5 Ways to Measure Social Media

  |  November 14, 2011   |  Comments

Group your social media monitoring efforts into a progression where awareness and exposure lead to desired action from your target audience.

As you know, the ability to measure the effectiveness of marketing activities is imperative to any company's marketing strategy. Measuring social media marketing isn't as easy as other marketing channels, but it can be done with the right tools and mindset.

As you consider your social media monitoring strategy, it will help to group your efforts into a progression where awareness and exposure lead to desired action from your target audience. As you do so, it will help to place each type of measurement into the proper context and will help you visualize how each one leads you closer to desired results.


1. Awareness and exposure. Building brand awareness should be one of your goals for social media. As you begin your campaign, you might be starting from scratch, and it takes time to build awareness. Once you do, you'll get some traction and begin moving forward, and it will begin to accelerate. You need to be able to measure this trend and keep track of your progress. While there are no perfect and direct ways to measure increases in brand awareness, there are some signals you can observe that can give you some ideas of your brand awareness:

  • Amount of website traffic/site visits/page views
  • Number of searches for brand keyword terms
  • Video and content views
  • Number of followers
  • Number of subscribers

2. Share of voice and sentiment. In social media, share of voice refers to the number of conversations about your brand versus your competitors. You will want to use a monitoring program that can assist you in keeping track of all mentions of your brand and your competitors' brands over a given time period. Make sure you track positive, negative, and/or neutral sentiment. Then you can assign a weight to each of these categories and calculate your average sentiment. For more information, see my recent column on measuring share of voice.

3. Influence. Influence is the likelihood that what you're doing is inspiring action from followers. When a person is exposed to messaging through an influencer, they are more likely to buy or engage. An influencer is an individual who is trusted and held in high regard so when they share their opinions, thoughts, or ideas, people listen and are likely to adopt or agree with their message.

Here are some signals of influence:

  • Number of (and quality of) inbound links to your content
  • Twitter links that are retweeted or commented on
  • Facebook posts that are commented on and "liked"
  • Content that is shared/"liked" (and to what extent)

Being able to measure influence tells you to what degree you are able to motivate people to action. To calculate influence, you want to look at how many influencers mentioned you and the reach of their audience. So for instance, let's say an influencer who has 1.5 million followers' tweets about your product or service. You can count that as an influencer impression with a reach of 1.5 million estimated impressions. Same thing for a blog post or other social media mention. If you can identify the number of followers or readership for each influencer, then you can estimate the influence from each mention. This level of exposure is likely to lead to more visibility and engagement.

4. Engagement. Engagement is the extent to which people interact with you and your content. Engagement shows that people are interested in what you are offering and are interested enough to participate. This powerful metric can tie social media to audience action, which demonstrates its true value. Measuring engagement is important so you can see how much and how often users participate with your content. Some of the signs of engagement include:

  • New page "likes" (of a Facebook page and of your content)
  • Number of shares
  • Mentions (positive, negative, neutral)
  • Blog comments
  • Ratings
  • Retweets
  • Photo/video views

5. Popularity. Online popularity is basically the number of people that subscribe to your content. Some say the quality of your following is more important than the quantity. That holds true to some extent, but if you're looking for advertisers or sponsors, you will have more luck having 12,000 followers on Twitter than 800. Some of the information you can use to measure social media popularity include:

  • Number of RSS/email subscribers
  • Number of followers on Twitter
  • Number of members of a LinkedIn group
  • Number of people who "like" your Facebook page

Social Media Monitoring Tools

If you are looking for a tool to help you in your measuring efforts, there are several to choose from. Paid tools include Lithium, Radian6, and Trackur. Free tools include Social Mention, and of course Google Analytics for identifying where visitors are coming from.

Measuring social media can be a challenge because the medium is conversational in nature. Identify those metrics that best fit your situation and integrate them into your analytics processes. As with any analytics practice, set aside a consistent amount of time to do this and stick with it. The insights you gain from this will help you drive your social media strategy to success.

Ron is off today. This column was originally published on Aug. 22, 2011 on ClickZ.

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Ron Jones

Ron was president/CEO of Symetri Internet Marketing, which provides strategic SEM consulting and training. Ron was actively involved in the SEM community and spoke and trained at conferences and seminars. Ron also served on the Board of Directors for SEMPO and was one of the authors for the SEMPO Institute Fundamentals and Advanced courses.

Ron also published a book called Keyword Intelligence: Keyword Research for Search Social and Beyond. This book outlines various methods and tips for conducting keyword research but more importantly outlines many ways to use keyword research for social media, site design, content development and marketing, and even traditional marketing and branding.

Ron passed away on June 30, 2012.

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