11 March 2015
3 min read
Using social media for business can often be seen as sitting somewhere between alchemy and slacking. The chief executive posts funny cat videos, the intern promises to make you “go viral” and the marketing manager sits looking over his shoulder as if interacting on Twitter is somehow not work and he will be found out.
Social media metrics can make sense of the time spent by businesses on Instagram, Flickr, LinkedIn or Tumblr, but first they have to understand how it works. Increasing followers and friends who “thumbs up” your posts is all very well, but you need to know whether your interaction is actually paying off.
“You would not do any other form of marketing without a plan“
This means knowing what to track and how to do it. It also means looking at how your likes or retweets correlate with increasing footfall, be it physical or virtual. Most agree that the metrics to look for are conversation, amplification, applause and economic value. So interaction, shares, likes and money in the bank (or money saved) via social media activity are what you want to measure.
All of these things feed each other, but clever analysis should allow you to work out what actions help you gain or retain customers, increase brand profile and save money elsewhere, be it on display advertising, paid search or PR.
The first thing to do is find out which parts of your social media usage is creating interest and traffic. To this end you will need to create specific urls or web page addresses for stories put out there by you, as well as links from your social media profile pages.
You can form simple, unique addresses using a url-shortener such as bitly.com although if you are already using Google Analytics to measure the results of paid search or other activities then you should also use this to create custom urls.
“Those companies who want to get serious would also use a monitoring tool,”Katy Howell
“You use it for engagement, where people are talking to you. You use it for analysis if you are looking at a new market, and you use it for metrics. Now you can see if conversations on your profiles are driving talking points across the web, and if your brand perception is being raised. You can also see who the influencers are in your marketplace and if they are engaging with you,” says Katy Howell, chief executive of social media consultancy Immediate Future.
Both Facebook and Twitter offer you the chance to view your account analytics, but applications such as Hootsuite can provide you with basic, free live social media monitoring and provide prompts for when your business is mentioned.
The paid version offers true analytics, putting alongside the vast number of apps that offer you the chance to manage your social media accounts and measure return on investment, such as Buffer.
Tools such as TrueSocialMedia.com can provide complex feedback on your metrics from $30 (£19) per month, but more in-depth dashboards solutions such as Brandwatch start at $500 (£317) per month and others can cost as much as your budget will allow and more besides.
"Smart planning is the main rule to get results," says Howell.
“Create a scorecard of the essential things you need to track on a weekly basis and make it straightforward.”
"If your goal is to drive sales or decrease customer complaints, then you need to know your audience. You would not do any other form of marketing without a plan. People do that with social media and then wonder why it does not work. You need to make time for it.”