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Tracking and Measuring Social Media Success

When John Wanamaker said “Half my advertising is wasted, I just don’t know which half,” he could’ve just as easily been talking about social media. Social media offers brands a chance to engage consumers on a level unlike any other medium because it allows consumers to engage brands back.

It’s not always easy, however, to quantify and track how that engagement affects sales and the bottom line. Indeed, engagement on Facebook or Twitter can lead to long term customer loyalty just as much as they can lead to nothing more than just a lot of white noise on Facebook or Twitter.

When investing in social media it’s important to think carefully in advance about what your goals are. Not only will that help you better choose what channels to focus on, but it will help you establish measurable KPIs. And with those KPIs in mind, you can then choose from a variety of tools to help you track the impact of your social media campaigns.

Social Media: Doohickies and Doodads

It’s not very helpful to talk about “social media” as if it were one thing, but marketers do anyway. The truth is that “social media” is really just a blanket term for a bunch on internet-driven doohickies and doodads that not only allow you to engage consumers in all kinds of different ways, but allow consumers to engage your brand too.

Indeed, comparing Facebook to Twitter to Tumblr is like comparing print to radio to television advertising, or apples to oranges to grapes. They’re each completely different things, with completely different value propositions, offering distinct forms of engagement.

The only real thing that different social networks have in common is that they’re internet-driven doohickies. And different doohickies are good for getting different things done, so it’s important to decide what you marketing goals are before deciding what doodad to pick up.

After all, social media can be used for advertising, PR, branding, customer service, customer retention or SEO. And what you decide you’re using for is going to affect what tools you use to measure your social media campaigns.

A Primer on Free Tracking Doodads

Since social media can be used in so many different ways to achieve so many different goals, it’s no surprise that there are so many different tracking and measurement tools on the market. But so much of your social media impact can be effectively measured with two free tools. It’s also no surprise that those two free tools come from the two largest names in internet doodads: Facebook and Google.

Tracking Social Media with Google Analytics

In 2011, Google acquired PostRank, a service that helped marketers quantify (albeit arbitrarily) social actions such as Likes, Tweets, etc. Since then, two things have happened: (1) Google has beefed up its social tracking in Google Analytics, and (2) Google’s search algorithm has been increasingly affected by “social signals”. Consequently marketers can measure a number of KPIs through Google Analytics.

Measuring Social: The most basic report in Google Analytics that can help you track social is the Social traffic report. Here you can see how traffic coming in from different social media sites are converting along the lines of Average Time on Site, Page Views, and Goal or Ecommerce conversions. This will help you understand how your social spend is impacting your bottom line.

Measuring SEO: Since social media also impacts SEO and it offers more targeted and qualified traffic than any other channel, it’s important to track how social is impacting your SEO. This can be easily achieved by correlating social media referral traffic with changes in the volume and quality of organic search traffic. Even if SEO is not one of your social media marketing goals, it will be interesting and valuable to see how your social activity has impacted this source of targeted and qualified traffic.

Tracking Social Media with Facebook Insights

Unsurprisingly, the largest social network online also offers its own internal suite of analytics called Facebook Insights. If you’re investing in engaging users on Facebook, Facebook Insights will help you understand (1) who your fans are, and (2) how they are engaging your brand.

For starters, it will give you a breakdown of users’ age, gender and geographic demographics, allowing you to see whether you’re reaching your target market on Facebook and whether you have to adjust your strategy if you’re not.

Facebook Insights will also reveal what kinds of content your fans are engaging with, helping you refine our efforts. For example, if your users are Liking and “Talking About” your photos but not your blog posts links, you might divert some of your blogging budget toward your creative to create more brand-related infographics or imagery.

A Measurement Plan

As with any marketing initiative, the trick to measuring social media is to understand what it is you’re trying to measure. If you establish clear goals, you can establish KPIs, and many tools out there can help you put a pulse on them.

For instance, if you want traffic or ecommerce conversions, Google Analytics can help you evaluate your ROI. Similarly, if you want to engage users for purpose of branding or PR, you can measure traffic referrals through Google Analytics and first-hand engagement through Facebook Insights.

The main point, here, is to not just jump into the same social media pools that everyone else is. Rather, predetermine what it is you’re trying to achieve, and you’ll know which pool to dive into, and you’ll have an idea on how to measure the splash you’re making.

About the author: Augustin VazquezLevi is co-founder of AOD Media Group and actively writes about Web Analytics for a number of publications.

2 Responses to “Tracking and Measuring Social Media Success”

  1. Dave Ury May 3, 2013 at 9:37 pm #

    Well written Augustin. I’m particularly interested in how social media can affect customer loyalty. I believe that social media channels can increase engagement and loyalty among consumers who are already part of your community, however:

    1) I haven’t seen any case studies showing the actual cause and effect

    2) Outside of addressing customer support issues, I haven’t seen much reference to how social media can influence disengaged users/people who aren’t already members a brand’s community.

    Do you have any additional thoughts on these questions?

  2. Augustin Vazquez Levi June 20, 2013 at 3:12 pm #

    Hi Dave. Social channels shouldn’t be treated the same way other channels are (ie. Organic traffic). The main reason being that social interactions are usually in a different phase of the customer acquisition cycle.

    With Multi Channel reports in Google Analytics we can see how social has influenced sales at a later date and through other channels. Check out the assisted conversions and you will notice that Social is getting less last click attribution of sales most of the time. But maybe they have assisted in many sales?

    It depends on the industry too. A car purchase takes 6-7 months of research whereas buying a t-shirt will be based on a couple of hours or minutes to decide. We found a Google tool that is super informative here: http://www.google.com/think/tools/customer-journey-to-online-purchase.html

    Notice how different channels have different style interactions within the sales cycle depending on which channel is used. The idea is to have the appropriate expectations for each channel. Whereas Organic may lead to direct sales, Social is more of a warm up to eventual sales potential.

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