Measuring social media will help you better understand what works, which social media venues perform for you, and provides an important metric to factor into cost analysis. Once you have pulled together your social media marketing goals , you need to lay down how you are going to measure the impact of your social media marketing efforts.
Social media measurement presents some interesting challenges compared to the more typical site or page metrics. The most direct measures, such as traffic and conversion on your website, are only part of the picture. By the very nature though, much of your social media efforts will take place off your website. But let’s make it easy and start internally before we move to the more challenging external measurements.
Like site optimization, it is helpful to identify or create a landing page target on your website for your social media campaigns as well. Not all of the traffic and gains from social media will flow into your target page, but it will help your efforts to have a defined target to build your efforts around. This is especially true when focusing on link baiting efforts as an intersection of social media and SEO .
Some of your social media efforts will be indirect, just interacting with others and building your social media rapport and authority, and that is okay, even required. However without some focused targeting, you may find you’re spending a lot of energy on social media with no real purpose and fewer gains.
Target pages don’t have to be newly created or strictly for your campaigns, especially since they may generate inbound links over time as others (hopefully) link to them. What this will do though is to help sync and consolidate your social media efforts with all of your other SEO efforts. Then, as you mention target phrases in your social media campaigns, you’ll already know where it needs to link to, rather than having random linking to different pages. This is especially critical if you have a team working on your social media.
Global tracking, such as total traffic being sent to the site from each of the venues you are targeting, will provide a bigger picture view. Now with your target page, phrase and promotion combination, you can at least connect a page to your specific efforts. You’ll want to monitor your specific target pages for referring traffic from the venues you’ve targeted:
- record the dates you promoted your target (begin a timeline as you may re-promote over time)
- track referring traffic from each venue promoted in (also have benchmarks prior to promotion)
- also track ranking positions and traffic for targeted phrases
As you can see, much of this internal tracking isn’t all that different than what you should already be doing. Of course, things like rankings and targeted phrase traffic won’t be exclusive to your social media efforts.
Social media marketing measurements should also extend beyond your site though, which is where the measurements get a little more challenging. Depending on the venue, you may only have minimal or no visibility of the types of metrics you rely on for your own site. If the site allows you to embed an image, such as an avatar that could be hosted on your own site, you can get a rough idea on page views by tracking how often the image is served up. However, like any kind of “hits” reporting, this can be highly skewed.
So rather than focusing on the more traditional site metrics, your off-site social media metrics will be more focused on popularity and activity measures. Fortunately, these types of measures are often reported in some way by the social media venues.
Whether they are called friends, fans or followers, one of the core metrics you’ll want to track is how many of those you have. This however, is only part of the picture. Social media is about conversation and interaction. These counts are purely quantitative, but what you want to strive for is qualitative measures. Sorry to say, but some portion of your fans will be inactive. You’ll want to try to understand what level of quality you have achieved by establishing metrics for:
- how many fans actually interact with you
- average number of comments, votes, etc. for your individual efforts (posts, videos, etc.)
- mentions to your efforts
- how many of your fans cross over into other venues (while this may seem to lower your total reach counts, it improves your quality counts as it means you are reaching a greater level of involvement)
Like any reputation management  efforts, social media measurement wouldn’t be complete without social media monitoring . You will want to employ the same types of tracking you do for your general reputation management, but look for mentions, links, etc. back to your social media campaigns or profiles. The further you move from your own analytics on your own site, the more challenging and less precise these metrics get. But, without any metrics, you are completely in the dark.
If all this sounds a bit complex, well, it can be. Moreover, these are just a few of the basics to get you started. Understand that real value will come from tracking over time, monitoring the ebb and flow of the various metrics in relation to your activities. Social media marketing can be a huge win or a giant resource black hole. Investing time and resources into social media without some level of measurement is simply irresponsible mismanagement.