How to Use Social Media Metrics

istock_arrowrace_freeavery-compressedSEO can spoil a marketer when it comes to metrics. The Internet marketing environment has given us access to numbers and measures that simply aren’t possible in traditional marketing. Online campaigns, however, can track exactly where a customer or visitor came from, what they did on a site, and how you rank compared to your competition. This data, in the hands of a capable SEO can be used to make immediate changes capture more of the market.

Social media marketing doesn’t quite lend itself to such metrics. After all, in a world of anonymity, like an online community, how can you really measure engagement or influence? Is there a way to glean useful, objective data?

The argument has been made that Social Media is far too nuanced and complicated to apply standard data collection models, or that any attempt to quantify results, or focus on direct responses, or overanalyze ROI will miss the purpose of Social Media Marketing.

Giving up on so many wonderful metrics is pretty difficult these days. Web analytics can show us real and actual activity on a website, and if the marketing strategy is not working well, we can immediately adjust for the market conditions. Keywords not climbing the SERPs? Time to change focus. Lots of visitors but low conversion rate? Consider changing the overall web architecture. Bounce rate too high? PageRank too low? Time to increase link building efforts.

Social Media isn’t as easy to analyze and adapt. That’s not to say that it can’t be done, but there are other considerations that have to go into the planning stages. Are you trying to use Social Media Marketing as a component of your SEO strategy, or are you just using it as an outlet for interaction and engagement with the community? Are you positioned to take advantage of observed trends, or do you need exact numbers before you feel confident enough to make changes to your marketing campaign?

Not all of Social Media Marketing is completely intangible, so if you do need those hard numbers, they are still available. Start with the usual list of web stats—page views, unique visits, members, time spent on site, etc., and then include other, more unconventional metrics. These could include:

  • Number of posts/ideas/threads, number of comments and trackbacks,completed profiles
  • New friends/followers/etc. after 30/60/90 days
  • Ratios like members to contributors, posts to comments, and passive readers to followers/friends/etc.

But, from a social media stand point, there really is a little more nuance to Social Media metrics, and most of it centers on identifying trends in behavior. That’s where things get a little rough. After all, we’re marketers, not sociologists. We like usable market data that can immediately improve the marketing campaign and not the wide variables of social trends and possibilities.

The truth is, though, that in the ever-evolving Internet environment you can’t ignore sociological elements in your marketing campaign. The metrics may be comparatively intangible, but a social marketing campaign can do a lot more than generate traffic. Some marketing campaign strategies are good for building clicks – Social Media Marketing, however, is good for building loyal customers.

How do you know, then, if Social Media Marketing is working? If you can’t run the same kind of metrics, and the numbers you can track are a little more subjective than other data, how can you make sure the marketing campaign is targeted correctly?

In the end, it all comes down to your own goals. Your goals should be completely objective and measurable. Social media can directly affect your goals, and if you use the metrics that best support them, you’ll be able to see exactly what is working and what isn’t. You can’t go into social media with the thought that “it’s just a good idea” or “my competition is doing it, so I probably should.” You need to know what you want to achieve and how social marketing can help you get there. You might not be able to track everything you want, but you will always be able to see accomplishment when it happens.

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1 Comment

  1. Ted Billups says

    thanks for the great article. your point about how social marketing builds loyalty is spot-on. I’m still looking for more tools to track the sociological aspects of web campaigns/sites, I’ll post them up once I compile a few.

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