Companies are still grappling with how to measure social media and its resulting return on investment (ROI). The reality is that while there are new and unique metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) related to social, so much of what you do can be tracked just like anything else you do online.
The new social metrics include social connections like Facebook fans (or likes), Facebook engagement rates, social chatter, and Twitter retweet rates. Traditional metrics you can easily look at are things like impressions, clicks, site traffic, leads, revenue - all the things you look at now when you run banners or paid search or look at your site analytics.
So let's explore some of these metrics and take a look at what it looks like to visualize this data. Data visualization and dashboarding graphics in this column are from Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, SocialEye, Radian6, and Bitly.
Social Media Metrics
Social connections. This is what most marketers dwell on when looking at social media. Basically it's looking at Facebook fans and Twitter followers. However, in the long run, unless you are a brand that has the budget and potential to eventually gain hundreds of thousands or even millions of fans, it may be your least valuable metric.
Social page views. This metric is just like page views to your site but instead it's how many page views you got on your Facebook page. In some cases I would consider page views on your branded Facebook page more valuable than some page views on your site. I mean, a random page view on an obscure internal site page is often worthless, right? The chart below actually plots out daily level fans and daily page views.
Video/SlideShare views. Now this one is obvious - it's how many views you got on your videos on YouTube or presentations on SlideShare. The chart below is plotting out daily levels of YouTube video views within a YouTube channel.
Engagement rate. This one is super important. The metric from the graphic below is basically the total of likes and comments divided by a total fan count. A good social media marketer needs to know when she posts something that creates reaction and engagement. It lets you take note of what you posted and, as importantly, when. Having a high engagement rate will help to build your EdgeRank! Also, take note as to whether the reaction was positive - clearly a lot of negative responses, while building your EdgeRank, are not good! (EdgeRank is the Facebook algorithm that personalizes your newsfeed and inserts posts it thinks you will be interested in based on your relationship with the poster. Want to know more about EdgeRank? Just Google it.)
Talking about this. This is like a buzz metric on Facebook. It reports on how many people are talking about you or your posts on their pages. For example, below is a snapshot from the Tabasco Facebook page - the "talking about this" number is boxed in red next to the fan count. Then the chart below that (not for Tabasco, by the way) is trending that number. It basically shows when you have things going on in the real, virtual, or social worlds that are sparking conversation on Facebook.
Facebook reach. This is a metric that Facebook generates that is based on your reach. The chart below is generated via tapping into the Facebook API and dividing it out by organic, viral, and paid. The key here is not to take it too literally. Like all online reach metrics, it is less about the accuracy of the numbers and more about scoring your previous performance. It is direction and allows you to ask, "Am I doing better than last week or last month and what did I do to improve or hurt my performance or reach?"
Retweet rates. This is a super cool metric that helps you gage the relevance and appeal of your tweets by tracking how many people retweet it.
Twitter impression reach. This metric is the cumulative individual tweets going into people's feeds based on all your tweets and retweets. Of course, this number does not represent all the people that saw your tweets - but it's the sum total of your tweets' possible impression and frequency. What's more, the Twitter API can show you who is retweeting your posts and their reach. (Also see below.) So you can identify influencers who have a large base of followers and are likely to retweet you or post your content to their blog if they have one.
Social clicks. Are you using Bitly as a URL shortener? Well, you can use its API to see how many clicks you get and what category of posts drives the most clicks. This is important because if you're being conversational you are very likely posting links that don't always lead to your site - they may go to YouTube, Flickr, Pinterest, or blogs and media sites. So this is a good way to see how many clicks you are generating even if they are not to your site.
Chatter levels. Want to know if all that posting, tweeting, blogging, public relations, and marketing is echoing in social media? Check out your chatter levels with applications like Radian6 or simple Google Alerts. While they are imperfect numbers like many online metrics, they do represent your overall presence and groundswell in the social media space.
Socially-referred site traffic. Just like search, banners, and email, you can see how much traffic your site gets from all the posting, tweeting, and groundswell a brand gets, not just in Facebook, but in all blogs, forums, and the millions of social media sites that could be talking about you and linking to you.
Socially-referred leads. Just like socially-referred traffic described above, you can see how many leads you get from social media. So you can track social media ROI and leads!
Socially-referred revenue. Just like leads, e-commerce revenue can be sourced to social media. So you can track social media ROI for e-commerce too!
Media equivalent value. Richard Fouts described "Media Equivalent Value" as "the monetary equivalent of the impressions generated through social media that would have traditionally been acquired through paid media." Add up what you would pay for all the impressions, clicks, traffic and engagement, and leads you get from social and apply what you would pay for those clicks via banner buying or other forms of media buying in your category. By doing this you can arrive at your social program's "Media Equivalent Value."
Editor's note: This column was originally published on May 22, 2012, and was the ninth most popular column of the year on ClickZ. Over the final two weeks of 2012, we've celebrated the Best of 2012 by revisiting our most popular columns, as determined by our readers. We hope you have enjoyed this look back!
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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.
March 19, 2014