Finding out how often your latest blog post was tweeted or a new infographic is liked is easy. Most widgets and plugins display this information right on the page, or through the platform's own insights dashboard or through a third party widget's reporting or a websites analytics. Unfortunately information is not the same thing as insights, and knowing that one post got 20 likes and another got 100 is not the same as understanding where this activity sits in the sales process or why it spread and who it appealed to.
Being able to collect the raw information on social actions, such as tweeting, pinning and clicking a like button, is not the hard part. From Tweet buttons, Facebook Insights and widgets like AddThis to Radian6, gathering this information is not hard. In fact many major SEO tools currently supply this kind of information as well. The tricky part is seeing how this activity translates to a return for the business. Google Analytic's Social report do go a long way to showing what behaviour your social media activity leads to, and connects it to on site behaviour.
What Works, What Doesn't
Is Sunday the best day of the week to post something to Facebook? Perhaps Saturday would be better? Is what works for news going to be the same as cosmetics? It is easy to find general recommendations on when to post for the best response, and how the audience on each platform behaviour, the only problem is that these suggestions might not work for you and the people you want to reach. Unfortunately there is only one way to be sure, and that is to test.
A Quick and Dirty Methodology
Fortunately there are a few good tools to help you with this. To start to monitor what is and is not working for your site, there are two kinds of information you need to collect. Social interaction with your content, both on and off your site, and how this influences your results, from pages per visits to actual sales made.
Google Analytics is a great place to start with their Social and referring sites reports. As the referring site's report in Google is a little light on information collecting full referring URLs for inbound traffic, either from server side stats or through a full referrer profile in Google Analytics is also a good idea.
Multi-channel funnels, when set up properly, are another useful tool. Be aware that using other methods, such as utm codes, for tracking visitors can affect the accuracy of your funnels. If Google Analytics is unable to identify the medium by which a visitor has arrived on the site, it will be tracked as "Other". However this can be avoided using custom channel groupings, edited to accurately identify each different tracking code.
Making it Work?
With the tools mentioned above and those available on each social media site you publish your content on you should have the information needed to:
- Track the Social Interaction each post and link receives
- Google Analytics Social reports, Facebook insights and a number of other services can provide this information.
- Track how much traffic each social action sends to your site
- Google Analytics Social and Referrals reports can provide a lot of information, while a full referral report and add more detail for some networks.
- Monitor the Quality of the traffic by Source, campaigns (Such as those tracked using utm parametres) and time
- Google Analytics Sources can provide informaiton on first visit contact and behaviour while Multi-Channel Funnels can identify how these traffic sources fit your sales process.
Gathering information is not the hard part, and with the tools currently available online, neither should finding out how this activity affects your site's bottom line. The method outlined in this post is very simple and straight forward, and once you begin to incorporate information on Social Interaction, Traffic, Traffic Quality and goals with a detailed social media plan, you will begin to accumulate enough information to begin to see what is working and what is not.
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