Tracking Social Efforts – Analytics Beyond the Link Shortener


Social media use in business is rampant. In fact, the growth of social media use is as viral as the campaigns that flow over the networking platforms. Yet, even though use has spread, understanding of this marketing medium hasn't. In a world where solid numbers define success or failure, the act of measuring social media simply doesn't add up.

How do you turn friends and fans, followers and views, into growth? How does it directly relate to business sales? You can look at your activities and see that you're investing something, yet, the way most use social media, there doesn't really seem to be a return for all that work.

These and other questions are why social media is such an enigma, and has such an aura of ?. Its ethereal, ambiguous, and bewildering. At least, it appears to be

Beyond Social Engagement

Although I often talk about social engagement, and engaging more with your target market, I know that " to the hard liners, number crunchers and so on -, engagement isn't quantifiable.

So I engaged (said with complete lack of enthusiasm). What now?

Well, now that you're communicating, its time to find out whether its actually helping and, if so, how much.

The Path To True Social Tracking

Social efforts can take quite an amount of time precious time you could be using to run your business. Therefore, it doesn't make much sense to throw yourself at social networking and marketing without having a realistic expectation of results.

With that in mind, Im giving you a homework assignment today. If youve been implementing a social campaign for awhile and youre wondering (as in, you aren't sure and cant tell) whether its paying off, stop. Read this article, follow the steps, and then apply them.

Goals " Just Do It " Doesn't Work

There's something to be said for jumping in with both feet, but when it comes to social marketing, what can be said isn't very nice. You wouldn't hop into placing an ad on television, would you? Of course not. In this instance just do it isn't a good mentality to have.

Your homework assignment - Look at your current social efforts and answer these questions:

  1. Do I have goals in mind that I want to achieve for my current social efforts? (If yes, go on to question 2. If no, stop and create goals.)
  2. Are my goals specific? (If yes, go on to question 3. If no, stop, and make your goals more specific.) Goals such as make a lot of money and get a lot of traffic are, to be blunt, useless. Social marketing goals need a high amount of specificity, such as gain 600 new followers within 3 months. This is a specific goal, which makes it much easier to find out whether your social efforts are actually succeeding.
  3. Are my goals realistic? (If yes, advance forward. If no, stop and connect with reality.) If your goal is to reach 600 followers in 30 days or less but 1) you don't have a large following already and 2) you're not famous (Katy Perry, vocal performer) or infamous (Anonymous, Internet hacktivists), this is not a realistic goal. As well, consider what your goals will do for you. While a high number of followers sounds nice, how does that actually help your business growth? The reality is that it doesn't help. What helps is what those followers do once they're following you " what you want them to do is a much better goal to focus on than how many.
  4. Have I defined how I'll track the success or failure of my goals? (If yes, advance forward. If no, stop and think this question through until you can say yes.) What good does it do to have goals if you cant track their success or failure? "And, what good does it do to track, if you don't track the right indicators? KPI's (Key Performance Indicators) are metrics that directly tie in to the success/failure equation. For example, if your goal is to raise sales through social media, a good KPI to track would be average sales (hint: how much traffic you get is seldom a good KPI in terms of business success. Having 200,000 visits a year, or even a quarter, does not (necessarily) mean a successful business).

Through "The Looking Glass" Realistic Social Marketing Analytics

When you measure, these measurements can turn into a jumbling mess of data. For numbers to mean anything beyond, well numbers they have to have meaning. You have to put them in the right context if they're going to make sense to your campaign. For example, what does 5,000 new visitors in 30 days actually mean? It could mean several things, including:

  • People are visiting your site because they found you on social and are curious about you
  • People are visiting your site because someone wrote about you, and the visitors wanted to know more
  • You're ranking in the top 3 for a high search term, and visitors are interested in what you have to say/sell
  • You're promoting yourself through guest blogging (and doing a good job of it)

In other words, there are several reasons more traffic could be coming to your site. Most of these reasons wont fit into the context of sales. For a social marketing campaign to work it has to be realistic and able to be tracked; for the numbers to provide realistic measurement, you have to put them in the right context.

Here are just a few examples to keep in mind as you set up your goals and KPIs, and track the success of your campaign:

There's traffic, and then theres traffic " A visitor to your site doesn't mean a sale, or even interest. How many times have you clicked on a link only to hit the back button when you dont find what you want? If you're looking at traffic as a KPI, include things such as:

  • Pages per visit " needs to be more than one
  • Where they came from " for the purposes of this exercise, dig into your referrals. You'll want to see higher traffic coming from your social networks

Links are an added benefit of strong social efforts " If you're sharing links to quality, informative articles (or quality funny ones or quality helpful ones or okay, its all about quality), your social network will eventually start talking about it. They'll say things like, I came across this article, and give you a link. For this reason, you'll want to monitor the number of links you have pointing to your site from other domains (you can do this through Google Webmaster Tools, or any number of tools that provide backlink profiles).

If you're tracking social, track social " If you look at the overall results of your site compared to before you started tracking, your conclusions wont be accurate. You see, the overall results don't show you a detailed view of your social efforts, which is what you need.

You can achieve detailed views by narrowing down your web analytics to the social level, such as looking at Facebook as a referrer and seeing what visitors did from the Facebook link. You can use Facebook Insights to see how well your page is doing.

As well, you can use social to provide a special coupon, QR code, promotional FB/Twitter code or other action you can track. If someone orders with that coupon, they're more than likely a result of your social efforts. (Example: In infomercials, they often say something like, Say you saw it here and receive 10% off your order. You're doing much the same thing, only you're saying, let us know you found out about us on Twitter and get 10% off your order, or whatever your campaign is.

Whichever KPI's you choose to track, make sure you take other venues of traffic and sales out of the equation as much as possible.

Social Marketing Homework Assignment

Now that you've read the article, take a serious look at your current social efforts. I wont ask you to raise your hands, but how many of you are guilty of jumping on the social marketing bandwagon without actually planning anything?

Before you do anything else with your social networks, create a plan of action. Listen, look, learn. Understand that social is just another marketing medium, with its own peculiarities, and treat it with the careful planning it deserves!

See also:

About the Author: Gabriella Sannino

For the past twenty years Gabriella has held positions as a consultant, web developer and creative director until she decided it was time to open Level 343, an SEO and copywriting company. She fancies herself an Italian rocker, rebel and SEO geek. She loves singing in the shower and keeps a notepad next to her bed.

Level343 Blog

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