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Online Media Tracking Methodology for Social Media

  |  May 25, 2010   |  Comments

Meaningful metrics for tracking the performance of a social media program fall into these three categories.

Many marketers still think they can't track social media marketing ROI (define). They say it's so new and hard to define that the old metrics and tracking technologies just can't be applied. This widespread perception is reflected by comments in major publications (I have taken out their real names, but I assure you the quotes are real and recent):

"The problem with trying to determine ROI for social media is you are trying to put numeric quantities around human interactions and conversations, which are not quantifiable...What you're trying to do is assign multiple choice scoring to an essay question. It's not possible." -Principal, social media marketing agency

[Figuring out the ROI of social media] "is the million dollar question." -Director of corporate branding, major retailer

However, as a person coming from the online media world, I never accepted that. When it comes to online, everything can and should be tracked.

You can track social media ROI just like online media and search, and even layer on a few extras!

The difference is that, unlike paid search, online media, and other online marketing tactics, the social channel can take more time to mature and the results can take longer to be realized.

For many of the metrics, there is no need to reinvent the wheel - one can look at the same performance indicators in use for online today such as clicks, cost per click, leads, cost per lead, and even revenue.

Social Media Metrics

Reliable, meaningful metrics that fall into three broad categories.

  • Transactions and ROI: Online marketing metrics that most marketers use currently to gauge the success of anything they do online (paid search, SEO, online advertising, etc.). These metrics typically come from your website, landing pages, CRM systems, and call centers but could also come from places like your Facebook page if it is being used for data/lead capture or transactions. Social media transactional and ROI metrics include:

    • Inquiries: Clicks, visits, page views, and phone calls
    • Actions: Valuable brand interactions
    • Conversions: Data capture, lead capture, and sales
    • ROI: Cost per click, cost per lead, and revenue

  • Social stats: These are metrics that are novel at first glance but that have good analogs in online marketing metrics that you've used for years. These are the performance indicators that occur in the social media landscape and on your social properties like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. The extensions of your site, brand, and content that live as channels and profiles on other sites but could still be considered your property.

    • Connections: Friends, fans, likes, subscribers, followers, and application installs
    • Engagement: Likes, comments, sharing, retweets, and interaction
    • Views: Video plays, SlideShare plays, and social site page views
    • Traction: Engagement rates, retweet rates, etc.

  • Buzz and sentiment: These metrics show the chatter levels of a particular brand or product and the influence (or reach) of those doing the chattering. Depending on the application, sentiment of that chatter can also be gleaned (although the accuracy of automatically generated sentiment-rating technology is inconsistent at this time).

    • Chatter: Levels of Twitter tweets, blog posts, forum posts, and comments
    • Reach: Influence and reach of the people and bloggers posting the chatter
    • Sentiment: Positive and negative ratings of the chatter being posted
    • Context: Subject matter and specific themes of the chatter and comments

Now, the integration of all this data on a dashboard may pose a challenge for organizations and agencies. The reality is, it's pretty easy once the technology is in place and a workflow is established. Our agency has created such a dashboard; it's also possible to get a large portion of the items listed above using technologies you most likely already have in place such as Google Analytics, Omniture, Net Insight, Radian6, and the stats you get from your Facebook page, Twitter account, and other social properties. They key is understanding how to filter it and piece it together, but the trick is to stick to your guns and track the things that have always been important to you as an online marketer!


Harry Gold

As founder and CEO of Overdrive, Harry Gold is the architect and conductor behind the company's ROI-driven programs. His primary mission is to create innovative marketing programs based on real-world success and to ensure the marketing and technology practices that drive those successes are continually institutionalized into the culture and methods of the agency. What excites him is the knowledge that Overdrive's collaborative environment has created a company of online media, SEM, and online behavioral experts who drive success for the clients and companies they serve. Overdrive serves a diverse base of B2B and B2C clients that demand a high level of accountability and ROI from their online programs and campaigns.

Harry started his career in 1995 when he founded online marketing firm Interactive Promotions, serving such clients as Microsoft, "The Financial Times," the Hard Rock Cafe, and the City of Boston. Since then, he has been at the forefront of online branding and channel creation, developing successful Web and search engine-based marketing programs for various agencies and Fortune 500 companies.

Harry is a frequent lecturer on SEM and online media for The New England Direct Marketing Association; Ad Club; the University of Massachusetts, Boston; Harvard University; and Boston University.

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