Updated: How to measure the effectiveness of social networks

Introduction and metric matters

Note: Our measuring the effectiveness of social networks feature has been fully updated. This article was first published in October 2012.

For businesses social networks have become a highly lucrative space that they can use to sell products or services. Social media is also able to make close personal connections with customers, who can go on to become extremely vocal brand advocates.

Gone are the days where measuring these networks was simply a matter of counting how many likes your enterprise has on Facebook. These days, every aspect of the interactions that happen across the social media space can be measured.

Vision Critical says: “Companies that turn to social media analytics as a marketing tool get valuable data to support their online campaigns. Social media analytics help brands measure the virality of specific messages and assets.

“They help marketing teams track the growth of their online audience and notice when that growth stalls. Social media analytics also help brands identify and leverage the influencers who can build and extend the brand.”

Metric matters

The metrics that your business uses to measure its social media activity need to be carefully assessed. As a business owner you understand what ROI (Return on Investment) means and have KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to measure other areas of your business, and these days, a set of metrics that help you analyse social media are just as important.

Altimeter’s Framework for Social Analytics stated: “ROI is just one metric in the social business toolkit. Rather than focusing on social media as a monolithic entity, businesses should evaluate it based on its contribution to a range of business goals.”

It's absolutely vital to stay on top of your social media channels

With social media a new set of measures are needed:

Engagement: This metric is the easiest to track and assess. The number of likes, shares and mentions your content gets can be tracked.

Acquisition: Much of the social media activity your business will develop aims to attract new customers. Google Analytics for instance is an excellent tool that can show you how much traffic your organisation’s website is receiving from its social media presence.

Sentiment: The positive or negative comments being posted about your business are an essential metric to track, as this data shows you the level and quality of brand awareness your social media activity is attracting.

Influence: Social media above all other environments is driven by influencers. Those individuals with masses of followers across all the major social media networks need to be coveted by your business. Track these people and their posts to gain insight into your business and its sector.

Service: Social media has become the new channel for customer services. Today your customers would rather send a tweet than call or email your business. Tracking customer services activity is vital to gain strong insight into how your business is perceived by its customers.

Reach: The definition of reach is the maximum number of people that could have been exposed to the content you have placed on your social networks. Reach is important, as it places your metric within the context of a group of potential customers and it shows the impact of your tweet, video or Facebook post.

Brandwatch concludes: “Analysing the relationship between volume of mentions, web traffic, social media referrals, conversion rates and so on with sales figures, average transaction value, client churn and other more traditional business KPIs will enable you to place an actual value on your social initiatives.”

Social analytics and actionable insight

Social analytics

The traffic a tweet or a post receives can give an indication of the content’s success and engagement using simple tools including:

More sophisticated tools (which are not free) are also available to deliver even more data about how your social media presence is performing.

One of the most useful and interesting measurements your business can make across social networks is how influential your material is. Influence for businesses and brands is critical to understand, as this often translates into click-throughs and then conversions to a sale. Tools to assess here include:

Closely associated with influence is sentiment. Tracking and understanding the conversations that take place around your business and the social media content you create is vital to developing a clear understanding of your customer base.

What’s more, these tools enable you to locate individuals that are your brand advocates offering more opportunities to reinforce those relationships and generate even more positive sentiment.

Of course these tools also allow your business to track negative sentiment as well, and defuse any customer service issues before they become a major issue and hurt your business. Tools in this category include:

Deciding on which metrics are important for your company will guide you to the right tool (or tools) to deliver the insights you need. The social media metrics that can be measured are many, with most enterprises using a suite of tools to help them understand how effective – or not – their social media efforts have been.

Always have a clear goal (or goals) with your social media campaign

Actionable insight

The mistake that is often made by businesses is to begin their social media campaign with no clear goal, or no measure of whether any goal set has been achieved.

It is also possible to use metrics to reveal the outcome of specific actions. Your business has a number of channels it uses to reach its customers. Assigning a metric to each will quickly show you which channels (including social media) are the most effective.

Here try and focus your attention on a specific goal. Perhaps you want to drive traffic to a specific product page. You can use Google Analytics to track that activity. Conversions on the page will then show you whether your campaign actually delivered the return you hoped for. Similarly, you can track any CTA (Calls to Action) you have embedded in your social media posts or emails. Use Google’s freeURL builder to generate the tracking codes you will need.

It is then possible to add a value to the analysis you are conducting. One way is to use a tool like theLifetime Value Calculator that will enable you to gain an insight into the actual value of a conversion or customer activity.

Marketing Landscape advises: “The key to success is to marry social media marketing to social analytics. Social analytics informs the social media message and content

“The marketing professional is better able to create compelling content and generate messages that are more likely to amplify naturally. It also gives marketing professionals the opportunity to measure the efficacy of the messages and fine-tune them to better meet their objectives.”

Social media has in the past been something of an intangible element of business marketing. Today it is possible to track, measure and analyse every aspect of your business’ social media activities.

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