Analyzing a typical social media measurement report is usually a real slog, requiring a magnifying glass and a full bottle of wine. One client of mine recently sent me a “typical” quarterly social and digital media report that included over 100 different metrics! And the worst part was that none of them told her anything that might improve her program.
Below are ten (mostly) easy ways to make your search for meaning quicker and more productive. See also “Four Tips for Clearing Out Your Broken and Meaningless Metrics.”
1. First things first: What is the expected impact on the business?
Whether you are a for-profit or nonprofit, a government institution or an advocacy organization, there is a bottom line and you will be expected to impact it. So, get consensus on the objective(s) or goal(s) that your social or digital program is expected to achieve. If you are thinking anything along the lines of “increase number of followers,” then go back to square one. Make sure leadership believes “increasing followers” or “increasing page views” makes a difference to your mission or business.
I’m not suggesting that social or digital activity isn’t valuable. It’s widely agreed that social and digital media play a huge role in today’s decision making. Whether it’s a purchase, a donation, a job, or a petition, before the average American makes up his or her mind, chances are that they are influenced if not persuaded by social or digital media. However, if you don’t know exactly where your contribution falls in that decision-making process, you won’t know what to measure.
2. Ignore the crap on your dashboard.
If you’re using a commercial social or digital media dashboard report that comes out of the likes of Hootsuite or Sprout, start by downloading the raw data into an Excel spreadsheet. Now, ignore the following (which, given the prevalence of bots and fake followers, are about as likely to be accurate as your average politician in a campaign speech):
- Any invented algorithms or metrics like “engagement”—unless their definition is in perfect alignment with your own internal definitions.
- Any metric that sounds like “potential impressions” or “potential reach”—they are pure unadulterated fiction
- Likes. If you don’t know by now, liking a brand on Facebook doesn’t change behavior. Read this article.
3. Double check your clicks.
If you are using “click-throughs” as a metric and are using the data from Twitter Analytics or Facebook Insights or similar data provided by the platform, check it against your own internal data from Google Analytics, Webtrends, Omniture, or whatever. If it doesn’t match, toss it out and use your internal metrics.
Consistency is key to credibility with management, and your internal web analytics are going to be far more consistent than those of a platform like Facebook that changes algorithms every time it wants to charge more for ads. More importantly, you can set up your own definitions on your your web analytics platform, not ones invented by some other corporation that’s in it for their own revenue.
4. Don’t forget the impact of search.
If your organization uses Moz Pro, then it’s easy to establish a baseline search ranking against which to measure any incremental improvement over the course of your campaign. If you’re using Google Analytics, then you can easily track the percentage of searches that are generated by social media and track that number over time.
5. Look at the content of the conversation, not just the quantity.
It’s not hard to generate a lot of conversation about your brand these days. The trick is getting “desirable” conversations: those discussions that position your brand in a way that customers will consider it favorably. Keep track of the good conversations vs. the bad ones, and work to make sure you’re getting your fair share of the good.
6. Look at repeat visitors, not just visits.
A single visit may well be generated by a bot or a random false search, so focus on those actions that are most likely to be generated by your target audiences.
7. Prove social’s impact with conversions in Google Analytics.
Set up unique URLs on your website to which you direct all your social activity traffic. Then set up goal conversions in Google Analytics (watch my video here) to track the increase in traffic from your various social or digital campaigns. Voila!
8. Establish benchmarks.
If you’re just tracking your own social and digital results (no competitors), then you will need to establish a baseline against which to judge future performance. We recommend an average of the prior six months, or a minimum of three, if you don’t have data for six.
Better still is to track your performance against your competition or the opposition (whatever keeps your CEO up at night.) Unmetric and other platforms can easily track competition brands. That way you have a clear view of what else is going on in your industry, and where you stand in it.
9. It’s not about the shares, it’s about the endorsements.
When you are measuring “virality” or sharing, what matters is not just the share itself, but whether there is any commentary on or augmentation of your brand or message. And whatever you do, don’t count your own shares, that’s cheating.
10. If you can’t tie it back to revenue or action, don’t measure it.
Just to reiterate, there is no room on a social or digital media dashboard for any metric that you can’t tie back to revenue. So if you’re an advocacy organization, for example, take the prior six months of social data and six months worth of data on your membership. Figure out how much engagement it takes to get someone to sign a petition, donate money, or volunteer. If you’re a for-profit organization, then figure out how much social engagement it takes to generate a lead. ∞
Thanks to aitoff on Pixabay for the image.