Photo owned by Darren Hester
A bit of an epic post, but bear with us!
There is some debate in the industry at the moment, as to how you can effectively measure social media campaigns. The difficulty arises with the fact that you're engaging someone in a conversation and numbers don't tell the whole story. When was the last time you gave someone a mark out of 10 for how much you loved them? Typical user behaviour also presents problems for measuring the effectiveness of your social media strategy. Your customers might be aware of your presence on facebook or Twitter for example and then spread the message offline by telling their friends. Think of social media more like word of mouth and you'll understand the difficulties in finding that magic number.
While we would love to tell you to forget about the numbers and ROI and concentrate on engagement, this just isn't always an option, when every cent of your marketing budget has to be justified. We've put together a list of some of the things you can measure. These aren't absolute and won't ever tell you the whole picture, but are a good place to start...
Increase in traffic
Look at your site traffic since you started your campaign - are there any key peaks in traffic that coincide with your social media activity? Ensure you're tracking key dates of your campaign - when you uploaded a video, for example and look for any trends around this.
If you have Google Analytics or similar tracking on your site, look at where your traffic is coming from. Though not everyone will come directly to your site from a social network for example, this is still an important indicator as to the success of your campaign.
Natural Search Positions
Identify the natural search positions key to your brand and track your positions before you start your campaign. As you start blogger engagement, content creation etc. track for any subsequent improvement in your natural search positions and extra traffic these keywords are sending you.
Engagement on your site
If you're actively engaging with your target audience, you'll be sending more targeted traffic to your site. Look in your tracking suite for key metrics of engagement such as page views per visit, average time spent on your site, rss feed, subscribers etc. You can also compare these metrics for social network referral traffic compared to direct, or search engine traffic.
Your presence offsite is also a key indicator of the success of your campaign. As well as your own activity on social networks, blogs etc. how much of this content is getting picked up elsewhere and spreading virally? Over on my other blog I've made a list of free social media measurement tools that can help you identify your presence online. Remember to benchmark this before you start your campaign so you can effectively attribute your improvements.
The 1:9:90 rule
Though you can effectively measure visits and page views on your site, with offsite activity the information you can access is fairly restricted, beyond number of fans, video views/uploads etc. The 1:9:90 rule was devised to measure engagement in an online community. It works on the premise that in an online community, 1% are active contributors (regularly upload photos or blog posts for example), 9% are intermittent contributors (contribute content from time to time), whilst 90% are lurkers (read content but don't contribute or comment). If you've gained 10 links on blogs for example you can then calculate that 900 people would have read those blogs, ambiently engaging with your brand, if not directly.
Individual indicators of success
Before you start any social media activity, you need to identify what are the key indicators of success on that site. On twitter for example, this could be: followers, @replies or direct messages, retweets, keyword trends. Once you've identified what these are, try and benchmark what you would consider to be a success. Look for similar social media campaigns and the numbers they achieved. Benchmarking like this can help guide your campaign and let you know if you're on track.
These tips are intended as a guide, they will never tell the whole story due to the fragmented nature of social media. While these can all help you measure the effectiveness of your activity, the most important thing is to not let the statistics drive your campaign. Remember to chase the conversation and the numbers will naturally follow. If you're doing it right!