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Measuring Social Media Activities – Primer with KPI Examples

January 25, 2010

I am feeling awful because I have not blogged for quite a while, but this post should make up for it because it is about measuring social media, a hot topic among marketers and others who want to better understand the effect of their social media engagement in 2010.

Which camp are you in when it comes to measuring social media activities?

Camp 1:
Similarly to our early 1990s struggles in measuring the effectiveness of web presence it will take time to develop standards in social media measurements and therefore it’s ok to slack off at least for the time being.

If you are in this camp, get out! There are no excuses for not monitoring your social media activities at all. Yes, we might not have all the answers in terms of best practices, but that does not prevent you from taking action and setting up social media Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) even if you end up adjusting or changing them later on.

Camp 2:
Social media activities are performed on the web and therefore they are measurable the same way web activities are measured hence we should apply the same (or similar) methodologies to we’ve developed for web metrics.

If you are in this camp, be cautious of two things: swimming in irrelevant data and not differentiating between social media activities and just plain web traffic. It’s easy to stop where web analytics stop most often: measuring raw traffic ( and relying on multitude of KPIs( incl. navigation paths, entrance and exist points, bounce rates, site overlay and so on) to track your success. Soon you are swimming in data that is limited to just monitoring number of eyeballs directed to your social media presence. Of course you need to know the traffic basics, but go beyond that into measurements that allow you to track participation and influence. Google analytics might not be enough to get these measurements to you. You might relay on other tools (bit.ly URL shortener, Twitter search, etc.) but focusing on engagement and influence is key in understanding the true value of social media activities.

Camp 3:
Social media measurements is more than just measuring web traffic (aka attention) and includes measuring participation/engagement as well as influence. In addition, you must find ways to tie these social media KPIs with your business goals and report on them to show you are moving the needle in the direction of your goal.

If you are in this camp, congratulations. You are in good company… mine. The science of social media measurement is still being developed and will result in establishing best practices. In the meantime we must look at your social media efforts as an activity you are doing for a purpose… a business purpose (lead gen, brand awareness, thought leadership, etc.), a professional development purpose (building your professional brand, etc.). Two things you need to keep in mind: making sure you measure all three: social media attention, participation and influence as well as tying your KPIs to our business goals. Got it?

OK, you say. This is all nice and dandy, but…

How do I get started?

Hopefully before identifying your social media KPIs you have gone through the exercise of identifying your goals & measurable objectives and finding social media channels that can help you get to your goals (great post from Amber Naslund to get you started on that).  For the purpose of this exercise let’s assume you are a professional who wants to use social media to

  1. Build your image as a subject matter expert in your area
  2. Get noticed and make connections with influencers in your field

You have started a blog as the core of our social media engagement and a twitter account to be used to draw traffic to your blog. Great. We’ve got enough to get going here.

ATTENTION METRICS (aka traffic coming to your blog)

Obviously you must know the traffic basics which includes the number of visits to your blog. You must also understand what causes spikes in that traffic overtime. Is it triggered by you generating a new blog post, an influencer linking to your blog, etc.

Ok, you know the number of visits to your blog. The next thing you must know is where these visits are coming from. The main two categories you want to pay attention to is traffic coming from search engines and traffic coming from third party sites (aka referring sites).

While you come up with strategies to increase traffic coming from search engines you should pay close attention to the type of keywords that users use in search engine queries that direct them to your blog (search keywords report). This will determine the types of keywords you should include in your posts.

When figuring out ways to increase traffic coming from third party websites you should know precisely from where you are being linked to through the referrers report. This report will help you understand what websites to go after in your link building activities.

Number of RSS subscribers and number of email subscribers (if you have that feature enabled) should also be something you should keep track of. Remember RSS and email subscribers get your content delivered to them every time you post something new and therefore they are the most valuable type of visitors – repeat visitors.

And that’s it. These are the basic attention focused KPIs you need to pay attention to. Of course Google analytics or your analytics program of choice may give you access to plenty more but these are the ones you should pay attention without being overwhelmed.

PARTICIPATION (aka engagement) METRICS

This is level 2 and it’s getting a bit harder now because you are striving to measure whether you were able to make your audience to start paying attention to you and your messages. Here are the KPIs you should pay attention to:

# of comments – this is the obvious stat, but often the most discouraging as you continue to write posts with few or no commenters willing to interact with you. It’s ok. You must work to get these comments in, but that should not prevent you from tracking the number of comments you do get overtime. In addition to comments you should also track post ratings (if you have them enabled)

Time on site is a good indicator whether your blog visitors really took their time to read what you have to say or whether they just stopped by for a few seconds and left.

Word of Mouth (WOM) measuring is essential to understanding who is paying attention and willing to spread your content using their social media connections. In terms of metrics you should keep track of how many twitter re-tweets or mentions or how many Facebook shares, etc. you received. If you shorten your blog URL with bit.ly before tweeting, facebooking or otherwise socializing your content you’ll discover what channel triggered the larger number of clicks and engagement.

INFLUENCE METRICS

This is it. This is what you’ve been hoping for when signing up for social media channels – being able to influence people to do what you want them to do.

So if you are using social media for lead generation… you should monitor the number of leads you receive through particular social media channels. If these leads were submitted online through your lead generation form this will require your web analytics program to follow the path from a particular Social Media channel directly to your lead gen form. Make sure it’s set up and you know how to get stats from it. If you don’t know ask your web analytics person. In addition, keep track of all the leads you generated from your social media channels that came through via telephone or email.

If you are trying to get noticed and develop your professional brand… make sure you pay attention to # of (lasting) connections you’ve made with others (particularly influencers) in social media. This does not include just a plain number of twitter followers you’ve got or # of visitors to your blog. We are talking deeper connections. How would you identify them? They will become obvious if you engage in a conversation longer than just a twitter RT or a simple blog comment. It might be a connection that results in a face to face meeting or a phone call. Keep a spreadsheet of those and cultivate them.

# of speaking engagements that resulted from your social media channels is another KPI you should be keeping track since they allow you to get noticed on a large stage as an expert in your field.

Do you have enough to get you started? Are we excited yet? I hope so. I got excited just writing this post. Are you overwhelmed? Don’t be. You don’t have to monitor all of these KPIs to be able to show that your social media participation is contributing to our goals. Pick a handful, but make sure they represent all three categories: attention, participation and influence.

Those of you who have different strategies of monitoring your social media engagement please share them in comments. BTW, # of comments is one of my KPIs so you will be helping me realize the value of my social media participation :)

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. February 3, 2010 2:17 pm

    This is fantastic Aneta! I’ve now got some tangible ways to measure our social media instead of just observing or looking at the metrics. No pressure but please blog more…this is very useful information especially for someone like me who is at social media stage 101.

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  1. Value Drivers in Social Media « Direct Marketing Observations
  2. Measuring Social Media Activities – Primer with KPI Examples « Socialeader

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