Lately, everyone has been buzzing about how to measure social media’s impact on business. We know because we saw their social media updates about it. Everyone from producers of popular consumer brands to Zagat-rated restaurants seems to believe that just having social media accounts will get the buzz going. On the other hand, nobody seems to know how to measure the value of this “buzz” other than by counting Facebook friends. So … how do social media strategists prove they’re valuable enough to keep on the payroll?
In part, social media engagement is tougher to manage because it’s only sort of about numbers. People seem to think it’s mostly about the numbers, but now that auto-follow software is pervasive and you find yourself acquiescing to “like” brands you’ve never heard of just to keep your friends happy, social media is way more than a numbers game. Other than by looking at changes in numbers of fans and followers, however, companies sinking considerable resources into social media often lack the tools to properly analyze their own success—or failure.
Taking a page out of the old-school marketing book, however, does help. Some of the same tools that apply to more traditional advertising also apply to social media. If you want to show the higher-ups at work that you do more than play on Facebook all day, here are some legit (and legit-sounding!) metrics for social media engagement:
While exposure is sometimes the result of, say, a wardrobe malfunction during halftime, you can keep all of your clothes on and still publicize your brand or product. Website analytics—number of hits per day, click-through-rate, average length of visit—are a good place to start. The number of Facebook fans, Twitter followers, and mentions of your brand all over the web are also indicative of your level of exposure (remember, we admitted that this is sort of about numbers).
At the end of the day, it’s helpful to have an idea of how many people your message is reaching. If you can convince the accounting office to pony up a few grand, there’s some downright swank software out there to help you track web mentions. If not, you can make do with regular searches and free analytics sites like Social Mention or Twitalyzer.
This is a tougher one to measure without the right software tools. Essentially, you need a comparative look at the number of mentions for keywords in your industry versus how many times your brand is mentioned alongside those keywords. (The words “drink” and “soda” appearing on the web versus how many of those times “Pepsi” also appears with them). Influence is a measure of your share of the “voice” in your industry. You can also use this type of information to figure out who is the most influential (if it’s not you already) and compare. Sentiment analysis, a favorite selling point for many very expensive software platforms, is a somewhat imprecise tactic. In a perfect world, this would irrefutably separate positive, negative, and neutral posts about your brand. However, sometimes a bit of human analysis, and double-checking is required.
This is way easier to measure than influence, because it’s more quantifiable. Engagement means people are reading (and promoting) your posts. Every re-tweet, Digg, or other show of approval counts as engagement, as do comments on blogs. This is pretty easy to measure, as it’s simply a look at how many replies to messages, re-tweets, posts, likes, etc. that your brand receives throughout the social media universe.
Measure the pieces of content that tie to your sales process. Things like content downloads and lead generation forms help you distinguish between a) people who arrive at your website by mistake, b) people who spend fewer than five seconds on your website but leave because they don’t like the color scheme, and c) people who might actually be interested in what you do, what you know, or what you sell.
Just because a website has a high traffic rate, don’t assume sales will skyrocket. Similarly, if you adopt fine-tuned SEO tactics, you might actually see a drop in visits, at least initially, because the people who were going to your website were being misdirected by a search engine.
This last point is always a bit more elusive. But if you’ve measured this far, you should be able to analyze what translates into cash. If you’d like to know how much each Twitter follower is spending, on average, you need to determine how much money you’re making off Twitter followers in general. You can do this in an exclusive way by tracking direct sales using unique offers for that one media type. Track sales over 30-day periods and determine how many followers you had in that same time frame and, voila!
Retention is sort of like a bonus sixth measurement. You need to keep track of these customers and look for repeat business and retention rates. These will ultimately factor into your social media ROI. Look at the customers who are still with you after six months, 12 months, and two years. Also look at the percentage of those that renew or even upgrade their service. The higher the retention rate, the better.
Today, social media is essential to a successful business. Measuring the six metrics above will help in analyzing your social media strategy, highlighting any areas that need to be addressed. Tackle these six and you’ll never have to worry about being accused of just playing around on Facebook.