How to Measure Success with Your Social Media Efforts
Once you’ve been using social media tools for a while, it makes sense to start measuring what is working and what is not. Though there is no single established framework for measuring social media success, there are some tactics you can employ.
What follows will guide you through the process of developing an individualized social media analytics framework.
Step One: Know Your Goals
Any good marketing plan—including a social media marketing plan—starts with established goals. You need to know what your goals are before you can measure how successful your efforts to achieve them have been.
So decide what you want to accomplish through your social media efforts:
• Sell more books?
• Get more reviews?
• Establish yourself or your author as a thought leader?
• Drive more traffic to your Web site?
• Increase the author’s fan base?
• Reach a specific demographic?
Outline very specific goals so you can measure the results of your efforts.
Step Two: Establish a Baseline
Based on your goals from the previous step, establish measurable baselines you can use for comparison later.
Create a spreadsheet that includes categories such as:
• current sales numbers
• review counts
• number of hits in Google
• Web site stats
• other figures specific to your goals
Clearly, some things are easier to measure than others. Quantitative elements like sales, Web site stats, and Google hits can be tracked easily. More qualitative elements such as thought leadership, influence, or customer satisfaction can be trickier to measure.
But you may be surprised at just how many things are measurable in social media. Here are a few to consider:
• shift in buzz over time
• buzz by social channel (forums, social networks, blogs, Twitter, etc.)
• mainstream media mentions
• growth rate of fans, followers, and friends
• rate of virality/pass-along
• change in virality rates over time
• social bookmarks
• subscriptions (RSS, podcasts, video series)
• page views (for blogs, microsites, etc.)
• change in search engine rankings for the site linked to through social media
• influence of consumers reached
• influence of publishers (e.g., bloggers) reached
• demographics of audience reached through social media
• shift in sentiment before, during, and after social marketing programs
• time spent on a site after social media referrals
• interaction/engagement rate
• contest entries
• impact on online/offline sales
• leads generated
• responses to socially posted events
• attendance generated at in-person events
The previous items were pulled from a list entitled “100 Ways to Measure Social Media” posted by Marketers Studio in 2009 (marketersstudio.com/2009/11/100-ways-to-measure-social-media-.html). As this list demonstrates, many things can be measured. Your job is to establish which ones can be true indicators of your efforts’ success in reaching the particular goals that you set.
Step Three: Track Your Progress
There are plenty of tools you can use to help measure your social media efforts, including tools you probably already have, other free tools, and paid services.
Tools at Hand
Start your tracking and analysis with tools you already have. Here are a few to get you started.
Facebook Insights (facebook.com/insights). This Facebook statistics tool 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.
Figure 1 shows how Facebook Insights breaks down the demographics and activities of a page’s fans. This feature also lets you gain insight into how users engage with specific content, where your referrals are coming from, how well individual posts are doing, and more.
Figure 2 displays engagement activity for specific “stories” (posts). Each main statistic area lets you drill down even further for a more detailed analysis.
When viewing these metrics, keep your goals and baselines in mind. Some of the data may not be relevant to your goals, but some of it likely will be.
WordPress Stats (wordpress.org). If your Web site or blog is powered by WordPress, you have a number of good plug-ins that can help you analyze it. I recommend WordPress.com Stats (wordpress.org/extend/plugins/stats).
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 referrals are coming from, which key terms visitors are using to find your site, which outgoing links are clicked, and more.
Figures 3 and 4 show examples of this plug-in at work. Again, you can drill down to get more details on many of the stats, and only you will know which ones are relevant to your goals.
FeedBurner (google.feedburner.com). When you burn your RSS feed or blog to FeedBurner, your subscriptions (via either feed reader or email) can be managed, optimized, and analyzed using the FeedBurner service.
Figure 5 shows some of the metrics you can use to analyze your feed/blog subscriptions using FeedBurner. You can see which of your posts are the most popular, drill down on your subscriber demographics, and more.
HootSuite (hootsuite.com). HootSuite is a platform designed to help you manage one or more Twitter accounts and integrate your other social media tools and blogs with Twitter.
In addition, HootSuite has some nice tools you can use to analyze your Twitter accounts. Its pro version also lets you integrate Facebook Insights and Google Analytics so you have a single place for getting insight on your social Web presence.
Figure 6 demonstrates some of the analytics features of HootSuite. This tool can help you get a good feel for which of your tweets are getting the most engagement, and the “sentiment” of your Twitter followers toward your tweets.
Free Stand-Alone Tools
You may have questions that the tools mentioned above can’t accommodate. Luckily, some free tools can help. Here are a few to consider.
Klout (klout.com). Klout uses an interesting set of criteria to determine what it refers to as a “Klout Score.” These scores range from 1 to 100, with higher scores representing a wider and stronger sphere of influence. Klout uses more than 35 variables on Facebook and Twitter to measure what it calls “True Reach,” “Amplification Probability,” and “Network Influence.”
True Reach measures the size of your engaged audience, and figures for it are based on followers and friends of yours who actively listen and react to your messages.
Amplification Probability measures the likelihood that your messages will generate actions (retweets, @messages, likes, and comments).
Network Influence indicates how influential your engaged audience is.
This scoring method can help you pinpoint specific areas that may need improvement. For instance, Figure 7 demonstrates to me—specifically in terms of the Amplification Probability—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. An overall score above 30 is considered good.
Google. Google still puts the best host of analytics tools at your disposal.
Google Analytics (google.com/analytics) can help you track and analyze Web site visitors.
Google Webmaster Tools (google.com/webmasters/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 (google.com/trends).
And Google Alerts (google.com/alerts) can keep you informed when certain terms (like your name or book title) land high in search results.
PostRank (postrank.com). 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 site. 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 also get information on individual updates or blog posts. Figure 8 above shows some of the metrics available for a specific blog post. Scrolling down the page reveals individual engagement activity, such as tweets mentioning the post and more.
A lot of social media metrics services are popping up nowadays, but with all the free tools at your disposal, you probably won’t 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, here are three that have earned good reputations in PR and marketing circles:
• PostRank (postrank.com)
• Radian 6 (radian6.com)
• JittterJam (jitterjam.com)
When choosing a paid service, ask these important questions:
• Does it integrate your social accounts, such as Facebook and Twitter?
• Does it measure all your social accounts?
• Does it measure your RSS feeds, Web site, 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 site?
• Does it show “tags” or key terms used to find your content?
• Does it interface with Google Analytics or other analytics tools such as Facebook Insights?
Step Four: Stay Informed, but Trust Your Instincts
Don’t get overwhelmed by all the available “advice.” You know your business and your books better than anyone else, so don’t fall into the trap of following advice that does not apply to your goals. I am not suggesting you ignore what qualified people say, but I do suggest that you choose only a few good sources to help you stay informed on the latest trends in social media.
Here are some resources I recommend:
• Mashable (mashable.com)
• ReadWriteWeb (readwriteweb.com)
• SocialMedia.biz (socialmedia.biz)
• SocialMediaToday (socialmediatoday.com)
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 are on the right track. Trust your instincts; keep doing the things that are working, and ditch the things that aren’t.
Deltina Hay (deltina.com) is the author of the critically acclaimed Social Media Survival Guide (socialmediapower.com/social-media-book), already in its second edition from Quill Driver Books. She teaches the online version of Drury University’s Social Media Certificate program (socialmediacertificate.net) and offers a video tutorial series on YouTube (youtube.com/deltinahay). IBPA members get a 20 percent discount on services from her Web site optimization service, PLUMB Web Solutions (plumbwebsolutions.com).