Social Media Analytics: Moving From Engagement to Measurement

[Originally published at The Review]

It’s no mystery that social media has been the new buzzword of the past few years. However, companies are quickly moving from “Gee, we really should be doing social” to “Now, how do we measure it?” There are a number of ways a company can begin measuring their social media efforts and those include:

1. Measuring the effect of social media efforts within the network itself

2. Tracking social media links back to your website

3. Understanding social media in the context of other initiatives

Measuring within the network itself

Analysis of Impact and Engagement

Step one of measuring your social media initiatives is to measure success within the network. While there are a wide variety of social networks, we’ll focus on Facebook and Twitter as the primary two.

Measurement of Facebook might include monitoring number of fans, fan demographics, fan interaction with posted content (comments, likes), organic fan posts and traffic to Facebook page, or use of a Facebook app. Facebook analytics can come from Facebook Insights, but there are also options to add the code from your web analytics solution to your Facebook pages.

Twitter has its own set of tools. Two popular ones are Klout and Twitalyzer. Klout combines thirty-five different variables into one “Klout” score: a measure of social influence. While the variables behind Klout score are intentionally hidden to avoid “gaming” the system, one downside is that the lack of visibility makes it hard to understand what’s driving your Klout score – or how to increase it.

Twitalyzer, on the other hand, provides transparency into all their calculated metrics. For any compound metric, a user knows exactly what is going into this score. For example, “Impact” is based on number of followers, mentions, retweets and post frequency. What’s more, Twitalyzer provides users with data-driven recommendations for how to increase their scores.

Other Twitalyzer measures include number of followers, number of lists you are on, number of mentions or retweets, plus calculations of both potential and effective reach: how far your tweet may reach within the network. Twitalyzer also offers users the option to tailor their report to see only metrics of interest to them, as well the ability to set goals. Other benefits include a visual network map to explore your connections, a comparison tool to compare your scores to other Twitter users and customizable sentiment analysis.

So why would you measure your impact within Twitter or Facebook? Social media is more than just a broadcast network – engagement matters. By measuring more than just fans or followers, you can begin measuring your success in engaging with consumers.

Search or Hashtag Analysis

Tools like The Archivist and Twapper Keeper allow you to build an archive of a particular search or hashtag. The Archivist even provides you a dashboard view of top contributors to a hashtag, tweet volume by day and top words used. However some tools (Twapper Keeper and Tweetake) will actually allow you to export full Twitter content, for offline analysis in Excel, SPSS, SAS or any other data analysis or exploration solution. This offline analysis allows for rich time/date and textual analysis of Twitter conversions.

These types of analyses can tell you what time of day a community tends to tweet, and allow off-line, more robust sentiment analysis. These insights allow for tailored posting schedule and contents, to best suit the audience.

Measuring social media back to your website

Measuring your social engagement within the network is a great start. But if your social efforts don’t result in traffic, sales or leads, it’s hardly a justifiable effort.

The easiest way is to leverage the analytics that your URL shortener provides. When social media links are posted, they are typically shortened (to save characters) through services such as These services provide data about how many clicks you received to each link. However, that’s where it ends. A click tells you only that: that the visitor clicked the link. It doesn’t tell you what they did after that. Did they close the browser window before it even loaded your site? Did they see one page of your site then leave? Or did they actually engage with your content, and perhaps funnel through into an online sale?

That’s where campaign tracking comes in. Using the same methods of campaign tracking used for other online initiatives, you can track your social media behavior back to your website.

Each web analytics tool does campaign tracking a little differently, so it’s worth touching base with your marketing or web analytics team to see how to set this up for your solution. For Google Analytics, campaign tracking involves appending campaign variables, in a specific format, at the end of the URL for Google Analytics to read. (Note of course that this is only an option when your social post contains a link.)

Without campaign tracking, you might post a Tweet and link back to:

Campaign tracking would involve adding variables at the end of the URL:

source=twitter  tells you the source of the traffic. In this case, this link was posted to Twitter.

medium=social  tells you that this was a social media post (vs perhaps an online media or PPC link.) Think of this as representing the “channel”.

content=nutrition  tells us that we’ve categorized this post as a “nutrition” related. Content allows you to group “types” of posts. (For example, quizzes vs nutrition vs recipes.)

campaign=freedietbook gives you a short description of what the post was. It should be short, but enough for you to recall the post.

To create these campaign codes, you simply use Google’s campaign tracking code generator. Based on your inputs, it will auto-generate the URL with campaign tracking. This new URL is then fed into your or other URL shortener, and carries through campaign information into your web analytics solution.

So why do you need this?

This campaign tracking will allow you to compare different mediums (for example, Twitter vs Facebook) and the quality of traffic they drive. By categorizing posts into different “content” groups, you can analyze how different types of posts drive traffic and behavior, and even look at how visitors driven from one particular post behave. This includes looking at whether these visitors leave your site, stay and engage, how many page views they see, how much time they spend, and whether they convert into a lead or a sale.

This information can help to optimize future posts. For example, if recipe posts convert well into sales of a book, a business may focus on more of these posts. You can even compare multiple of elements: for example, do recipe posts perform better on Twitter or Facebook? Add in day of the week and time analysis, and you have a rich analytics opportunity to provide insights for future posts.

Campaign tracking even allows for calculation and optimization of ROI. If you know the time that is spent on social media efforts, and the actual sales driven by traffic through those posts, you can calculate that return on investment.

Understanding social media in the context of other initiatives

So by now you’re measuring your impact and engagement within the Facebook or Twitter community, as well as the behavior of social media traffic back to your website. However, couldn’t social media have an impact even without someone engaging with your brand or visiting your website?

Coupons are a clear way of tracking a social media promotion back to sales, as a specific coupon code can be used to distinguish between different channels.

Loyalty cards may be leveraged, if you can entice consumers to couple their loyalty card with their social media identity.

Another approach is to simply ask. Customer surveys can help here. The “Where did you hear about us” may help tie at least a portion of your offline sales to social media, though there will likely remain a segments of customers who choose not to answer, or who don’t necessarily recall when or why they first decided to purchase your product.

You may also analyze the correlation between social media efforts and sales to tell you directionally whether your efforts are working.

Finally, don’t forget that it can often be a culmination of different initiatives that result in a visit to your site, or a customer walking into your store. A customer may engage with your brand through social media, then later visit your site through a paid search link to research a product, and ultimately purchase offline. Television, radio, print or banner ads may be further mixed into this, requiring some pretty serious multi-channel analytics efforts.

Get Started

The next step in social media is to move from simply getting involved to measurement. While social is a new channel, it is not so uniquely different that we can’t leverage learnings and best practices from other channels to help us understand its impact. Leveraging social media analytics tools, campaign tracking, and multi-channel efforts can help you understand the impact of your social media efforts.

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