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Social media metrics – avoiding ‘over-information-itus’

The beauty of social media is that everything is measurable; clicks, impressions, engagement, web traffic, blog views – you name it. There’s a wealth of data available resulting from every single piece of activity you do. So it figures that all this information makes it easy to measure the effectiveness of campaigns, right? Unfortunately, not always.

With all this information comes problems; namely, a common cause of acute ‘over-information-is, where there’s so much data that your head spins and your brain becomes mush. Or, even easier is falling into the trap of simply ‘counting’ metrics, such as Facebook ‘likes’ or video views, without matching up the data with your marketing objectives. 

When analyzing the impact of any campaign, it’s a good idea is to have a ‘measurement dashboard’ in place – a checklist of key metrics that you apply to every piece of activity, helping you measure the impact of any social media and justify any investment in this area. While your marketing objectives will vary from campaign to campaign, typically they’ll exist within a fairly narrow genre: sell more products, boost brand awareness or drive web traffic. With that in mind, I’ve developed a basic dashboard you can use when analyzing your own campaigns.

Audience reach

A no-brainer. Just as you’d calculate how many people you reached with your event or ad campaign, you can do exactly the same with social media, and the good news is it’s easy. Let’s say you’ve uploaded a brand video to YouTube. You’ve tweeted about it, put it on your blog, posted it on Facebook, and outreached it to two mummy bloggers. Simply count the total number of views across all platforms. On Facebook, look at the ‘insights’ page on your brand dashboard, which is becoming increasingly sophisticated. For Twitter, you’ll need to use a free tool to calculate audience reached, such as Tweet Reach. Your blog will have its own back-end analytics telling you how many people have viewed your post. And don’t forget to count the audience of any third-party bloggers who have featured your campaign – to do this either use a tool like Alexa or ask the blogger nicely for their daily unique page impressions (good luck with that!).


Reaching a large audience is good, but engagement is more important. It’s far better to have 100 people interested in what you’ve got to say – and therefore more likely to buy from you and tell their friends about you – than 1,000 people who are indifferent. Engagement is a key indicator of how effective your marketing message is in terms of galvanizing your audience into action.

Measuring engagement on Facebook is easy. Again, check out the ‘insights’ button and look at the ‘talking about this’ tab. Other indicators of engagement are the number of comments on your blog, the number of Twitter retweets and @tweets (or ‘mentions) on Twitter, and the number of YouTube comments and interactions. Always remember to contrast engagement levels against a ‘base’ level to give you a frame of reference as a percentage increase, i.e. at a time when you’re not running any specific campaign activity.

It’s also a good idea to look at the sentiment of what people are saying, as well as key conversation themes – is your activity driving the positive on-brand conversation, or negative, off-topic conversation, for example? There are a number of sophisticated paid-for tools that can do this, and they don’t come cheap. However, you can check out a nice little free tool called Social Mention which measures both these elements and is well worth a look.

Community growth

In theory, at least, reaching a big audience and successfully engaging with them should lead to your community growing as more people decide they like your brand and want to hear more from you. You should measure how this is increasing (or god forbid, decreasing). When we talk about ‘community we mean any social media member community that you own, so count increases in Facebook fans, Twitter followers, YouTube subscribers, blog subscribers, or whatever social media platforms you’re using. A handy tool for tracking twitter growth is Twitter Counter.

Referrals and social media conversation

Like it or not, social media has to ultimately come back to sales, or at least play a role in the sales cycle. So first of all, you need to drive people to where a conversation can take place, typically your website. And the good news is research has shown a customer arriving on your website from a social media channel is much more likely to buy from you than if they’ve come there directly. This is where ‘referrals’ come in – the more referrals to your website you’re driving from social media channels the better. Google Analytics (ask your web guy or girl to install analytics tracking on key pages of your site) is the best tool for this and will list which websites are referring traffic back to your site. If your social media activity is effective, then you will start to see these channels appearing in the top ten referrers.

Secondly, it’s important to look at the business value of your social media activity – the hard sales bit. You can measure conversion through properly set up web analytics, but this isn’t terribly easy unless you have access to a specialist. An easier route could be to calculate your average conversation rate and average spend per customer and apply this value to a percentage of the total traffic arriving on your site from social media. And if you carry out pay-per-click activity – by buying ads on Google using AdWords, for example – then you can attribute your average pay-per-click cost to each piece of traffic from social media. 

And remember, this is not an exhaustive list. Keep flexible, and add new metrics that suit your specific objectives, and help you justify your social media budgets.

Will Ockenden is a social media and public relations specialist at Lucre.

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