December 15, 2010

10 ways to measure social media for business

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See our accompanying article on How to measure your nonprofit’s social media success.

JD LasicaIs your business a social business? Companies that are making good use of social media should take the next step and measure the progress of their social media programs and campaigns. How do you know if you’re succeeding if you don’t have the numbers?

Today we’ll look at 10 ways that metrics can offer visibility into your business’s performance. You won’t want to chart all of these, but tracking a few well-chosen metrics — and incorporating the learnings into your business processes — can contribute to the bottom line.

Customer engagement

1Engagement can take place offline and online, on your site, on your social networks and in real-world face-to-face events. By letting customers participate in conversations about your brand, you can improve your business, your products and your levels of service. Ultimately, customer engagement is key to improving satisfaction and loyalty rates and revenue.

Metrics to track could include:

  • Number of followers on Twitter, Facebook, et al.
  • Number of retweets on Twitter
  • Number of comments per blog post
  • Number of external widgets embedded
  • Invaluable assets as redistributors of content
  • Customer reviews and ratings

Note: Such customer interaction can be invaluable in fostering a culture of community and in guiding product development. In addition, endorsements can be used as testimonials in marketing materials (with permission).

Sales & profits

2In the end, you business’s social media efforts need to not just generate customer goodwill — it should contribute to your company’s bottom line.

Metrics to keep an eye on include:

  • Track sales from Google referrals
  • Sales from paid search
  • Sales as a result of social network mentions

Dell said it made $3 million selling products to its Twitter followers on the strength of coupons and discounts that other Twitterers gladly passed along virally as tipsters. And Blendtec’s Will It Blend? campaign on YouTube helped to drive a 500 percent increase in sales. Just don’t expect the needle to move right away.

Search marketing & rankings

3The importance of search engine optimization to your brand cannot be overstated: SEO & social media efforts should significantly increase your site’s visibility & performance in search results. It should also help you rank prominently for targeted items and increase your long-tail traffic.

  • Identify and incorporate targeted keywords on major landing pages on your site.
  • Strategically use keywords on social networks as well, such as Facebook.
  • You can use links from Twitter or YouTube to claim valuable search rankings on your brand search terms.
  • Tweets that rank for targeted keyword can lead to traffic from keywords that the site does not rank for.
  • Whenever someone shares content from your site on a social site, you get a link back and a submission history.
  • Try to convert one-time visitors from Digg, StumbleUpon and other social news sites into long-term members of your community.

Traffic & conversation reach

4Your business can produce the most gorgeous, well-manicured press releases in the world. But unless you get customers talking about your product or service and generating traffic to your website, microsite or social networks, you’re missing the boat.

  • Raw traffic is important, but you’ll want to measure traffic from segmented audiences that you’re targeting.
  • Chart the number of visitors to your social networks.

Brand sentiment

5The nature and purpose of public relations and external communications is changing from an industrial-era paradigm to one of facilitation and curation. Go with it — help create evangelists for your products or services among your most ardent fans. Word of mouth and the viral nature of sites like Twitter, Facebook and Digg can help shift your company’s key brand metrics.

You’ll need a more sophisticated set of metrics tools to gauge the following:

  • Brand awareness, brand favorability, brand recall, propensity to buy, etc. (TV ads are measured in this way.)
  • Positive brand associations via social media efforts can help drive clicks on paid search ads. Use a social media service to measure brand sentiment.

Public outreach

6The worlds of public relations, customer service and marketing are merging. Social media enables customers to interact with all channels within a company.

  • Traditional metrics, such as column inches in newspapers and magazines, are becoming less relevant over time. Outreach to blogosphere & Twitterverse is becoming as important as outreach to media organizations. Consider creating a social media newsroom that offers bloggers and news organizations a rich set of multimedia, bulleted takeaways and quotes from key participants. Then track the number of mentions on social sites by using the url shortener.

Lead generation

7Social media is becoming a funnel for lead generation. A number of tools now let you track business prospects through sophisticated filtering mechanisms.

  • Use LinkedIn to connect with potential business partners and clients, and chart the rate of invitations accepted and follow-up communications acted upon. See which kinds of messaging are resonating.
  • Here’s an opportunity for your internal teams to work together to optimize your site for keywords and key phrases. It’s always better when potential customers come to you.

Customer retention

8We’re moving into an age of optimization and retention. Watch your retention rates as you start participating in social media. Over time, if your team uses social media intelligently, they should rise.

  • Zappos, which uses Twitter, MySpace, Facebook and YouTube for its social media efforts, has exceeded $1 billion in sales. Some 75 percent of its orders are repeat customers. Make sure you monitor your repeat customers and shower them with love.

Cost savings

9In this age of cost-cutting, companies are looking to apply savings wherever they can. Cisco saved $250,000 by using social media rather than traditional PR and marketing to roll out its Data Center project.

  • Crowdsourcing has become an increasingly popular way for businesses to leverage customers and outside parties for savings. Consider how cost reductions can be applied in a way that benefits the bottom line while not infringing on worker rights or jeopardizing health and environmental standards. Then measure how each initiative contributes to cost containment.

Employee recruitment

10The brightest young minds coming into the workplace today live, breathe and understand social media. Show them that you’re a genuine social business and not just another company hunkering down in the wake of the social media revolution.

  • Measure incoming employees’ sentiment about your company. What are they saying? What attracted them?
  • Measure exiting employees’ sentiment. Assign someone from human relations, with no stake in the matter, to conduct exit interviews. Assess their feedback — and take it to heart.

These are 10 ideas, but it’s not a complete list. List your ideas in the comments below.


JD Lasica, founder of, is now co-founder of the cruise discovery engine Cruiseable. See his About page, contact JD or follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.

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3 thoughts on “10 ways to measure social media for business

  1. Instead of using a link shortener, you could just display the actual website so to create greater trust and then track the activity through analytics (Google analytics). For example, the website, which is a button-sharing website to promote user-content, allows the user to create a download button to post on their website which their visitors click to access the hidden content. It asks the user to post the user-defined message along with the actual website in its fullest form on a social network of their choice. This means that the visitors friends would be more willing to click on the link where it somewhat describes what's going on rather than trusting a potential threat through a URL shortener.

    • True. But if you put into Twitter, it won't come out as an actual link. URL shorteners can be trusted – if you trust the source of the tweet.

  2. Jdlasica, you're right – “trust the source”. This is what all online businesses have to aim – the more people trust your company the more sales you get (of course there are many other rules to follow, but is one of the most important ones.)