Social media calls for new approach to online measurement

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Aaron Everson
Aaron Everson
There's no doubt that marketers are focusing more of their efforts on social media. 70% of marketers are planning to increase their social media budgets by more than 10% in 2011 (Effie Worldwide and Mashable study). This increased investment in social media means marketers will rely more heavily on tracking data to improve ROI and boost future engagement.

With this shift toward social comes not only a new way of interacting with customers online, but also new ways of assessing its results. To date, tracking social media results has followed more traditional barometers, which does not properly reflect how successful efforts are. New metrics are being designed to specifically track the impact of this new communication channel and are quickly becoming part of a new standard for critiquing a digital marketing program's success.

Measuring social media effectively is vital to understanding what impact your efforts are having on your business goals. What steps should you take to ensure your company is tracking your social media efforts in a way that makes sense for you?

  • Know what you're trying to achieve. Setting goals for your social media efforts will help you select the metrics that are most important for charting your progress.

  • Tie your efforts – and metrics – to overall business objectives: Aligning your social media strategy with your company's overall goals will help you tie social media metrics to big-picture data. Strive to get more followers, Likes, and comments, but don't neglect how these social data points indicate trends in brand/product awareness and sales.

  • Measure your efforts on a variety of levels:
    • Measure social media exposure: How many Facebook Likes and Twitter followers do you have? What is your blog readership? Measure the trends. Overall, understand the viewership potential of your content.  
    • Measure engagement: How much are people actually interacting with you and your content? Measuring interactions with your brand helps you learn more about your community – what they like, what piques their interest, and what prompts them to share your content with their own networks.
    • Measure business impact of social media: Understanding the big-picture objectives and selecting KPIs that track these overall goals can give you the value of each tactic you are pursuing. Track how social media affects areas such as e-commerce sales, lead generation and customer service activity.

  • Invest in tools: The right tools can help you consistently track your list of metrics. Social media management software platforms can help you track your impact efficiently in one place. If they also include Social CRM functionality, you can often contrast conversation trends with your data to see if spikes in activity correlate to other metrics. Good tools will ensure that over time, you can accurately adjust your course and increase your social media ROI.

Although specific metrics will vary with each social media program, defining goals, tracking data on multiple levels, and choosing tools that meet your needs will ensure effective, actionable measurement.

Aaron Everson is president and COO of Shoutlet, an enterprise social management software company.

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