Social Media Managers Give Top Methods to Track Social Media
In April CMIQ Contributor Megan Hargroder wrote about what metrics social media experts were tracking. This month, she covers how the experts track these social media metrics.
Most social media managers will tell you that tracking metrics is a key, if not vital, element of their jobs. It’s how clients see what their ROI (return on investment) looks like – which is important with this relatively new form of marketing. It also gives insight into the audience consuming your media and helps you test adjusts to the message.
For example, with traditional marketing, such as a magazine advertisement, an advertiser can estimate their ROI very simply: an average 50,000 people will see the ad, 40% percent will pay attention to it, and 5-15 percent of those people will be sparked to some sort of action from it, based on brand accessibility, affordability and the ad quality and content.
Social Media is more difficult to manage because of its fluidity. Your number of fans, viewers or followers is never static. And unlike a monthly subscription that people anxiously flip through on arrival, there’s no guarantee that your posts will even be seen by your existing audience. Therefore, your online marketing efforts must also be fluid. Regular tracking is necessary to achieve a clear picture of the impact of your efforts.
What to Track
"The amount of time someone stays on the page is the No. 1 important metric for me to track because my site is built around podcasts and I want to know who’s actually listening," said Lynn Casper, Creative Director of Homoground.com.
David Weuste,a social media manager and consultant for music professionals said that his top-2 hard metrics to track include click-through rate (number of people who click a web ad divided by the number of time it appeared) and page views, but that he feels that the most important thing to track is interactions.
"Making that connection and getting people to interact with your brand in social media is key," he said. "So that is a major ‘statistic’ that I feel needs to come into the equation. After all, not everyone does their purchasing immediately. So, perhaps they don’t click the link to purchase your album in your blog, or on your Facebook Page. But if they have that relationship, it’s more likely that when they do want to purchase, your product is at the front of their mind."
Tracking interactions can be a little more complicated in terms of an automated method. Public relations specialist and social media manager Linzy Cotaya uses an Excel spreadsheet to track interactions and how people are responding to her posts.
"This provides me a trail of what was popular and can relate the content to the peaks and valleys in the interest in the organization," Cotaya said.
How to Track
There is no accepted tool to tracksocial media metrics and impact, with new options popping up all the time. These tools range in cost, reliability, user-friendliness and level of functionality and outputs. Seven out of 10 of the social media professionals polled for this article cited HootSuite as their "go to" for not only automating social media messages, but also for tracking influence to create reports.
So here’s a quick breakdown of some of these services in 140 characters or less:
Google Analytics – An oldie but goodie. Google Analytics, like most Google services is a free tool that tracks visits, page views, pages per visit, bounce rates, average time on site, etc.
Bit.ly – A URL shortener and real-time tracker.
Owl.ly – (A HootSuite feature) Similar to Bit.ly in that it shortens and tracks URLs but also has a limited file sharing option.
HootSuite – Primarily a system to automate social media updates, HootSuite also monitors keywords and generates reports on multiple standard social media platforms.
KLOUT – Tracks influence level, user style and content.
Radian6 – Monitors and measures engagement of multiple social media platforms.
Whatsnexx – A marketing automation system that is the "holy grail" of tracking metrics because it imports metrics from multiple systems and compiles them into usable data reports.
Alex Pomes, social media director at Zehnder, said that he is on the road a lot and relies on notifications to help him stay on top of things.
"Back at home base I have Radian6 set up which sends me emails full of more detailed info that I can get to when I need to Radian6 to show the clients. But honestly, I prefer Twitter's built-in search, Google notifications and Facebook's built-in page analytics for me."
Tying It Together
So you’ve got all the data. Cool. Now what do you do with it?
Weuste says that aggregating all of these collected statistics into one place has been his key challenge. Some software platforms don’t work as well with application programming interfaces (APIs), which help software programs to communicate to – in this case – pull information from one to the other for aggregation.
"HootSuite has recently launched a reports system, and they can pull in stats from all kinds of sites," Weuste said. "But if I look at my Facebook stats on Facebook, and then look at the Facebook stats that HootSuite is showing me, they don’t always match up. The same is true when using a blog’s built in stats versus your stats if you use FeedBurner."
Whether you’re manually tracking or using a more sophisticated system (Radian6, Whatsnexx, etc.), it’s critical to aggregate your data and stats together in order to get a complete picture. This is the best way to get a profile of your target audience, determine the effectiveness of your efforts and understand what’s working and what’s not working. Only with aggregation will future campaigns be effectively tweaked.