Throughout 2011 the most asked question by marketers was how to measure the ROI of their social media initiatives. This trend is expected to continue into 2012 as social media is increasingly understood, accepted and adopted by both large and small businesses.
Naturally, businesses will want to be able to tell if their social media activities are making tangible contributions to the bottom line. Despite its name, social media success has nothing at all to do with media; it's all about the community within which you do your business.
For any kind of measurement to matter, it must focus on and reveal significant insights about the members of your business community. Social media works because people realize that they trust each other more than they do the companies that try to sell you products.
The key to exploiting this new reality is to continuously listen to and evaluate what people feel, think and say about your company, and respond to these perceptions appropriately.
With all the tools available online, you can jump in and start measuring virtually everything about your social media activities, but it would be a waste of your time and resources if you fail to monitor the metrics that matter to you.
There's a sizable list of key performance indicators (KPIs) that include an assortment of averages (average views per visit, average visits per visitor, average cost per conversion, etc.), percentages (percent new and returning visitors, percent visitors in a specific segment, percent visitors from search, etc.) and rates and ratios (conversion rates, ratio of new to returning visitors, landing page stickiness, etc.).
In addition there are KPIs recommended for specific types of businesses, and within each type of business there may be metrics for specific types of users (senior strategists, mid-managers or tactical resources, for example).
Each social media platform will also have specific KPIs that represent the strengths and advantages of the platform. So which of these metrics actually matter? One of the dangers social media marketers must watch out for is the temptation to pursue "vanity metrics."
These measurements are popular and normally easy to understand, but by themselves don't lead to useful strategic action and so may not be worth much. For example, marketers may be tempted to focus on measuring the so-called "three Fs" (friends, fans and followers).
But, knowing these figures provide little help in determining how effective a social media campaign is. Following are five useful measurements that will help you assess your social media performance.
These metrics are based on research conducted by Danny Oosterveer for his masters thesis (http://www.dannyoosterveer.nl/measuring-influence-paper/publication.html).
Conversational Exchange is the number of replies or comments to each post. This is a key metric that reveals engagement and interaction, the pillars of social networking. By tracking responses to your tweets, posts and status updates you'll be able to get a better view of which topics resonate with your audiences and which approach is most effective in engaging them. You can then adjust your posts to get maximum interaction.
Reach is the size of the network directly accessed by your posts. This is your primary audience, consisting of people who directly interact with your brand or take on the call to action. Earlier I mentioned that you shouldn't focus solely on vanity metrics, and network size is one of these. But, when combined with other measurement points, these particular vanity metrics can be extremely useful. Reach, for example, when combined with conversational exchange allows you to prepare a launch pad for taking your campaigns viral. The larger your reach, the greater the potential for conversational exchanges to snowball into a huge groundswell.
Content Amplification is the number of shares for each post. This measure takes advantage of the fact that each node on your network is itself the start of another network, and your posts and updates gain momentum by being shared outside your immediate network. On Twitter this takes the form of retweets.
Sentiment is the feelings expressed by others toward your post or update. In reality sentiment is much harder to gauge and is not easily evident in social media. But by using tools such as Isis Toolbox, it is possible to approximate and monitor what people may be feeling toward your brand.
Content Appreciation may easily be mistaken with sentiment, but it has a narrower field of focus. On Facebook it's conveyed by the Like button. On Twitter, great content is designated as "favorites." And on Google + people can hit the +1 button to express their appreciation.
Social media marketing is not always an easy task for companies to manage; most companies don't have the staff in place to help them with their online marketing initiatives. This is why at Isis CMS we have put together complete packages to help companies of all sizes to develop a strong online presence.