TopRank Marketing Editor

7 Considerations for Tracking Social Media Success

TopRank Marketing Editor     Social Media, Social Networking, Web Analytics

mima-summit-network With more and more marketers jumping onto the social media bandwagon, a lot of questions come up. Is it possible to track metrics and ROI? What are other companies doing? Why isn’t it working? Being prepared to answer  questions like these can make a difference in how a company interacts with social media and if they can succeed.

How can we track social media?
Unfortunately, there is no one “most effective” social media tracking system. Marketers across the web are still working to figure out how to measure social media, how to attach ROI, and how to sell the benefits of participation on the social web  to those that don’t “get it”.

Social media marketing isn’t like an email campaign where you can track the number of emails sent out, the number that were opened, the number of clicks, visits, leads and conversions all in one process. Much of what happens in the social media world happens behind a login and the old ways of tracking web visitor analytics just doesn’t work in that scenario.

Just like any kind of marketing, each company has their own set of objectives and reasons for reaching them via social media channels. That means different methods and approaches to the listening, monitoring and measuring of both social web and web marketing activities at large. The field of social media analytics is still very new.  Here are 7 considerations as you evaluate what will work best in your social media tracking.

Quality over Quantity
This has been said again and again and lots of people still feel that the more followers/friends/subscribers/connections they have, the better. The reality is, quantity is not and end goal for lead or sales generation outcomes. What good is it to have 13,000 followers if 1/3 of them are spam accounts and 1/3 are auto followers who will never engage with you? Sure 13,000 looks good to those who can only focus on numbers, but what is the quality of those 13,000?  Seth Godin mentioned at the MIMA Summit that all you need is an audience of about 1,000. But it needs to be the right 1,000 people.

Hearing vs. Listening
Have you stopped to think about who is actually paying attention in social networks? A person or a brand may have X number of followers or friends, but how many of them are actively listening at any given time? How many people do you ACTUALLY reach when you post a tweet, make a status update or blog post?  Subscriber counts and reach are two different things. Think of it like a college professor talking to students: How many of them are paying attention during a lecture? With social media participation it’s the same thing; you need to realize that not everyone is always hearing what you have to say and factor in the difference between connections and actual reach.

Engage & Participate
Effective social media marketing is about is engaging and participating. If  a marketer joins a social network and focuses on promoting themselves, product or company, they’ll get an entirely different set of outcomes than those they have goals for.  Think about it. Social means to be conversational, friendly, helpful. When participating in social channels, talk to other members of the community, participate in the conversations and give people a reason to interact with you. Add a little romance before you ask to get engaged 🙂

Social Media is About Being Where the Conversation Is.
Marketers need to stop and think about where their audiences are online and where relevant conversations are happening. That could be niche social networks, forums and blogs. Those niche areas may have fewer people, but will more than likely have more engagement value for relevant products or services being shared.  To find those niche communities and conversations, use social media monitoring software. Free tools include Google Alerts or Social Mention. Low cost tools include Trackur and PostRank Analytics.

Assign Value to Get Value.
Whether it’s a tweet, retweet, a status update, comment, photo upload or story submission, if you want to find out how valuable it is you have to assign a value. It doesn’t matter how or what that value is, but setting up some sort of system will help determine what’s working and what’s not.

Define an Objective.
Before jumping into social networking, it’s essential to set an objective. Going in and participating with social network and media sharing sites just to participate may not bring the kind of results you’d like. A clear objective as part of a social media strategy should be set so you know what you are working towards. It will guide your messaging, behaviors, networking activity as well as the kind of content you seek and share.

Social Media is An Investment.
Social media success takes time. The seeds of relationships need to grow and you’ll need to invest what’s needed to make it work for whatever end goals that are set. Expecting results in a month or two isn’t realistic; it may take a year or more. It really depends on the Roadmap that guides your: Audience > Objectives > Strategy > Tactics > Tools > Measurement.  Effective social media participation is about building a network and building trust. That doesn’t happen overnight. Be patient, do it right, and you’ll be rewarded in the long run.

What other considerations should be in this list? If you’ve undertaken new social media programs with your company, what were some of the measurement and analytics hurdles that you overcame?

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Comments

  1. Yes, Social media success takes time, and it is very hard to track the return of investment of time as the success on the social media spreads then returns from many different sources. But, you can see the difference when it is successful.

  2. Oscar Del Santo says:

    This is an excellent post for all those marketing managers obssessed with ROI and is full of level-headed, common-sensical and useful advice.

  3. smseonext says:

    The best way to measure the impact and success is to use all of the tools of internet marketing. Web Analytics is the most important in my opinion. If you are using social media to drive traffic or increase awareness you need to see if your traffic is spiking and where that traffic is coming from. If you goal is just to spread awareness and branding then it is harder to measure.

  4. Great post – I agree with Oscar. However, it's not just clients who should be looking at this, but the middle to lower class agencies selling social media 'expertise'. Just like online marketing good habits need to become main stream quickly, and that means proving worth of social media and ROI.

  5. pamelagreenaway says:

    Twitter marketing is definitely worth applying as one of your marketing tools.
    The beauty is you can see what the trends are in real time.

  6. Exactly. So many people do social media wrong and expect fantastic results. They just don't get it.

  7. The issue there is that desktop or phone based Twitter, Facebook and other social apps show up as direct traffic. Then it's not as simple to see where the traffic is coming from in your analytics.

  8. Agreed.

  9. Rachael Flug says:

    Great article! We use our online communities we are building on our blog, Facebook and Twitter as a tool to reach our to our customers, provide information they find valuable, and get their feedback. Thanks for posting!

  10. “Add a little romance before you ask to get engaged.”
    Really great points throughout. Relevancy is the key to success within the social media sphere. Social media has to be directed to the people you want following your brand. Determining quality over quantity would be like telling everyone at school to come to your party. If everyone showed up, it would be chaos. Messages would be sent to the wrong type of people, and then your parent's house becomes a mess. It is far smarter to narrow your expectations an gather a smaller, yet controllable crowd. Your message will then be heard by the people you want to hear it, not the people with little invested within your business.

  11. johnribbler says:

    You touched all of the bases. My only suggestion is to move “Define an Objective” to the top of the list. If you don't know what problems you need to solve and what you want to accomplish, everything else is going to flounder.

    http://www.media-proinc.com

  12. Suzanne Vara says:

    Thomas

    Great article that I will share with clients. Companies do not want to wait a year to get results. The fact that social media is real time tends to make people believe that they will get results in record time. While some brands will have results not typical of the norm, it is important to be involved in social media while being patient. Some are looking to social media marketing to save their business and increase sales today while this is impractical. Traditional marketing opened the doors of hard sales pitch while closing the door to building relationships. People are not used to having to build relationships and this shift makes them uneasy.

  13. Couldn't agree more, especially with number 1 on your list: the Quality of your followers is far more important than the QUANTITY of followers you have. Big is not necessarily better.

    With a background in media relations and journalism, now a full-time Mommy Blogger, I think everyone using social media for serious business purposes needs to understand and practice this logic. For example, each Twitter user (individual or business) it seems to make sense to be following those who are primarily in their target audiences, whether or not the target is following them back. Each Twitter user also needs to be selective when it comes to reciprocal following. Just because someone follows you doesn't mean you have to follow them back.

    Many of my kids' Facebook friends “collect” names to see how many people they can claim belong to their network. But for us adults, this isn't a high school popularity contest, you'd reason, so why do so many business pros imitate a behavior that does not make any sense in the adult world?

    If the Twitter user's profile doesn't fit your goals and objectives and reach out to the audience(s) you are trying to communicate with, why would you waste your time just to add them to your tally? It's time for adults to grow up. If you are in business, don't act like a kid. http://MommyBlogExpert.com

  14. strategic_growth_advisors says:

    Superbly written and very informative. Thanks, Thomas! Keep on posting great articles.

  15. “Define an objective” – as an engineer, I strongly agree. Social media metrics don't exist without one. Heck, SEO without an objective is worthless.

    The problem defining social media objectives is that the social media experts haven't agreed on a common language. There are terms to be coined, data to be aggregated, conversions to track, social media sites to be optimized, etc.

    To say that there are no rules is a fallacy. OK, there are no rules if failure is an option… but it shouldn't be. I'm going to publish the rules at SMOBOT.com… for future reference : )

  16. SocialSteve says:

    Thomas,

    While you make some good points here, there are ways to quantify tracking of social media. In order for marketing to be recognized as a leader and contributor in companies, we must be able to prove worth beyond vague jargon.

    I suggest looking at an article “Measuring the Value of Social Media” for at http://bit.ly/hodQp. If we are to promote the importance of social media, we must be accountable for the endeavor and have a way of measuring our success.

    Social Steve
    http://www.socialsteve.wordpress.com

  17. melissabarker says:

    Thomas, what do you think of specific metrics like Net Promoter?

  18. Well written. Your comment “realize that not everyone is always hearing what you have to say” is so true. In fact many people “hear” you but do not pay attention to you. Understanding is the best you can hope for in any form of communication. By speaking to a person needs you grab someones attention and by by asking them questions you draw them them in. By inviting their comments you might find a way to track your results.

  19. thanks

  20. EG Online Marketing says:

    I think this is great. My history is the automotive industry and they don't seem to do anything without tracking it. It almost seems that anything that comes out doesn't have a way to track for a few years. It will only be time before we will have analytics on business social accounts. Thanks for the read!

  21. Never hear of it. Does it track social media?

  22. The list wasn't meant to be in order of importance, but that's a good point.

  23. melissabarker says:

    You can read about the pros and cons of the Net Promoter score and other social media metrics in my post today at http://www.socialmediamarketingresources.info

  24. Alex Kooluris says:

    The social media space exposes to most brands that in reality they don't really have anything relevant to offer consumers at large. I always try to explain to brand managers, entering the social media space is like walking up to two strangers and saying “excuse me can I join your conversation” and when they ask “why..who are you” the brand has NO response. Like any “relationship” or valued partner, brands need to bring something to the table. And Brand's also need to understand that 9/1o times what that “something” is may not be directly related to their product messages and promotions.

    Unfortunately most brand managers are stuck thinking “how can I promote my brand if I am not actively talking about it”. Again they miss the reality of the space, that this is a conversation like any other and when we are forming relationships with the people in our lives we don't build a strong one simply by talking about ourselves all the time. In fact, if all we do is talk about ourselves we will probably be without friends pretty quickly.

    Before you even get to ROI and metrics of success, brands need to first learn how to communicate with consumers in a relevant and real time manner. Crawl before you can walk – let alone run.

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  26. I am just starting to embrace social networking, I am pushing all my clients towards the main sites, to help develop brand awearness and also to get the important back links to sites. I am constantly researching the best pratices and I think this article is on the money.

  27. We were doing social media for our website but this article has given us a checklist of things to take care of.

  28. iancutmore says:

    very good info Thank you!

    Norwich Vacancies

  29. Great post. What gets me is no one had quite the issue when they were doing tv ads and billboards. How did they track that?? To me, social media is easier to track, thanks to analytics, yet people still balk at using social media…

  30. While I agree that monitoring brand success is great, and you made various points on how and why to do so, I do not believe that there is enough emphasis of responding to all feedback, including negative. I believe that the best way for a brand to improve itself, is to be able to respond and resolve negative feedback. Thus, turning an unhappy user into a happy user.

  31. i have to agree with Alex Kooluris for a brand to be 'social' it needs to to forget about always pushing its self and engage with the customer at there level. Talk about what they want to talk about and make any promotion very small and subtle. i think the trick is to get the consumer involved in the experience, if you have a Facebook page get your fans on there showcase them as without them you are effectively out of business. but is finding the best way to do it and it depends what you are selling.
    social networking for a software developer will be completely different to a online boutique

  32. i have to agree with Alex Kooluris for a brand to be 'social' it needs to to forget about always pushing its self and engage with the customer at there level. Talk about what they want to talk about and make any promotion very small and subtle. i think the trick is to get the consumer involved in the experience, if you have a Facebook page get your fans on there showcase them as without them you are effectively out of business. but is finding the best way to do it and it depends what you are selling.
    social networking for a software developer will be completely different to a online boutique