Web Analytics for Social Media

  |  July 20, 2009   |  Comments

Everything you learned about Web analytics three years ago is now wrong. What to measure in social media.

Most marketers approach social media in the same way they've approached broadcast media for decades. And that's true of measurement as well. But with social media, the old rules don't apply.

Traditionally, marketers focused on quantity metrics like impressions. As the Web emerged as a marketing platform, we translated that approach to digital, emphasizing quantity metrics like unique visitors and page views. Later, as the Web matured into a bona-fide business channel, transaction became important: sales conversion rate, average order value, and so on.

Web analytics, like much of the marketing world, has tended to focus on the short term, measuring marketing to do better marketing.

But social media is different than transaction, and it calls for a different approach to measurement. Today we look at the quality of relationships, experiences, and, yes, transactions, and we look at them over time. Unique visitors, for example, is still an important metric, but so is registered users. And more important still are metrics like return visitor sign-in.

We also look at the amount of user-created content, but we're more interested in measures of qualified content consumption. It's great if someone comes to your site and buys your product, but it's even better if she returns for service, tells her friends about the product, buys an upgrade, submits a suggestion, blogs about your response to her idea, and so on.

True Business Intelligence

On today's crowded Web, the winners are the people who create the most value for both the customer and the business over time. And value happens not when people buy your product but when they use it and love it. Not when they upload a video, but when someone else watches it.

Is it still important to strive for quantity? Absolutely. Awareness, for example, is key and always will be. But you get what you measure. Focus exclusively on quantity, and you're guaranteed to compromise quality. So make sure your KPIs (define) reflect the creation of value, not just the number of widgets you sell.

Here's the other thing: traditional (broadcast and transactive) marketing measures tend to show campaign efforts' effectiveness, and Web analytics tends to measure Web site effectiveness. But social media, because it enables you to listen as well as speak, offers the opportunity to generate true business intelligence.

Measuring marketing in social media isn't about measuring your marketing to do better marketing, it's about understanding the customer, uncovering opportunities, and informing strategy to run the business better. The real opportunity in social media measurement isn't to see how well you're doing in social media but to translate online conversations into true, actionable intelligence that informs business decisions.

How Do You Measure Social?

Some great tools can help you monitor the online conversation, ranging from free (e.g., Google Alerts, Technorati Watchlists, FriendFeed, Yahoo Pipes, etc.) to, uh, committing (e.g., TruCast, BuzzMetrics, Cymfony). The more expensive tools are worth what they cost, but the free tools are easy to set up and, well, they're free.

And sometimes getting started is the biggest hurdle. You may just want to get something going on the cheap, show the value of your effort, and lobby for a robust, programmatic solution to monitor online activity and engage your customers where they hang out. You'll be surprised how much you'll learn, and you'll probably really enjoy it.

The real challenges aren't technological, but operational. You have to define the right governance policies to manage customer engagement through social media, and you have to build the right workflow to prioritize responses, route information to the right people, and manage your content even as you release it into the wild. Employees need encouragement to participate, and they need clear guidelines about exactly when, how, and where to get involved. It takes effort, but the payoff can be tremendous.

So don't stop at measuring your marketing efforts' success, or even the sentiment expressed in the broader online conversation about your brand. It's great to monitor online activity, better to develop reporting around online activity, and better yet to engage customers in their native online habitats.

Translate Insight Into Action

And don't stop there. Where the rubber really hits the road, and where social media has the potential to transform your business, is where insight gets translated into action. And that's where analysts, as the translators of social media data, have the opportunity to position themselves as crucial mediators of customer/business relationships.

Shane is off this week. Today's column ran earlier on ClickZ.

ClickZ Live Chicago Join the Industry's Leading eCommerce & Direct Marketing Experts in Chicago
ClickZ Live Chicago (Nov 3-6) will deliver over 50 sessions across 4 days and 10 individual tracks, including Data-Driven Marketing, Social, Mobile, Display, Search and Email. Check out the full agenda and register by Friday, Oct 3 to take advantage of Early Bird Rates!


Shane Atchison

In 1998, Shane co-founded ZAAZ to advocate a different approach to Web services — one that respects and delivers on the power of the individual and the promise of Web technologies. As CEO, Shane leads the company's long-term strategic vision of working with leading financial service organizations, consumer brands, startups, non-profits, and community-based organizations, helping each realize the potential of the Internet and its meaningful impact on their business.

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

Get the ClickZ Analytics newsletter delivered to you. Subscribe today!



Featured White Papers

IBM: Social Analytics - The Science Behind Social Media Marketing

IBM Social Analytics: The Science Behind Social Media Marketing
80% of internet users say they prefer to connect with brands via Facebook. 65% of social media users say they use it to learn more about brands, products and services. Learn about how to find more about customers' attitudes, preferences and buying habits from what they say on social media channels.

An Introduction to Marketing Attribution: Selecting the Right Model for Search, Display & Social Advertising

An Introduction to Marketing Attribution: Selecting the Right Model for Search, Display & Social Advertising
If you're considering implementing a marketing attribution model to measure and optimize your programs, this paper is a great introduction. It also includes real-life tips from marketers who have successfully implemented attribution in their organizations.


    • Recent Grads: Customer Service Representative
      Recent Grads: Customer Service Representative (Agora Financial) - BaltimoreAgora Financial, one of the nation's largest independent publishers...
    • Managing Editor
      Managing Editor (Common Sense Publishing) - BaltimoreWE’RE HIRING: WE NEED AN AMAZING EDITOR TO POLISH WORLD-CLASS CONTENT   The Palm...
    • Senior Paid Search & Advertising Manager
      Senior Paid Search & Advertising Manager (Smarty Had A Party) - St. LouisCompany Description: A warm, loving, [slightly wacky] startup, we view...