Social media and video measurement take world of Web analytics to next level

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When Omniture announced a new solution to measure the success of Facebook applications last week, it was just another example of the growing complexity of analytics and the expansion of analytics beyond Web sites to social media content hubs such as YouTube, Facebook and blogs. In a way, experts say, the term ‘Web analytics' itself is becoming a bit of a misnomer.

“Primary vendors have said it's not about Web analytics anymore, that it's a misnomer,” says John Lovett, senior research analyst at Forrester Research, whose recent Web analytics forecast places the current state of the Web analytics industry in an “awkward adolescence” – it is beginning to gain solid footing, he says, but there are still significant changes on the way, including the complex challenges surrounding measuring social media marketing.

“[The term ‘Web analytics'] implies it's about your Web site and what happens on your site,” he explains. “But increasingly, as the conversation is happening offsite it needs to be a collection of data from everywhere. That does add to the complexity of measurement but it makes it imperative that you capture what people are saying about your brand.”

As companies invest more in digital channels such as social media and online video during the recession, both as a desire to go where customers are and a need to cut costs in traditional media channels, top vendors are responding to their customer's needs to gather data beyond their Web sites.

“Facebook is a fast-growing channel that our customers and consumers are interacting and engaging with,” says Matthew Langie, senior director of product marketing for Omniture, whose App Measurement for Facebook is now available to its Omniture SiteCatalyst customers. “We have customers investing real money to connect with consumers there so we want to help our customers better measure the popularity and success of those Facebook applications.

And those changes are coming at lightning speed, particularly in the ever-evolving world of online video analytics, says Matt Cutler, VP of marketing and analytics at Visible Measures. “It happens so quickly that six months ago feels like several lifetimes ago,” he marvels. “The level of the dialogue [with clients] is radically different – previously, most of the conversation was about experimentation about dabbling. Since that time a lot of brands have been positively impressed by the results.”

The measurement space, he says, is “all about helping marketers and performance – what's working and what's not.” Now, he says, it's about content destinations that command users' attention. “Marketers realize that it's more efficient to get content in front of the users where they already are so they can experience it in that environment without asking them to leave and come over. So measurement must travel with the content.”

This layers on more complexity – not just a matter of impressions or click-throughs but distribution and context. “It's absolutely necessary that the measurement level of sophistication goes up,” Cutler says. “The whole world of measurement and analytics is fundamentally being driven by new consumer experiences out there.”

These complex challenges can be overwhelming for marketers, says Forrester's Lovett, who says that, combined with the dollar shift into interactive marketing, mean the need for Web analytics and measurement technologies are becoming even greater for companies. The good news, he says, are that there are tools to help marketers follow conversations online.

“Primary vendors are expanding to include social media as part of their data collection realm and that will continue to happen,” he says, even as consumers move from Twitter and Facebook to the next big medium.

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