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large__7649183772Let’s ‘fess up. We’ve all sat in social media training, nodding sagely as the trainer says “… and of course the benefit for us marketers is that, for the first time, social media presents us with the opportunity to really measure return on investment… a chance to actually turn marketing from being an intangible activity to something you can report on, to senior management…” and then, in the majority of cases, heard this small voice inside ourselves wondering whether we were the only person who actually didn’t really know how to measure it.

Measuring your social media activity can appear to be the domain of website gurus and digital wunderkinds…  you sort of get the impression that you’re nothing without a whizzy dashboard that will map various coloured lines over each other… thereby transforming your strategic plan.  But actually it doesn’t take much to get some pretty handy data.  Here’s our practical introduction to measuring your social media activity.

 

What should you measure?

There are seven key metrics you’ll want to track:

  1. Mentions – the size of the conversation or number of times the term or phrase you’re looking at was used across social media – perhaps looking for your company name, brand, product or service, but also looking at industry, competition or key terms.  Are there certain times of day that they’re mentioned more?  Are there spikes in mention that you should respond to?  How do specific campaigns perform?
  2. Sentiment – opinion – mentions don’t always equal positive, so you’ll want to look at what people are saying just as much as how much they’re saying it.  Without this measuring mentions could be misleading.  You can use it to anticipate and solve a crisis, for research and for more general evaluation of your campaigns.
  3. Reach or exposure – the potential audience for your message – not just your followers but their followers too (a follower with 1000 followers of their own will have a greater reach than a follower with 10 followers of their own).  This helps you to understand growth across the different platforms, measure the success of certain conversations and inform future campaigns.
  4. Influence – how influential are you within the context of the other people on social media.  There are many tools out there like Klout that give you a score, based on the wider marketplace and your various activities.  Knowing about other influencers in your space can help you to find people to partner with or engage with.
  5. Share of voice – how much of the ‘what people are saying’ pie are you getting, compared to your competitors.  This is helpful for research as well as measuring the effectiveness of your marketing activities.
  6. Audience – your followers and the speed at which it’s growing, as well as the profile of the people.  This is important for assessing the platforms that are working best for you as well as your performance against competitors and the profile of your audience (age, gender etc).
  7. Engagement – level of interaction – are you just talking ‘at’ people or ‘with’ them.  This is important because it shows the action that your audience is doing, rather than just reporting on them in the abstract.

 

What should you measure for each platform? 

Exactly what you measure for each platform will be determined by what you want to find out.  However, our suggestions (as a minimum) are as follows:

  • Twitter – Followers (growth), replies, retweets, mentions, favourites, clicks, key terms and phrases/most popular content
  • Facebook –  Page likes, engagement rate, people engaged, post likes, clicks, shares, comments, key terms and phrases/most popular content
  • Pinterest – Repins, likes, comments, followers, most popular content
  • LinkedIn – Interactions, engagement rate, likes, comments, followers (for a company), key terms and phrases/most popular content
  • Google+ –  +1s, shares, comments, total engagement, circles, key terms and phrases/most popular content
  • Instagram – Likes, comments, followers, hashtags

And don’t forget to measure this through to your website or ultimate destination, using Google Analytics Social Media Tracking.

 

How do you collect this data?

Of course, getting a nice automated report, designed to your specification may save a lot of time but it will come at a hefty price.  If you’re just starting out, however, there are 101 ways to collect this data and they don’t have to cost the earth.  Some of our favourites are:

  • There are a number of free reports monitoring general activity across social media platforms, as well as clicks, in dashboards like Hootsuite.  If you have a bit of money to spare then upgrading to something like Ubervu or Sprout Social (or even the paid reporting in Hootsuite) may be worth doing for added insight.
  • Twitonomy provides great free insight into mentions, RTs and followers… and, once again, offers a paid option for really excellent reporting and analysis by various terms and date ranges.
  • There’s no denying that some of the best Facebook insights come as a part of the FB page admin function.  Start by using these before investing in anything more advanced.
  • Tailwind is one of the few really excellent Pinterest analytics tools and worth looking at if this is a priority platform for you.
  • If you want to measure reach and content then TweetReach is really super at showing you how far your Twitter content is travelling.
  • Similarly if you want to see the conversation on certain key terms then SocialMention is probably the best out there for this… although Twazzup is also excellent.  Addictomatic does much the same thing but goes beyond just Twitter and monitors brands on a number of social media platforms.
  • If you want to see how you are performing against your competitors then HowSociable allows you to track up to 12 social media profiles for free, showing you how well each is performing for you (and your competitors).
  • IceRocket is a nifty little tool for those interested in blogger activity (particularly in different languages). It’ll monitor 20 languages and you can even specify times as well.
  • If links in Twitter are you ‘think’ then it’s worth looking at BackTweets, which goes back through history and searches for tweets that contain certain domains or links.
  • Followerwonk is rather interesting, as well… it lets you search for key influencers with specific terms… handy for those engaging in thought-leadership or blogger development.
  • An oldie but a goody… SocialOomph is great to reviewing multiple social media platforms in the same place.
  • WhatHashtag allows you to search for the best hashtag to use, from a selection of key terms.
  • For those using Instagram Iconosquare is probably the best free analytics tool, allowing you to not only monitor following but also hashtags and content.

 

Structuring a report

The first job is to answer the question “what do you want to find out”.  This is what your reporting must lead to answering.  From here you should set out simple KPIs so that you can monitor progress month on month.  Then you need to decide what you want to measure and why.  Finally, we recommend a template that will allow you to record the various metrics and report on them.

The most important thing, however, is not to get overly bogged down in recording the numbers but spend time interpreting them.  The useful part of social media measurement comes not in the number but in answering the “so what” question.  For every bit of data you extract and record the most important thing is that you ask yourself “what am I going to do with this”… consider how this should influence your strategic or tactical plan… your campaigns, messaging and brand development… and then do it.

photo credit: Beantin webbkommunikation via photopin cc

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