Many business owners/social media marketers do a very good job posting to social networks and interacting with their audience, but when it comes to measuring the outcomes of their actions, they seem to be overwhelmed by all the data that each platform provides!
The reason from this post is to hopefully answer all those questions related to tracking your social media efforts, reporting them and improving upon them.
Before you can read this, check out the last 6 steps of the process first.
When was the last time you’ve read a social media ROI post?
I bet it was just few minutes ago.
The point is that the web is buzzing with articles where some say we can’t accurately measure the ROI of social media, while others show ways we can make use of to track clicks, leads and sales from social media.
My point of view is that social media ROI is different from which of other marketing strategies. Many people still think that social media is just another marketing medium that is no different from all the previous mediums they are using to market their businesses. Their measuring approach is limited to what they’ve been doing previously to measure the effectiveness of their campaigns.
I’ll tell you right now. Social media marketing isn’t about clicks, leads and sales as much as it is about building an affinity with your audience, so when the time comes, they’ll make the purchase you were seeking. I like when Brian Carter explains that when using social media, you’re actually reaching the large base of the pyramid, unlike when using SEO or Adwords for example to reach only people searching for what you offer. It’s true that SEO or Adwords may get you the instant purchase, but you’re actually missing on the large portion of people that might benefit from your product. Let me give you a little story here:
Imagine that one of your audience (let’s say John) is a fan of your Facebook page (which let’s say is all about learning to play guitar). He interacts with you regularly, comments on your Facebook page, he likes your posts…etc. John opens his email inbox to see an email from another guitar coach he’s following as well. The headline goes by this “what if I show you how to master Sweep Picking”. He opens the email and reads that you’re offering a product to teach this guitar technique. He probably gets many of those emails a day, but since he knows your brands and has an affinity with it, he decides to follow the link and finally make a purchase.
Now how would you attribute this purchase? If you’re tracking your campaigns, you’d say that this purchase has come from an affiliate or joint venture promoting your product to their list, but what about the factor that has resulted in the decision making?
There are actually a gazillion of scenarios like this one where social media is the cause of the purchase, but it doesn’t get the attribution is deserves.
Social media sets a chain reaction that will eventually lead to a purchase. [ClickToTweet]
To make things simpler, let’s say that your market has 10 people in it that can benefit from your products or services. 3 of these people have decided to search for the product and make the purchase, while the other 7 are still hesitant because they don’t know if the product will benefit them or not. This portion needs repeated exposure to your messages in order for them to decide. Through your constant engagement, they’ll learn more about you, your brand and your products, and then they’ll eventually decide to purchase. It’s true that the first 3 will get you instant purchases, but you’ll be missing a lot, especially when we’re talking thousands or even millions or people. What about the others that don’t know that your product exists, or aren’t sure it’s for them.
I like to think of social engagement as an email autoresponder series. You can get 10 people into your sales funnel which consists of 10 emails. 3 of them will purchase at the first pitch. 2 others might read another email or 2 from you to decide. The rest is resistant and they probably need another 2 or 3 great emails from you to decide, and so on…
Today’s email marketers use these autoresponder series to increase their sales by as much as 400% or even more. Sure it involves more work, but the ROI will eventually be justified!
Our job is to keep our audience engaged, so when it comes the right time for the purchase, they’ll go without hesitation. (clicktotweet)
I strongly recommend that you read Avinash’s great post on Facebook ROI/Business value (great ideas in there!).
Measuring Social Media Is More Like Measuring Luck!
I’m a firm believer that luck isn’t a magical thing as much as we want it to be. It’s true that it is beyond our actual measuring, but it relies on mathematical principals like everything else. Here are some quotes that explain this point:
“The harder I work, the luckier I get” -Samuel Goldwyn
“Luck is a dividend of sweat. The more you sweat, the luckier you get” -Ray Kroc
“The meeting of preparation with opportunity generates the offspring we call luck” -Tony Robbins
I’m not saying that measuring social media is beyond our actual capabilities, what I’m saying is that the process is the same. The more work you put into getting your brand out there and engaging with your audience, the luckier your brand gets in making more sales and profits. Some actions could be measured effectively, while a whole lot can’t be. Your job is to start making things happen by getting in front of your audience, and you’ll be amazed how rewarding the return will be. At least that’s how Starbucks, Zappos and Ford did it!
So How Are We Going To Measure Our Success With Social Media?
Here is a scenario that helps us better understand how to measure the effectiveness of our social media efforts.
Let’s say that you’re a website designer who wants to get more clients. The first thing you need to do before you start attracting clients is to research and list all the factors that will help you get contracts. For example you need:
1- A well written email that gets them to contact you back.
2- Very good communication during the call.
3- A proven history of similar work.
4- Good negotiation…etc
It’s true that when you look at the whole thing, you’ll think that the process requires lots of skills that you need to acquire to effectively reel in a contract. However, if you break the process into small manageable chunks, you’re not only going to get more clients, but also discover where are your weak points so you can work on improving them.
The same thing applies for social media marketing. In order to get a sale, you need these things:
1- Exposure to your brand’s messages.
2- Building an affinity/trust.
3- Constant and effective engagement.
4- Proof that your products/services work (probably from other people who have benefited from them)…etc
Lucky for us, now we have the metrics that can measure most of these factors:
1- Impressions/reach can estimate the number of people who got exposed to your messages.
2- When you recommend something, and people follow your recommendation, then you know that they trust you.
3- Feedback through social platforms is an indicator for engagement (comments, likes, tweeting, sharing…etc).
4- You can now find your brand evangelists (people who talk about your brand the most) and reward them.
As you can see, all of these factors that lead to a purchase have a metric that can measure them. Each social platform has its own metrics, but the principals are always the same. We can’t always know whether a sale has come from our social media efforts or not, but we know that if we do a great job at doing the above steps, more sales will come in, and that, we can absolutely track!
What Metrics Matter The Most?
Now that we know how these metrics will affect our customer’s behavior which will in turn affect the decision making process when it comes to buying, let’s dive into the most important metrics that you should put all of your energy measuring.
While each social platform names its metrics differently, they all have the same meaning. Since Facebook is the biggest platform, they get to give fancy names to their metrics. While you don’t probably need 90% or more of their fancy metrics, there are few ones that you should keep an eye on:
1- On Facebook
• Audience Size
This is the overall size of your fanbase. You should monitor the growth of your fanbase as well as the sources (referrers) that bring in new fans. This way, you’ll stay on top of what works the most in terms of growing your audience on Facebook.
The reach is simply the number of people that have seen your posts. Facebook has recently made their reach metrics more accurate by including mobile users as well as counting a reach only if the post gets loaded on your audience feed. This metric is important because it shows you what percentage of your audience is seeing your messages. If the percentage is high, then you know that you’re doing a good job engaging your audience. If it’s not, then you know that you should be working on your posts because Facebook’s EdgeRank will keep on sinking your posts until no one of your hard earned fans is seeing your updates. Facebook has introduced a solution for that which is “Promoted Posts”. Now you have the option to pay in order for your posts to reach more of your audience. This will make you lazy in terms of concentrating on the quality of your posts, but it’ll take money out of your pocket, which is not an option if you’re a small business.
The cause of your reach is also an important metric to track. Facebook gives 3 main types of reach. Organic, paid and viral. Organic reach is the number of people who have seen your post whether on their news feed, ticker or your page. The paid reach is the number of people who have seen your promoted post or ad. The viral reach is the number of people who have seen your post because one of their friends generated a story about it (whether a like, comment, share…etc).
• Talking About This
This metric has raised lots of question marks when it came out. It’s basically the number of people who have generated any type of story about your page. If something goes into their newsfeed, then it’s going to be counted into this metric. This includes: liking (either the page or a specific post), commenting, sharing, mentioning, responding…etc. This metric is meant for you to measure the effectiveness of your page and posts. It’s an indicator that people are interacting with your page and generating stories about it. The more stories they generate, the more viral growth you’re going to get. I don’t personally rely on this metric a lot because it doesn’t give a clear understanding of the performance of your posts since it also counts the new likes to your page. You could have a high “talking about this” number only by advertising your page or driving lots of traffic to it, but that doesn’t give you insights about the responsiveness of your audience as well as your individual posts.
Virality is much more like email open rates or clicks. It’s the percentage of people who have generated a story about your post out of the overall number of people who have seen it. This metric is very important mainly because it measures the effectiveness of each of our posts and gives us a clear understanding of what works and what doesn’t. According to a study conducted by EdgeRankChecker, the median virality rate is 1.92%. If you’re virality rate is low, then there are 2 possible interpretations: either you’re talking to the wrong audience, or you’re using the wrong type of posts.
• Engaged Users
Many people miss on this metric, but I believe it’s one of the most useful metrics on Facebook. “Engaged Users” is the overall number of people who engage with your posts regardless if these people have just seen your content or generated a story about it. The great thing about this metric is that it measures link clicks and video/photo views. In addition to measuring interaction, this metric also measures consumption which is crucial to knowing if people are really taking an action towards your posts besides liking, commenting or sharing them. If we didn’t have this metric, we wouldn’t be able to count the people who just consume our content without interacting with it. Facebook isn’t yet clear of whether they count that into their EdgeRank or not, as they want to keep their audience inside the platform, but since some content is consumed within the platform (videos and photos), I believe that it plays a role in their algorithm.
Tools For Facebook Analytics
For small businesses, the gazillion of metrics and data Facebook provides are more than enough to measure the effectiveness of your Facebook marketing campaigns. If you want more advanced/comprehensive insights, then there are many tools on the market for that purpose. Some of the great ones are: PageLever, EdgeRankChecker, SimplyMeasured, ZuumSocial, BuddyMedia, Crowdbooster…etc
• Audience Size
This is the number of all people following you on Twitter. You should also monitor the number of people who you follow because Twitter has a ratio limit between those numbers. While Twitter is still holding back to release their Analytics tool to the public, there are still some metrics that we can’t track on this platform such as (traffic to our Twitter profile, the referrals that send traffic to your Twitter profile, the number of new followers, clicks, mentions each referral has brought…etc). Without these you can’t accurately track what efforts bring the most ROI, and what don’t!
• Lists That You’re A Member Of
Many people don’t measure this, but I believe that this is the most important metric on Twitter. I like to call Twitter lists “Noise Cancelers”. Because of the gazillion of updates that go to every Twitter user’s profile each day, it’s hard for your valuable tweets to get noticed. However, if people find that you tweets are interesting, they’ll add you to their specific lists, so instead of competing against hundreds or even thousands of profiles that they follow, you’re only competing with dozens or so. The more lists you’re in, the more exposure you’re going to get and the more clicks your target links will generate.
This is the total number of unique users exposed to your tweet. The performance of this number relies on 4 factors: your audience size, the lists you’re a member of, the number of retweets and the time of tweet. The bigger your reach, the better chance you have at getting more people to notice your messages and spread them even more.
This is the only metric that many business owners as well as social media marketers seem to care about the most. It’s a very important metric indeed, especially if your goal is to drive traffic back to your website, blog or any external source (landing page, Facebook page…etc). This is like the “King” of metrics, where all of them should work together to improve this number. The better other metrics perform on Twitter, the more clicks you’re going to get
You can also use this metric to measure the effectiveness of your headlines and copy. On Twitter, good headlines rule. If you notice that one tweet got lots of clicks, then there must be something special in the tweet (in terms of topic or copy itself) that got many people to follow it. This can help you identify top topics of interest as well as what makes people follow your links.
This metric is great because it helps you measure how influential you are and how much loyalty your followers have for your brand. This metric directly affects most of the other metrics on Twitter such as reach and clicks. The more retweets you have, the more additional exposure you’re going to get and the more clicks your external pages will generate. To make this number go up, thank people who have previously retweeted your content, retweet their interesting stuff, help them if they have a problem and they’ll be more than happy to spread the word about your messages.
Tools For Twitter Analytics
Although Twitter doesn’t yet provide analytics data through their platform, there are many great tools (mostly free!) that you can use to measure important metrics. Some of these tools include: TweetArchivist, Twitonomy, TweetReach, Tweriod, TweetStats, Crowdbooster, TweepsMap, Klout, SocialBro…etc
• Audience Size (Subscribers)
This is the total number of all the subscribers to your channel. I believe that video marketing will be the future of social media marketing, and that’s why you need to start building an audience there as soon as you can. The good thing about YouTube is that your videos have more exposure than in other social platforms. With Facebook, if you get 30% of your audience to see your messages, then you need to consider yourself lucky (or genius). Because of EdgeRank, more brands are losing exposure for their messages. With Twitter, there isn’t a restricting algorithm yet, but your messages will be lost in the stream because everyone seems to be following lots of profiles these days.
The case with YouTube is that I sometimes find brands with let’s say 2 million subscribers and they get almost 2 million views on every video they upload or even more. While many of these views could have been come up from different sources, the opportunities that YouTube offers are humongous. You get most of your subscribers to see your video, you get people who use YouTube search (second search engine in the world) to see your video (if you do a good keyword optimization) and most of all your videos could be shown up in Google (the biggest search engine) which gives you even more exposure! How cool is that
This is the number of times your video has been seen either on YouTube or any other external source such as your website or blog. This metric is like the traffic that each of your blog posts get (I‘m talking about video views not overall channel views). It depends on the size of your audience (either within YouTube or outside), how good is your keyword optimization and the nature of the video itself (whether it has viral characteristics or not).
• Audience Retention
This is one of the most important YouTube metrics that you should be keeping an eye on (it’s priceless). It’s like the bounce rate when it comes to your website. While views can show you how many times your video has been seen, they don’t show you whether the users have watched it all or just the first 10 seconds!
This metric will tell you when viewers leave your video and what exactly has turned them off so you can improve upon those findings when doing future videos. The great thing is that you have the video playing just under the graph so you know exactly what you’ve been doing (or saying) when you had a significant drop on the graph above!
If you have a call to action on your video that encourages people to click on the link on your description, then you can track that in Google analytics or using a URL shortening service such as BitLy.com. This is very important to track, especially if you’re directing people to perform a specific action on your website like subscribing to your email list, reading a blog post or buying something from you. This number depends on how great your video was as well as how enticing your call to action at the end of the video is. YouTube could be a valuable source of traffic despite what many people are saying. So make sure you take that to your advantage!
Tools For YouTube Analytics
While there are several tools for tracking your YouTube marketing performance, their analytics platform is more than enough to help you understand your market more (in terms of demographics, interest…etc) and improve the return on your investment. They also allow you to see where your viewers are coming from so you know exactly where to concentrate your efforts. The other wonderful feature that YouTube Analytics offers is the individual stats that appear in each video page including: key discovery events, engagement, audience…etc
What About Other Social Networks?
While other social platforms either hasn’t yet introduced their own analytics dashboards or they offer very few data, they all rely on the same principles as the previous ones: audience size, discovery (views or reach), interaction (pins, comments, pluses…etc) and referral traffic. There are also many tools on the market both free and paid that can tell you exactly what you want to know about the performance of each of your social networks, so make sure you check them if you’re not satisfied with the simplicity or the quality of data that each social network provides.
How About Designing My Own Metrics Using The Data Given?
In the first part of this series (identifying goals), we’ve talked about the different goals that business owners want to achieve from social media. The same thing applies to analytics. While you can waste your time and go for the shinny metrics that social platforms provide, that won’t help you move your business forward. You should proceed with a goal in mind and pick up the metrics that best measure your efforts towards that goal. Although most metrics are related to each other (if one performs well, then others will most likely perform well as well), you need to be specific about your measurement if you want to learn where most of your efforts should go to. You can either use some of the many tools available online (many of them have custom metrics that use the data provided by the platform to calculate metrics that are simpler and more relevant) or calculate those yourself!
What About Reporting?
This is where all the data you’ve collected goes into. You can’t know if you’re moving forward or backward if you’re not putting your numbers on a custom report. I personally use Google drive (previously called Google Docs) to make spreadsheets and fill them with weekly data for each platform (you can choose your own frequency depending on the stage you’re in and how big your audience is). I use a different sheet to each platform I’m using. It also allows you to make charts if you want to go visual (this is great to show, especially to your clients, so you don’t bother them with fancy metrics!). Point is, you don’t need anything else to do reporting besides Google Drive
The whole point of this post is to figure out what you’re doing right, what you’re doing wrong and what you can do to improve your results. There is absolutely no point of doing all of the previous work if you’re not going to make use of reports to assess your social media marketing efforts.
As they say “Numbers Don’t Lie!”
Good numbers always explain themselves. Your ultimate goal with social media is to keep on improving to reach your underlined goals, and then improve some more. You should conduct an assessment every 2 weeks or so to see what has worked and what hasn’t. This will allow you to understand your market better so you can improve your targeting even better. Depending on your findings from these assessments, you should repeat the cycle and fix what you think is broken. Each time you go through a cycle, you’ll come up with a stronger plan that best describes and targets your audience. The point is to keep on improving and never STOP!
This was the last part of the series (how to design the perfect social media marketing strategy for your business). If you have any question concerning social media strategy or anything related to social media marketing, don’t hesitate and put it in the comment section below Good luck!
Image Credit: Namibnat