We all remember from Marketing 101, that the ability to measure the effectiveness of marketing activities and calculating ROI is imperative to a company’s go-to-market strategy. While it is quite easy to measure ROI with most traditional marketing channels like print, radio and even search marketing; it’s much more difficult to measure ROI from social media marketing. In fact, just a few months ago; Comscore announced a research and development initiative that is designed to provide comprehensive measurement of conversational media such as blogs, wikis and community-driven social media sites.
Unfortunately, we all know that Comscore studies can take anywhere from 6 months to 2 years to complete; and most marketers probably don’t have that time to wait. So, here are a few things you can do today to measure the effectiveness of social media.
Standard ‘Engagement’ Metrics
In most cases, if you are leveraging social media, you are driving traffic back to your web site. Here are some general ‘engagement’ metrics that you can monitor once visitors arrive:
- Unique visitors
- Page views per visitor
- Time spent on site
- Total time spent per user
- Frequency of visits
- Depth of visit
You can track most of these metrics from web analytics tools like Omniture or even Google Analytics which is a free tool.
And then of course, if you have a paid search marketing campaign, you will want to monitor the standard search metrics (clicks, impressions, click through rate, conversion rates, revenue, etc.) I would also recommend SEM Director as an additional tool, if you can afford it. It basically allows you to assign values to particular actions on the web site once visitors arrive from search – both paid and organic traffic (i.e. number of page views, form submission, clicking on a particular link, an internal search, etc.)
Social Media Metrics
There are several other elements that you can look at when measuring the success (or lack thereof) of your social media marketing efforts; and of course it depends entirely on what your overall marketing goals are. Is it to push sales, drive engagement, increase awareness? Whatever your success metrics are and in addition to the above ‘engagement’ metrics; here are some others to consider as well:
- Content Consumption – if you have a blog – which you should, a good way to measure engagement is to monitor who is reading your blog, where they are coming from and what content they are reading. You can run web analytic reports that will show you the most popular content on your site and/or blog. This data will also show you how long they were on that particular page, where they came from, and also the bounce rate (percent of visitors who left your site after visiting a particular page).
- Content Contribution – assuming you have a blog/wiki and allow for comments; a quick and easy metric would be to monitor the number of visitors who are actually interacting with your content.
- Social Bookmarking – In other words, who is actually adding your site/article/blog posts to sites like Del.icio.us, Reddit, and Stumbleupon. There are a couple of methods you can leverage to look at this metric. You can use your web analytic tool and run a click map report and see how many web visitors are clicking on the social bookmarking icons. Or, you can simply create profiles in each of the bookmarking sites and search for your urls.
- Subscribing to a RSS feed – you can also measure how many of your readers are actually subscribing to your RSS feeds.
- Emailing posts – assuming you allow for your blog postings to be emailed to others, you can use your blog platform tool like (WordPress offers this functionality) to see how many emails are actually being sent through your form.
- Who is talking about you – there are a couple of different ways you can do this; and it’s not an exact science. Again, with WordPress, they have the functionality that allows you to see which other site(s) are linking to your site. It’s located right in the dashboard so once you log in, you can see it right away. You can also go to blog search engine Technorati and search your domain. Lastly, you can always use the old SEO trick by searching for your domain in Google, Yahoo and MSN with the following: link:http://www.yourwebsite.com. These numbers will never match up of course; but it serves as a good indicator to see who is talking about you (or at least linking to you and your content).
- Profile Engagement: So, you may not have a blog but perhaps you have a profile on Myspace, Facebook, or Mybloglog. You can always apply the same metrics already mentioned above; as well as monitor the number of friends that you have, total profile visits, etc. Each social networking site offers some type of vitality metric to see what’s going on in your communities.
One thing to consider before you engage with social media is to assign monetary values to your metrics, especially if your end goal is not revenue conversions. This is where the task becomes a tad bit challenging but it’s key if you want to assign an ROI to your social media marketing efforts.
Michael Brito is a Senior Marketing Manager at Yahoo! and also authors Britopian, an online marketing blog, where he writes frequently about SEO, Social Media and Integrated Marketing Strategies.