Publishers aren't alone in their quest to determine what resonates with their audiences as they attempt to use various social media tools to connect with and engage them. For instance, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently announced that it is in the market for a digital tool to help monitor how effectively it's reaching its audience with its messages and whether their response to these messages are positive or negative. And when you aren't pushing content views as your primary goal, it can be hard to know exactly what your social media metrics are and what they mean.
There are a range of tools available to aid with this tracking, including tools that are embedded within the social networks themselves. Facebook, for instance, offers a tool called Insights which provides aggregated anonymous metrics about activity on users' pages. And, of course, Google Analytics is a widely popular-and free-tool with significant capabilities.
But a wide range of other options exist. So many, that choosing one-or more-to use can be challenging, says John Lee, senior director of marketing with Flightpath, a digital agency located in New York City. "There are free tools such as Hootsuite, Tweet Reach, and Social Mention that provide different types of functionality, tracking and data across Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs and more," he says. "There are also more expensive options, such as Radian6, Meltwater Buzz, and Lithium that offer an abundance of analytical possibilities and reporting capabilities."
Desired Outcomes Drive Inputs
What to measure? The best advice: measure what matters. The number of "likes" your post generates may be interesting but, ultimately, not that meaningful. While the relevance of any specific metrics is dependent on each organization's goals and objectives, there are certain guidelines that can help social media managers be strategic in their use of these tools.
"We try to look at specific buckets of metrics depending on objectives," says Michael Barber, director of digital strategy with COHN Marketing in Denver. "Consumption metrics would be views, downloads, and chatter. Sharing metrics would include likes, shares, retweets, +1s, and pins, forwards, and inbound links created from the content. Sales metrics would include things like online sales, offline sales or ‘talk to your sales people' metrics." In addition to Google Analytics, Barber's firm uses:
- Woopra. "It delivers key real-time stats in a glance and can break any metric down to an individual-level view," he says. "It also gauges the level of activity of important customer segments currently engaged with your content and digs deeper to discover the users behind the numbers."
- ShareThis. A tool that delivering sharing stats to help understand "the velocity and social reach for content and specific posts."
- Engag.io. "Before they were acquired, this was a great dashboard to manage and understand social engagement across all networks from Twitter to Google+ to Tumblr."
Rachel Christianson is director of fulfillment at HipLogiq, a social media marketing company based in Dallas, which uses SocialCompass to track client progress on offers and content. "We also look for retweets, favorites and @replies as great indicators of effectiveness," she says. "Additionally, tracking lead generation from a landing page (through a link shared within the tweet, ebook or blog) is a good representation of success."
In one instance, she notes, a client was able to generate a 46% conversion rate on ebook downloads coming from blog traffic alone. "In fact, their entire HipLogiq campaign, including Twitter conversations, blogs and ebooks has generated 824 leads." Those are the kinds of metrics that matter.
Real People Still Matter
It's interesting that, despite the plethora of monitoring tools and capabilities available, analysts say that real people are an important part of the monitoring mix. "As far as best practices, nothing beats the human factor," says Christianson. "We have a team of people reviewing and responding to comments on our clients' behalf."
Bill Connolly, a marketing manager with Quaero, a B2B customer engagement agency based in Charlotte, N.C., agrees. "It might sound kind of odd in this age of marketing technology, but we also use the eyeball test to determine how our content is doing," he says.
Josh Levine with Rebel Industries in the Los Angeles area also acknowledges that much of his analysis is "labor intensive," but adds: "That's what it takes to be effective." At the outset of a campaign, he says, a variety of engagement-focused metrics (shares, RTs, @replies, post Likes, etc.) are monitored. "We plot them along a timeline and review at regular intervals to match our content calendar to the results," he says. "Once we find the activities that give us leverage, we optimize and repeat the process continuously."
Ultimately, says Lee: "You have to consider what data is important to you. What is the source coverage? Do you require automated reporting, alerts or collaborative functionality for a number of users?"
Connolly agrees and cautions against becoming too caught up in "best practices." "You really should only measure against your own past performance," he says. The best way to measure improvement is by focusing on your own results and continually seeking ways to improve.
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