A Look at Social Media Measurement

SocialMediaLogosSmMost online marketers are comfortable with the measurement and metrics behind traditional click-based programs like paid search.  Less rigorously measured and discussed is activity from social media sites like user-generated links and comments placed on sites like Twitter, Facebook and StumbleUpon.  While social media as a channel presents unique challenges to measurement, there are several tactics marketers can take to start measuring the impact of social media on their business.

Outbound links. If your site includes a social bookmark or sharing tool, measuring usage of this tool can help answer…

  • Which social sites are my customers using to share my content?
  • Which types of content are customers sharing most?  Should frequently shared content be more prominently featured?
  • What type of customer is sharing content on social media outlets? Is your business benefiting from this?

Usage data from sharing tools provides insight into which social spaces customers are active in and what content most interests them.  Tracking this activity within your analytics package (Google Analytics, SiteCatalyst, etc.) allows you to view this data alongside other site metrics and use it for segmenting visitors.  Alternatively, many sharing widgets offer free reporting on how visitors are using them.  If your site offers a bookmark/sharing tool, consider tagging the shared URLs with tracking parameters to more reliably measure visitors arriving at your site from these links.

Inbound traffic from social media. Measuring traffic arriving at your site from social media can help answer questions like…

  • Which social media sites are visitors and customers using to access my site?
  • Which content sections of my site are generating the most social-initiated visits?
  • Is traffic originating from social sites trending upward?

Inbound traffic from social media sites provides another view of where conversations are occurring and which content is generating interest.  Keep in mind that traffic from these sources, even click-based traffic, can present tracking challenges due to the many ways that visitors can reach your site.  Traffic from Twitter can be especially susceptible to under-reporting due in part to the many ways people use this service, such as the Twitter website itself or desktop and mobile clients like Tweetie and Twitterific.  (SearchEngineLand recently outlined some factors affecting the under-reporting of Twitter traffic by analytics packages.)  While tracking is still imperfect, analyzing trends in activity from social media can improve understanding of customer behavior and provide insight into the content that is driving traffic.

Brand mention monitoring. Measuring brand mentions within the social media space can help answer questions like…

  • Do brand mentions correlate with traffic increases to my website?
  • Are the conversations around my brand increasing?  Are they becoming more positive?
  • What are consumers discussing about my brand and how can we remain sensitive to feedback?

Measuring and monitoring brand mentions in the social space provides valuable insight into consumers’ experiences with your brand, both good and bad.  Social sites like Twitter offer advanced search functionalityand APIs for searching the conversations taking place.  Dozens of tools have cropped up to help companies monitor and evaluate brand mentions on Twitter alone, and traditional web analytics providers have joined the fray by offering solutions to import this data into their platforms (see Omniture Integrates Data from Twitter).  Expect to see similar tools for other social sites as they provide APIs for accessing data.

Even if your company doesn’t have an official Facebook fan page or Twitter account, chances are high that your brand is already part of the social media world.  For better or worse, social media is changing your customers, which in turn will change your business.  While far from perfect, marketers must tackle the issue of social media measurement head-on or risk being left behind.

Anthony Avolio is Director of Web Analytics at PM Digital.

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