March 19, 2012

4 simple steps to measuring social media success


Image on BigStockPhoto by suravid

Deltina HayMost social media strategists agree that there is no one, established framework to measure social media success. However, there are tactics you can adjust and apply to any social media strategy to help create a framework that works for you.

This article can help you develop an individualized, social media measuring framework. Follow these four steps:

Know your goals

1Any good marketing plan starts with established goals. You need to know what your goals are before you can measure how successful your efforts have been to achieve them.

What do you want to accomplish through your social media efforts? Some possibilities include:

  • Sell more products
  • Get more reviews
  • Establish yourself as a thought leader
  • Drive more traffic to your website
  • Generate leads
  • Increase your fan base
  • Reach a specific demographic

Outline very specific goals so you can measure the results of your efforts.

Establish your baselines

2Based on your goals from step one, establish measurable baselines you can use for comparison later.

Create a spreadsheet that includes:

  • Current sales numbers
  • Review counts
  • Number of hits in Google
  • Website stats
  • Other baselines specific to your goals

Clearly, some things are easier to measure than others. Quantitative elements like sales, website stats, and Google hits can be tracked easily. However, more qualitative elements such as thought leadership, influence, or customer satisfaction can be trickier to measure.

You may be surprised at just how many things are measurable in social media. Check out this post entitled “100 Ways to Measure Social Media” posted by Marketers Studio in 2009. This lists demonstrates that there are many things that can be measured. Your job is to establish which items are true indicators of your efforts based on your established goals.

Track your efforts

3There are plenty of tools you can use to help measure your social media efforts. Internal features of social media tools like Facebook and WordPress, free external tools, and paid services can all give you insight into how well certain strategies are paying off.

It is important during this step to use more than one tool to track your efforts. Each individual tool can give you specific insight into one or more aspects of your social media presence. Together, a carefully selected host of tools can give you a complete picture of how your efforts are paying off.

It’s also important to focus only on the data that are relevant to your goals. It’s easy to get lost in the “numbers” and lose track of your goals. Some of the data may not be relevant to your goals – focus on the data that are.

Internal tools

Start your tracking and analysis from within many of the tools you already have in place. Here are a few to get you started.

Facebook Insights

Facebook’s statistics tool, Insights, can help you track and analyze demographics, engagement, referrals, click-throughs, and more for your Facebook pages. Access this tool from the main menu when you edit any Facebook page.

Facebook Insights breaks down the demographics and activities of a page’s fans. This feature also allows you to gain insight into how users engage with specific content, where your referrals are coming from, how well individual posts are doing, and more.

The latest version of Facebook Insights includes demographics and metrics for overall Facebook page activity, the reach of your Facebook content, the people who “like” your content, and insights on how your content is shared.

When viewing these metrics, keep your goals and baselines in mind.

WordPress Stats

If your website or blog is powered by WordPress, there are a number of good plugins that can help you analyze your site. I recommend WordPress.com Stats, mainly because it is developed by the WordPress.com team.

Using this plug-in, you can get a very good picture of how visitors are interacting with your site: which of your posts are the most popular, where your incoming referrals are coming from, which key terms visitors are using to find your site, which outgoing links are clicked, and more. You can drill down to get more details on many of the stats, but keep in mind that only you are going to know which results are relevant to your specific goals.

WordPress Stats

FeedBurner

Burning your RSS feed or blog to FeedBurner means that your blog subscriptions (either via feed reader or email) can be managed, optimized, and analyzed using the FeedBurner service. You can see which of your posts are the most popular, drill down on your subscriber demographics, and more.

HootSuite

HootSuite is a platform to help you manage one or more Twitter accounts as well as integrate your other social media tools and blogs with Twitter.

In addition, HootSuite has some nice analysis tools you can use to analyze your Twitter accounts. Their pro version also allows you to integrate Facebook Insights and Google Analytics so you have a one-stop place to get insight on your social Web presence.

This tool can help you get a feel for which of your tweets are getting the most engagement, and even attempts to calculate the “sentiment” of your Twitter followers toward your tweets.

Free external tools

There may still be questions you need answered that the tools above are not able to accommodate. Luckily, there are some free tools that can help even further. Here are a few to consider.

Klout

Klout uses an interesting set of criteria to determine what it refers to as a “Klout Score.” The scores range from 1 to 100 with higher scores representing a wider and stronger sphere of influence. Klout uses variables on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google Plus to measure what they call “True Reach,” “Amplification Probability,” and “Network Influence.”

True Reach is the size of your engaged audience and is based on those of your followers and friends who actively listen and react to your messages. Amplification Probability is the likelihood that your messages will generate actions (retweets, @messages, likes, and comments). Network Influence indicates how influential your engaged audience is. An overall score over 30 is considered good.

This scoring method can help you pinpoint specific areas where you may need improvement. For instance, the results depicted below demonstrate to me that I should take a close look at why my posts do not get as many “actions” as they should, especially since one of my goals is to increase virality.

There is a fair amount of controversy as to how accurate Klout scores are at measuring influence. But this controversy simply reinforces why the best approach to a successful measuring framework is to use a variety of tools, avoiding the temptation to rely on one “magic” number to measure social media success.

Google

Google still has about the best host of analytics tools at your disposal. Google Analytics can help you track and analyze website and social media visitors. Google Webmaster Tools can help you gain insight into how Google indexes your site, which search terms are used to find your site, errors on your site that may be keeping it from placing properly, and more. You can get advanced metrics on specific search terms with Google Trends, and Google Alerts can keep you informed when certain terms (like your name, your business name, your website name, or your book title) land high in search results.

socialmention

Real time search engines and analytics tools like socialmention can give you good insight into the kind of attention your posts and updates are getting. In addition, socialmention shows the reach, sentiment, and passion followers have for your name or brand. These search engines can also give you insight into the key terms that are typically associated with your brand.

PostRank

PostRank is one of the few paid services that still has a free option. Using PostRank, you can track not only your social media efforts, but engagement on specific pages of your website. It also allows you to track documents like PDFs, videos, or presentations. You can even use the service to analyze your RSS feeds.

You can get a lot of information on individuals updates or blog posts as shown below. Scrolling down this page reveals individual engagement activity, like tweets mentioning the post and more.

Paid services

There are a lot of social media metrics services popping up now-a-days, but with all of the free tools at your disposal, you won’t likely need them. Large companies, major brands, and PR firms running regular campaigns are typically the target market for such services.

If you do find yourself in need of a paid service, though, here are a few that have earned good reputations in PR and marketing circles:

When choosing a paid service, here are some questions to ask:

  • Does it integrate your social accounts like Facebook, Google Plus, and Twitter?
  • Does it measure all of your social accounts?
  • Does it measure your RSS feeds, website, and other documents?
  • Does it measure interactions across other social sites?
  • Does it show specific interactions?
  • Does it measure engagement within your social accounts and on your website?
  • Does it show “tags” or key terms used to find your content?
  • Does it interface with Google Analytics or other analytics tools like Facebook Insights?

Stay informed, but trust your instincts

4Don’t get overwhelmed by all the “advice” out there. You know your business better than anyone, so don’t fall into the trap of following advice that does not apply to your goals. I am not suggesting you ignore what others are saying, but I do suggest choosing only a few good sources that can help you stay informed on the latest trends in social media.

Here are some resources to consider:

Slow and steady wins the race

I also recommend a slow and methodical approach. If you are building a consistent and optimized online presence that you periodically analyze and adjust to meet your goals, then you’re on the right track. Trust your instincts: Keep doing the things that are working, and ditch the things that aren’t.

This article is based on the author’s book, The Social Media Survival Guide, and was first published at Social Media Power.Deltina Hay, a partner in Socialmedia.biz, is an author and educator who develops online curricula on social media and other Internet marketing topics. She also helps businesses prepare their content for semantic search and big data analysis. Contact her, follow her on Twitter and Google Plus, or leave a comment below.

  • http://www.mblast.com Yuriy Gumen

    Great piece of content and is very helpful. We at mblast.com are also very interested in analytics tools that can be used to track the efforts issue you mentioned. That's why we created a solution for that. If you'd like you can check our mPACT Pro solution.

  • http://www.3wogle.com john smith

    Really good post indeed. Some easy things to follow on social networks which can give a really good boost to your business via social media and especially Facebook. http://blog.3wogle.com/2012/03/20/applicable-stra

    Have a brief look of the given blog, it can be helpful.