As social media keeps providing new marketing opportunities, in addition to a way for online users to simply pass the time, the need for social analytics is becoming more pressing.
Utilizing reporting tools that are available online today can help Internet marketers continue to shape their social media strategy and overall online interaction methods.
Some of the most important metrics to track when it comes to social media include the ROI - how time spent marketing on sites like Facebook and Twitter translates into revenue for the company - and the growth and interaction factors surrounding a company's online profiles and communities.
Any metric can be broken down into granular parts for a closer look or to add quantitative micro-metrics to an overarching qualitative metric. For example, the number of links acquired on shared or viral content pages via social media is a key factor for the SEO-minded.
But instead of looking only at how many links the viral content page received you can break it down by:
1. Volume of links for a number of pieces of content
2. Amount of links based on number of visits
3. Shift in site-wide link count over time
4. Competitive link growth
5. Links by category / topic
6. Links by social channel
The important thing to remember when it comes to social media analytics is to take into consideration what "success" means relative to the page and brand that is being measured. Comparing a small business' page to a nationwide, well-known business is an impossible feat - the numbers will always be a disappointment.
Facebook makes it easy to track page metrics by sending administrators a list of statistics every Monday, including the growth in fans when compared to the previous week and the traffic that has actually come to the page during that week. These statistics can then be calculated into averages per month, as a way to report growth in traffic and overall interaction.
Facebook also reports Insights on every post made by an administrator on a page, along with new graphs that display users' gender and age range. These demographics may be helpful for companies that have a strict target audience - say a product targeted towards a specific gender (such as Axe body spray or Cover Girl makeup) or an age range target, like Seventeen Magazine or Budweiser. When users outside of the target demographic area visit the page regularly, this may reflect how online and traditional marketing campaigns affect and draw in their audiences.
Post insights include the number of impressions or how many times a user has seen that page's post on either their Facebook wall or on the page's wall, and the percentage of interaction with the post. This percentage takes any action a user might do with the post - whether that be "liking" it or commenting - then divides it by the number of impressions. For the most part, impression percentages are quite low, depending on the number of fans of a page and their average interaction rate. For example, if a Facebook page is created for a study group, it may only have 30 "likes" but the interaction percentage may be very high, especially if the users are going to the page daily and commenting on every post.
Audience size, average interaction and post quality are all important factors when evaluating an interaction percentage. Most pages with 1,000 fans or less will consider one percent or more to be a resounding success, whereas a page of a famous name brand or celebrity with thousands of fans (5,000 or more) and an active community might see an average of two to five percent.
Twitter announced a new analytics platform that allows users to track follows, unfollows, clicks and overall traffic. Expected to be released in 2011, the Twitter Analytics service is different than Facebook Insights because it tracks clicks in addition to some of the other, similar metrics.
Because Twitter is primarily used as a link-sharing service, tracking links is one of the most valuable analytics that can be reported on the platform. While this can already be completed using outside services, having the ability to access the data directly on Twitter could make it more accurate and reliable, and definitely more convenient
There are several other, free or third-party independent reporting tools that can track links and mentions of a company's name or products on social media. Bit.ly, TwitterFeed, Tweet- Deck, and Social Mention are a few great tools that can be utilized to offer customized social media analytics reporting. Plugging the bit.ly API key into TwitterFeed, along with UTM tags, allows you to track clicks from an RSS feed published on Twitter in bit.ly, and the UTM tags can track your posted links in Google Analytics. Tracking the source and medium UTM tags (displayed as https://www.blog.com/contactus? utm_source=twitter&utm_ medium=twitterfeed) can help calculate ROI - especially if a link posted on Twitter or Facebook with a UTM tag is taking users to a landing page with a shopping cart or contact form that counts as a conversion. Using a link shortener to condense URLs with UTM tags makes it easier than ever to write link URLs without having to worry about character restraints.
Another impressive metric of social media reporting is calculating the percentage increase in average traffic and "likes" on Facebook, or followers on Twitter. Even small numbers, such as going from 44 to 75 "likes" in 10 days, translates into impressive percentage increases. And because of the difficulty in assigning concrete numbers to social media, these types of increases can help to prove that a social media campaign is successful.
While Facebook and Twitter are the most well-known social media platforms in the United States, other websites that should be reported on are YouTube and social bookmarking sites like StumbleUpon and Reddit. YouTube, for example, is offering more customization to advertisers and account owners when it comes to their channels, to help attract and maintain audiences. Measuring average views, comments or another metric applicable to the particular social site are good ways to tell if a marketing strategy on these websites is effective. However, these websites are in a niche of their own and should never be compared to Facebook and Twitter - one of the most important things to remember when reporting social media analytics to determine success.
Before proclaiming that Twitter is more effective than Facebook or any other social platform, their respective statistics need to be put into the perspective of how each of the websites is used differently. Twitter is more of a link and information- sharing platform rather than Facebook, for example, which is used to forge relationships and build repeat interactions over time. The same can be said for comparing LinkedIn with YouTube or StumbleUpon with Reddit.
The basis of social media strategy is the fact that social media as a whole should be treated as an entire set of tools instead of focusing on a single website to bring traffic and business to a company.
Engaging social media to attract and retain an active, participating audience should be the end goal, no matter what social media analytics metrics are being measured. When it comes to social media, both the individual analytics and how different platforms can be combined to form a total online marketing strategy can produce endless opportunities.
About the Author: Jordan Kasteler has been involved in Internet marketing and SEO since 2001. Currently, he is a Digital Marketing Strategist at Vizion Interactive. Formerly, he held positions such as Online Marketing Strategist for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and Senior SEO at Overstock.com as well as a Co-Founder of BlueGlass and Search & Social. Additionally, he is the Author of A to Z: Social Media Marketing. He is an international conference speaker and industry columnist as well.