Adrian Lee | July 4, 2011
In the past couple of years, social media marketing has come from seemingly nowhere to emerge as a critical cog in the marketing toolkit. However, the tools for measuring success in this nascent field are still in the process of maturing, and it seems like with every new-fangled social analytic platform that emerges, they bring with them their own set of metrics and measurements that does not seem to gel with the rest. This begets the question – what kind of standards should we be using when measuring the success of social media campaigns?
Challenges in Measuring Social
For the traditional digital marketer (if there is such a thing), analysing digital campaigns has been relatively straightforward. We have established metrics like clicks, click-through rates (CTR), cost-per-click (CPC), and conversion rates to measure digital above-the-line, and conversion, page-views, visits, traffic sources, and so on to measure the performance of a website or property.
These metrics, by and large, do not differ from platform to platform, be it web platforms or ad serving platforms, and form a common language between clients and agencies to communicate effectiveness.
However, in social analytics, the tables are turned. No longer do you have the ability to control how you measure (i.e., you do not have the ability to place your own tracking tags on Twitter, Facebook, or forums), and by and large you are reliant on third parties to feed and structure the data to you.
That is where the problem arises, as each platform will offer their own views of the data that is difficult to reconcile between them. Upon closer inspection however, you will find that the primary reason is in the way that the platforms approach social media, and consequently how you approach your social media campaigns.
So How Do I Approach It?
As mentioned, there isn’t a standard way, and the approach I am sharing is one wrought from experience and might not be the best – social media is a brand new field, and anyone who purports to be a guru in this space (no matter how specialised they seem to be) should be approached with a grain of salt. But, hopefully, this can be a starting point to think about a framework for approaching and analysing this field.
Step back and think about the objectives of your social media efforts in the first place. What do you actually want to do, or find out, about your brand? Is your objective to garner more word-of-mouth for your brand? Do you want to use it as an intelligence tool to find out what your competitors are doing in this field? The inputs in this step of thinking will greatly influence the second step.
Identify What to Measure
Here lies the crux. From thinking about your objectives, you will then need to think about how and what to measure. Fortunately, the glut of tools out there right now has solved the “how” problem but created a bigger “what” problem. In our experience, it generally falls into one of three buckets:
- Marketing – Where you want to spread and get more followers for your brand through word-of-mouth amplified by social media. Primary to this is to identify influencers among your following, and marketing.
- Intelligence – Where you want to get more information on how your brand is performing versus your competitors.
- Conversations – Where you want to get feedback or start conversations with your current group of customers for various purposes such as feedback, customer support, or loyalty building.
No doubt there are overlapping areas between the three, but in general they would structure the kind of metrics that you would want to focus on. Most tools are readily available, and though there is not enough space in this column to discuss the metrics in depth (which would be a white paper in itself!), below I have provided what I think are the best mix of analytic platforms for each need. Of course, you should bear in mind that the list below barely scratches the surface of the plethora of tools that are out there right now (both free and paid).
Although we have not come away with a clean answer to the question of standards, I am hoping that this will at least help you step towards thinking around social analytics and creating a framework for thinking about how to measure success in this space. That said, we would love to hear about what you think would be the answer to this question.