Thursday, May 13, 2010

You CAN Measure Social Media (You Just Need To Know How!)

Many people have been using social media because they "think" it's what they should be doing. Afterall, everyone seems to have a Twitter or Facebook account. However, some businesses are putting all this time and effort into SMM (Social Media Marketing) because "everyone else is doing it" and they're not even measuring their efforts to see if all this work is paying off.

Since my background is direct response and PR, I was able to analyze social media goals and apply some fundamental metrics that DR and PR people use.

The Basics
In a nutshell, social media is an interactive platform where people can correspond - via chat rooms, forums, bulletin boards, networks (as in MySpace, Facebook, Classmates, LinkedIn, Bebo), user-generated content sharing (as in Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit), wikis (interactive online encyclopedias), and blogs - with like-minded individuals who share similar interests, whatever those interests may be.

Cutting-edge businesses and marketing-centric companies have jumped on the social media bandwagon to leverage the increased popularity of this phenomenon. Companies large and small got their marketers to create MySpace, FaceBook, or LinkedIn profiles in order to have their fingers on the pulse of the market, correspond with consumers, and create buzz about their products.

I have been on the Web for some time now, dabbling in all sorts of social media activities with content syndication, viral marketing, and online PR efforts.

How have I been measuring my efforts? By using the same metrics that are used to measure a public relations efforts: Outputs, outcomes, and objectives ... or what I like to call the "3 O's."

1. Outputs (measures effectiveness and efficiency)
For our example, I look at Google Analytics for spikes in traffic to the website's I'm doing social media marketing for in the days following the article's publication. I'd look specifically at traffic sources, visits, unique visits, and visit percentages. I'd also look at referring sites and search engines to see whether the traffic is coming directly from social media platforms. And I'd look for an increase in new subscriber sign-ups (leads) during that same time period.

2. Outcomes (measures behavioral changes)
For this metric, I'd look at feedback from customers... e-mails, phone calls, comments posted on my clients' websites member forum. I'd also do some reputation monitoring --by searching the Web for keywords for each of my clients' website, key personnel at their companies, the article title that I may have syndicated, and any top product names associated with their websites -- to see what buzz is going in targeted and relevant chat rooms, external forums, and bulletin boards.

3. Objectives (measures business objectives/sales)
The most obvious and directly related metric is direct sales of the product that are tied to the editorial. Orders generated from an e-mail link or ad link are coded for tracking, so attributing sales to those sources is definitive. If the sales come from a product page on our website where the true "source" cannot be tracked, I'd collaborate with my clients to review the sales that came in during the corresponding dates of the campaign and look for correlations.

Finally, for each of the above, I would compare the current campaign data versus the year-to-date (YTD) average and year-over-year data to clearly illustrate pre- and post- campaign performance. In other words, I'd check out website traffic, unique visits, specific product sales, etc. - all for the same time periods. That way, I'd have an established benchmark against which to measure our current social media efforts.

Social media is a low cost and effective way to spread the word about your company and products, as well as to conduct market research. By understanding the "3 O's" and how they work, you can actually quantify your efforts with hard data... a critical component for any online direct marketer.
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