Welcome to the world of web analytics, where you can measure just about anything. You may already know about site metrics and various analytics tools; you might even use them now, to measure various visitor activity on your company’s website. Mike Fleming at Search Engine Guide noted that such measurement was easy and informative, back in the days when all of a firm’s content got pushed out on its own website.
Nowadays, that’s no longer true. Yes, you still need to measure visitor activity on your website, but it won’t tell you the full story anymore. If you maintain a separate blog on Blogger, share news of upcoming events on Facebook, and tweet interesting links on Twitter, simply watching activity on your own website won’t tell you what your audience is doing with the information you’ve given them.
Social media is both similar to and different from more conventional advertising. With both, you’re concerned with how many people in your target audience see your message – but with social media, you can measure its effectiveness by counting how many people actually engage with your content. It’s not just a matter of assuming that a five percent spike in your conversions is due to a recent blog entry or a special discount; you can see how many comments you got, and what readers are saying.
As Fleming notes, you’re not going to find one tool that will help you measure “engagement” across all of the social sites on which you’re interacting with your target audience. But you don’t need a specific tool for this. In fact, a tool won’t help you if you don’t know what to count or why you should be counting it.
Fleming suggests that you think in terms of “metric categories.” These, he writes “will help you to change your paradigm about what success is on the Web and, therefore, help you to better analyze it.” These metric categories will help you determine whether you’re effectively reaching your target audience, engaging with them, and meeting their needs.
Fleming lists six metric categories: production, conversation, attraction, attention, amplification, and conversion. Each category’s metrics help you answer a different question about your company’s social media engagement. I nearly typed the word “campaign” instead of “engagement” there. But I don’t believe we can think in terms of discrete campaigns anymore – at least, not to the same degree as in the past. It’s one continuous, ongoing effort, and these metric categories will help you to see it in full.
I’ll note one last thing before describing these metric categories: the lists of items you should count are examples. They’re not the only things that can successfully measure that particular metric category; if you give it a little thought, you’ll probably be able to come up with more examples for each one. Consider these suggestions the start of your thought process. Try them out and see if they give you a better idea of where you are and what you should be doing to get to where you want to be.
Let’s take a closer look at these six metric categories. The first one, “production,” poses the question “Am I worthy of customers?” It focuses on your content. Is it what your customers really want and need? Is it valuable to them? Fleming and many other online marketers insist that if you are not consistently creating this kind of content, you are not worthy of success. Look at the number of posts you make in a week, and the number of words per post, for a quick and dirty measure of whether you’ve earned a spot at the table.
The second metric category, “conversation,” asks you to look at how your relationships are developing. Are readers leaving in-depth comments on your posts? Are your products getting reviews? When you tweet, do people retweet? Are you replying to comments? Fleming recommends that you look at comments per post, replies sent per day and replies received per day to measure how well you’re carrying on a conversation with your target audience.
The third metric category, “attraction,” asks you to consider what content is most successful at gaining attention. What does your audience like? What do they ignore? And how do you figure this out? That last question, at least, is relatively easy to answer, by looking at which content they choose to interact with. Obviously, what metric you choose to measure this category will vary depending on the kind of content you produce. Fleming suggests looking at the click-through rate for tweets with links or the percentage of users that complete a video. If you don’t get good numbers in this category, keep in mind that it might not be the substance of your content so much as your presentation, and be prepared to shake things up. For instance, if your video or slide show seems to be a dud, try a good infographic.
The fourth metric category, “attention,” helps you measure whether your content is gaining loyal followers. It’s all well and good to hit them with a two-by-four to get their attention, but do they keep coming back for more? You want to turn casual readers into loyal fans. In a sense, this is the fruition of fulfilling the first metric category, which measured whether you’re consistently producing killing content that is valuable to your target audience. In this category, metrics like subscribers to your posts, followers of your tweets, likes, return visits, etc. will tell you if your audience truly does value your content.
The fifth metric category, “amplification,” takes a look at which content gets spread the most. It’s very easy for a fan to retweet a link or link to a post on Facebook. So are your fans doing this? Your advertising budget will benefit if they are, as it’s free marketing – and word-of-mouth marketing at that, which is the best of all. Fleming recommends that you use metrics like retweets per thousand followers, links to your site, and blog authority to track how much your influence is spreading. If you want to get a better handle on what your fans like, I’d also suggest you measure which content gets spread the most and figure out what the most popular items have in common. You might even want to do this with your least popular pieces to help you see what to avoid in the future.
The sixth metric category, “conversion,” asks you to look at what content and sources lead to the outcomes you desire. All of your effort leads to this. You’re attracting attention, but are you getting new customers and sales? It may not be all about sales for you; in that case, you’ll want to measure whatever counts as a conversion in your business. Fleming suggests using metrics like your conversion rate or, if you’re tracking a blog, your AdSense clicks, to see which of your efforts are leading to the conversions for which you’re looking.
Do you need to focus on all of these metric categories? No – or at least, not all of the time. But they can give you the information you need to adjust your online social media efforts to give you the results you want for your company. Good luck!