Measuring Social Media: An Approach

There are a lot of Web analytics services out there, from free Google Analytics to paid for, installed-on-server software applications. You can have colourful dashboards and cut the numbers every which way from Sunday. But what about Social Media? There are not really any standards for basic Web analytics beyond the generally accepted Page Views, Bounce Rate, Unique Visitors and Click-Throughs. But even those can be hard to measure given how people come to a site now. When it comes to Social Media, how do you really know what to track? With the research and our (MediaBadger) experience, we believe the following are some starting points.

Before you can really begin to “measure” Social Media, and let’s be clear, this is a whole new element of measuring. The metrics for measuring remain unclear to begin with. First though, an organization must “listen” to the market and to it’s key audiences. By acknowledging that you need to monitor Social Media (blogs, social networks etc.) there is a recognition that something important is going on there. So first is to listen, and a monitoring tool can help you to listen. Certainly if an organization plans on engaging in Social Media activities.

Once you’ve listened, you can begin to determine what are important measurements. These vary by your corporate objective. If you’re only interested in measuring product discussion, then those measurements are different than for monitoring analyst and market opinions about the company as a whole. Since a company is impacted beyond just product campaigns, we believe monitoring as a whole is better.

The types of measurements a company might consider tracking are;

Demographics: Who in terms of a vertical, professionals, regionality, economic, socioeconomic, age and gender segments.

Influential Ideas (memes): A “meme” is a single idea that gets turned into a discussion and commentary. Here you might look for what we term “Igniters” or “Key Influencers” who spark an idea or discussion and move from there to generate attention. Another part of this metric is seeing how memes evolve from your original communication to the social media stratum. This can help later in product positioning and messaging.

Velocity: How fast is the story you, or a Key Influencer has seeded, spreading? How fast is it spreading across various media? This ties into Media Segmentation. Speed can give an idea of uptake and infer a larger audience interest.

Media Segmentation: Many well established news organizations also have blogs, or cite blogs in their mainstream coverage. If your story started in mainstream news media, did it spread to Social Media in the non-professional category. This then ties into “memes” and how the story evolved and what it became as you look at opinion. Key in this measurement is understanding where the “spark point” was – did it cross from traditional media (i.e. a print magazine article) and go online or was it from a conference or trade show?

Particpants & Converters: Who are the “Influencers” and are they getting others to then act upon their discussion to turn into conversions by engaging with your product or service.

Reach: This measurement needs to be clearly defined as to what depth of reach you want. You may only need or want to reach 50 people, but those 50 people could be your entire market. Reaching beyond this may be for more consumer focused products.

Network Connectivity: If you’re reaching those Key Influencers or Igniters, then how deeply or how well are they connected? Some of these Igniters may be more broad in their audience, while others stay very focused. This measurement combines with Reach.

Depth of Relevance: Just how relevant is the overall coverage? This is a crucial, yet difficult measurement to gather, and one that means analysing the story, then looking at Reach, Network Connectivity and Media Segmentation to help determine relevance.

Sentiment: It’s one thing to know your message is being hear, and responded to, it’s another understand the tone in which it is being received. This is 3 main categories; Positive, Negative, Neutral

All of these only become measurable to any degree if the content is desired in the first place. If your content isn’t any good, no one will pick it up to begin with. Each measurement is dependent on the other in order to obtain the Big Picture.

Once this picture is obtained, which may take time, then you can start to formulate broader strategies and tactics to influence messages and communications activities. You can’t control the message, you can only manage it. Social Media metrics can then be tied into analytics as a whole, and that is another discussion.

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