There is a maxim that 'you can only manage what you can measure'. This is extremely important for efficient planning of your social media marketing strategy. Like any other form of marketing, your budget will be limited and you will need to make sure that you are spending it where it will be most effective.
So how do you measure the effectiveness of your efforts? Marketing fits on the border between art and science, and the same can be said of the methods used to interpret the feedback from your campaign.
Acquiring data from your social sites is not a problem. A wide range of tools exists to tell you everything that you could possibly want to know. The data available begins with the number of views of your site and becomes more detailed from there. Because it is so simple to produce this raw data, it is easy to find yourself completely overwhelmed in a barrage of statistics. Unfortunately many of these statistics will not help you see the big picture-and there before this will be of no assistance at all in directing your marketing dollars.
There are many free tools available to measure social activity, but for better functionality you may need to pay for upgrades. Here are some ideas to help you decide what information you will need to gather.
Is there anyone out there?
The best social media marketing campaign in the world is of no use if no-one is listening. Therefore your first metric should be the one that measures who has seen your postings, photos and tweets. This information includes the number of visitors, their demographic information and what they actually looked at. Remember to extract the number of unique visitors, and also ideally you will want some way of separating the crawlers and robots from the real people.
Where did they come from?
The next question is 'how did they find you?' Did your Facebook posting pull them to your website? Did a particular tweet or series of tweets cause a spike in traffic? Was there a particular part of your publicity campaign that really tried people's attention?
You can see the path that your site visitors have taken if they have been attracted by an online mention, such as a news item or blog post. For offline publicity (such as a mention in a magazine or on a TV show), it is worth using a specific link in the publicity for the event. This will give you a real measure of how useful this offline publicity is to you.
What are they doing?
Getting people to visit your site is only the first step – it is no good if they take a quick look and then move on. You need to see how long their visit lasts, what sections of the site they look at and how many of them comment, post or retweet. For video sites, you can find out wherever they watched the entire video or clicked away after ten seconds. If the latter, you obviously have some work to do!
What are they saying?
Comments from customers are invaluable for tracking the health of your brand, and of course for finding out what people really want from you. There are now updated tools available to produce quantitative measurements from comments.
The number of comments made is a first step – when people take the time to engage with you and start typing, you know that you have attracted their interest. Comparing this with the number of visitors will tell you how well you are retaining the attention of those who come across your brand. Comment length is also important, showing that people are really thinking about you. Possibly the most important parameter is the tone of the comments – positive versus negative.
Are they telling anyone else?
This is the lifeblood of using social media – the electronic 'word of mouth'. You want your customers to do the online equivalent of shouting 'hey guys, look at this!' This means liking and sharing on Facebook, retweeting or mentioning on Twitter, and re-pinning photos on Pinterest. You also hope for links to your blog.
While simple actions such as likes or follows are good, your metrics need to differentiate between these and the more engaged users who are stating you in postings and blogs.
Are they the right people?
This reflects to the nebulous parameter known as influence, and the black art of identifying those people with the most influence on others. Social media marketing analyzes such as Technorati work hard to identify the influencers in many spheres, and when there are hot topics on Twitter they run analyzes to identify who is influencing what is happening. The results can be unexpected – for example, while celebrities may be influential for clothing sales or music downloads, they are not always as important as they might like to think in other areas. This kind of information is very relevant for choosing sponsors or attracting traffic by hosting webchats.
Having decided on the general metrics that you need, you can then tailor them for the social sites where you have a presence. For example, on Twitter you will be measuring your followers, the mentions of your brand, the replies that you receive and the retweets as people tell others what they have seen. Clever selection of hashtags also allows you to track the visibility of your brand elsewhere. You can also see if people are adding you to their lists. There is a plethora of Twitter tools available, both as part of the site and as stand-alones.
For Facebook, you are looking for detail beyond a simple 'like'. The Facebook Insights facility kicks in once you have thirty likes on your page, and provides a wealth of information. Activity is broken down by time, which is useful if there has been a newsworthy event concerning your brand. You can see how many users saw your posts, how many took an action as a result of it and whether any sponsored stories are producing additional value.