looks for mentions on Twitter and search functionality on other sites relevant to your business. Finally, Keotag.com aggregates mentions across social sites into one location.
2. Low Cost — For more comprehensive coverage starting at $18 per month, Trackur.com scours the web to bring all of your social mentions into one place, providing you with a one-stop dashboard for monitoring social media.
3. Enterprise Solutions — Radian6 is an example of a fully featured enterprise solution, providing basic monitoring, but also sentiment analysis and group workflows.
Measuring Social Media Happens At The Beginning, Middle, And End
Measuring social media isn’t an activity that takes place as an afterthought once a campaign launches. Effective social media measurement starts far before you begin the campaign, with clearly defined goals and programs to measure success. Based on your marketing goals, select the most relevant activity, engagement, and business value metrics to build a complete picture of your success. Then head out into the social space and join the adventure!
Social Media Metrics
1. Activity Metrics
- number of posts
- number of updates
- number of replies
- frequency of posts
- quality of posts/updates
2. Engagement Metrics
- number of fans/followers/friends/connections
- number of blog readers/traffic
- @ replies
- direct messages
- mentions online
- responses to questions
- clicks on links
3. Business Value Metrics
- direct purchases on your website
- email list opt-ins (and then link back to the conversion rate of your email list)
- coupon redemptions
- buzz and online mentions
- search engine ranking improvement (and traffic from search engines)
- sales increases tracked back to social media activities
- cost savings