Measuring social as part of a formalized process will provide insight into your results and help you make data-driven decisions.
Although the social space has rapidly matured over the last decade-plus, social media measurement remains a mystery for many. This mystery is due to two main factors. One is the fact that understanding off-site social activity, where marketers lack a data set as robust as they receive on their own website, is a challenge. The other is that despite social media itself not being new, it's still an emerging (and fragmented) marketing channel and frequently lacks clear objectives/conversion goals from brands.
With that said, measurement is something that's very possible, and the elusive social media return on investment (ROI) is proven for everyone who has enabled an effective measurement process. Take the time to establish this upfront, clearly outlining your team's objectives. To help you get started, following are four ideas to help you improve your social measurement.
1. Show the entire digital customer journey - not just last-click. Modern web analytics tools go beyond last-click attribution and show the entire journey a customer takes before they convert. For instance, at Google Analytics we're finding that on average customers interact with a brand 4.3 times over a two-day period before they finally make a purchase. Social may account for an earlier interaction as it is often an upper-funnel player in the buyer journey. What this means is social may not receive the full credit it deserves for those only looking at last-click attribution.
2. Make your own site your social hub; it provides the most robust measurement. In order to measure social media effectiveness and realize its full potential, you can't rely on platform metrics alone. That's because they aren't (yet) optimized for purchases and conversions for brands. They're optimized for engagement and conversations. Further, platforms lack the ability to conduct experiments and tests on layout in a way that's totally customized. If accurate, robust measurement is a concern and you want to drive results in a high-conversion environment, form a strategy around your own site.
3. Set up conversion goals (macro and micro) and assign value to them. Go beyond key performance indicators (KPIs) like followers and visitors, and even beyond macro conversions such as revenue and leads generated: assign a mix of macro and micro conversions that are aligned with favorable outcomes. For example, you're likely measuring leads generated, but are you also looking at new sign-ups to that high-conversion newsletter? That might be a good micro conversion to measure, and you might discover it is a higher converting outcome from social for your brand than revenue. Once you know this, you could focus efforts on achieving new sign-ups to your newsletter instead of always trying to achieve direct purchases, which might not work as well in social.
4. Measure social interaction on your site. Measuring the social actions users take on your own site is powerful, and can act as a strong indicator of the shareability of your content in social channels. Take the time to set up analytics for every social interaction on your site: from gaining a new follower on Twitter to a new +1 of your content on Google+. Monitoring social engagement on your own site lets you combine web and social metrics as well as create useful segments to understand specific visitors and channels better.
No matter your objectives, take the time to tame the social measurement beast.
While there is no "one-size-fits-all" approach to digital measurement on any channel, social is an animal that you can tame by using the tools and technologies available and taking a best-practices approach to conversions. Measuring social as part of a formalized process will provide insight into your results and help you make data-driven decisions. Don't obsess over fluffy metrics. Do track what's possible and analyze outcomes to refine what you do.
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Adam Singer is Analytics Advocate at Google, a marketing, media and PR industry speaker, startup adviser and blogger. He previously was digital director for a 300+ person global consulting team and over the course of his career has provided online marketing strategy for B2B & B2C brands in a variety of industries including marketing technology, healthcare, manufacturing, advertising/subscription-based web startups, and much in between. Singer and his campaigns have been cited by top media outlets such as TechCrunch, AdWeek, NY Times and more for creative use of digital marketing and PR. Singer blogs at The Future Buzz - an award-winning blog with more than 25K subscribers and frequently-referenced source of what's new in digital marketing.
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