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Social media measurement is a tricky subject, not least because not everything can or should be measured, and in some ways social measurement is a bit like measuring the impact of TV ads on brand awareness: it's a slightly softer area than, say, paid search.

But there are lots of things that can be accurately measured, which - when seen through a wide-angled lens - can really help you make sense of what social media can do for your business.

That said, you might want to implement a social strategy but perhaps you haven't yet won the necessary budget? And it's getting harder, right? It has been a difficult year for many firms and a focus on ROI may now be mandatory.

So how can you prove that an investment into social media is going to be worth it? How can you persuade the boss to make some budget available? How can you convince your colleagues that the cultural shift required is a smart idea? And how - and what - will you measure, should you be given some resources?

The following pointers on social media measurement and social media metrics should help you prove that there are lots of things to measure, and can help you outline what the likely effects on the business are likely to be. Good luck!

Step one

Read my article on social media measurement to understand that social optimisation is really all about the bigger picture: satisfaction, engagement, loyalty and ultimately profits. The past decade has been largely about customer acquisition, whereas the next one will shift towards retention. Social optimisation strategies will certainly help you to delight your customers, in order to increase customer lifetime value, referrals, the frequency of repeat business, and therefore profitability.

Step two

Get a grip on the things you can look at, to figure out whether your efforts are helping to make a difference. Social media metrics come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. I recently compiled a list of 35 social media metrics to help you figure out the various things you can look at, to help benchmark where you’re at and to monitor progress. Over time you’ll be able to optimise your site to increase stickiness and engagement rates. And at certain intervals you will be able to correlate sales and profits with your social media / user-driven performance.

Step three

See how other people are measuring social media success. It is perhaps too early to properly measure the results of fledgling social media strategies, but if you cast your eye around you'll be able to work out how others are approaching this. 

For example, UK retailer Marks & Spencers’ Sienne Veit says:

We don’t think anybody has really cracked this one, and certainly not us. We thought it was as important to start engaging in social media because this is where the conversation is now happening (and it would with or without us).

“For us, the true strength of social media is engagement so we also look at which discussions, posts, videos and events get the most comments and the level of detail of those posts. What we also need to do is quantify the value of the insight we receive about our products, services and brand through social media.”

If you ask me, Sienne has the right kind of perspective. Insight and engagement will lead to better service, higher levels of satisfaction, and increased sales and profits somewhere down the line.

We’ve also published some other interviews about social media measurement, including:

Step four

Take a look at some presentations. I compiled a list of 10 excellent social media slideshows, but here are two that are specific to measurement:

Move beyond social media metrics How to measure Social Media ROI

Step five

Figure out what social media measurement tools are available to help you. Here’s another slideshow by Laura Lee Dooley, which will point you in the right direction (remember that while some tools may be free, people power is not):

Social Media Metrics: Free tools to help you measure your success

Step six

Check out our social media strategy guidelines (subscriber access) to put your house in order. Before embarking on a social media strategy you need to define some goals, and to benchmark where you’re at. Our social media template files can help you figure this stuff out. In order to measure in the future you need to make note of some numbers right now. You should also take a snapshot of things like search rankings and also - importantly - the various costs of achieving those rankings. This applies generally across your marketing efforts: benchmark the costs and effort involved in acquiring customers across channels, and let's see if your social strategy can help to reduce these costs over time.

Step seven

Remember that there is a big difference between a social media campaign, and a company-wide and long-term social media strategy. The strategy bit comes first. Try to measure campaigns independently, in order to make sense of the overall picture, and to compare - and learn from - a variety of approaches. What works for one campaign may not work so well for another. Experiment, monitor, measure and tweak.

Step eight

Focus on quality not quantity. Measuring traffic sent from social media sites is all well and good, and traffic is some kind of indicator, but there is much more to life than growing traffic. What you really want is engagement (in the form of user activity on – and off – your site). Measuring engagement seems to me to be better than simply measuring the big traffic numbers. Not all visitors are equal. Focus on growing your engaged user base. Measure what matters.

Step nine

Educate your boss and any stakeholders. When it comes to the internet there is a general feeling of ‘it can be measured accurately, so measure it’. But social media can also be measured using some of the metrics applied to traditional channels such as TV and radio (e.g. brand metrics, which are typically much harder and costlier to measure, especially with any degree of accuracy). You can tune into the chatter on social media sites to potentially help evaluate these softer brand metrics. Yet even the best automated and paid-for tools are not 100% accurate when it comes to measuring sentiment, so try to convince your colleagues that we're not just interested in the black and white, but also the 40 shades of grey that we can learn from. 

Step ten

Do the multichannel thing. You can use social media to measure the performance of your brands, products, services and marketing campaigns. Social media is a real-time feedback loop, and one hell of an echo chamber. For example, TV ad campaigns can be added to sites like YouTube and Facebook in order to accrue feedback and fans (and sometimes spoofs / blog action / viral activity).

Chris Lake

Published 4 December, 2009 by Chris Lake

Chris Lake is CEO at EmpiricalProof, and former Director of Content at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter, Google+ or connect via Linkedin.

582 more posts from this author

Comments (21)

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Mike Stenger

Wow! What a great post. Just bookmarked it & tweeting it out now. Thanks Chris!

almost 7 years ago

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Amanda Crater

Great article! Thanks for sharing this, it includes several resources that I am eager to explore in more depth. So glad to have stumbled upon this site! 

@AmandaCrater

almost 7 years ago

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Lucio Ribeiro

It's hard for a new approach against a 30long years of same measurments. It's hard to proof "Focus on quality not quantity" when most of stakeholders are extremely focused on short term and not long term thanks for the article.

almost 7 years ago

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Facebook Applications

I agree now a days almost every person is connected to social media and it is really successful. I reall like your 10 step guide specially 4th and 7th.

almost 7 years ago

Walid Robert Norris

Walid Robert Norris, Country Manager UK & Ireland at AT Internet

Great Article. Social media monitoring must be fully integrated within the marketing strategy - AT Internet now offers BuzzWatcher as an integral part of it's web and mobile analytics platform, find out more about the recent announcement here http://bit.ly/7UvCsO

almost 7 years ago

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Tia Fisher

Great post: this is a really comprehensive summary, with all sides considered... will keep on file!  Thanks.

almost 7 years ago

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Mark Evans

Chris, Thanks for offering your thoughts. Even though there's certainly a lot of interest in social media measurement, many companies are still trying to get a handle on what they should be doing so the more insight and "hand holding" that we as an industry can offer, the better it will be for everyone involved. cheers, Mark Mark Evans Director of Communications Sysomos.com

almost 7 years ago

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Buy stuff

Wow! Great article! Is it me or are the comments on here filling up with spam?!

almost 7 years ago

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Ricky

Well according to me social media measurement is a tricky subject, but almost every thing can be measured by it,  in mostly cases social measurement measurs the impact of TV ads on brand awareness:

almost 7 years ago

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Tim Aldiss

"The past decade has been largely about customer acquisition, whereas the next one will shift towards retention. " - exactly!

Well said, and thanks so much for collating some actionable ideas... much more concise than Forrester's Engagement Metrics - http://www.adobe.com/enterprise/pdfs/marketing_new_key_metric_engagement.pdf

almost 7 years ago

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Facebook Developer

Somehow today every website is now connected with each other through social media websites and also they support them to engaged people with other and share what they wants to share.

Brian Williams

Facebook Development

over 6 years ago

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Darrell

I am guilty of all said about naysayers. I have no clue to the potential of Social Media, until now.

over 6 years ago

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application development tools

well i think this is the time of social media b/c its is the best & the faster way to connect & communicate with any one.. social media can be use for the promotion of products & brand for small & large business. Social media allow you to share what ever you want to share with publicly or privately.

over 6 years ago

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Open Graph Developer

There are lots of things that can be accurately measured, which - when seen through a wide-angled lens.Every single site connected toother sites.

over 6 years ago

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daniel

some realy helpful info with a good outlook. i think social media monitering is a grey area or a ''dark art'' but you have made it quite sound simple with your wording thanks again.

about 6 years ago

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abercrombie milano

Es war sicherlich interessant für mich, den Blog zu lesen. Danke dafür. Ich mag solche Themen und alles, was mit ihnen verbunden sind. Ich möchte bald mehr zu lesen.

about 4 years ago

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Handicap Tracker

It's really amazing work, I am inspired by your work and obviously this blog is perfect. thank you

almost 4 years ago

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Weight loss

Really your post is really very good and I appreciate it. It’s hard to sort the good from the bad sometimes, but I think you’ve nailed it. You write very well which is amazing. I really impressed by your post.

almost 4 years ago

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Coaching Training

Good stuff. It is interesting to read comments.

over 3 years ago

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avtomati.net

Hi. Great post: this is a really comprehensive summary, with all sides considered... will keep on file!

over 3 years ago

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Asif Ameer, Senior Web Analyst at Mediagerms

Hi, its a fantastic post i appreciate that. And i absolutely loved the "social media strategy guidelines"

over 2 years ago

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