How To: measure the effect of social media marketing on your business

I first wrote this post for the Media Two blog Media Two Point {oh!}. They’ve been awesome enough to let me repost it here.

This is the first in a series of posts, where Morgan and I will be answering the top 10 questions marketers have for social media in 2011 as defined by Social Media Examiner’s 2011 Social Media Marketing Industry Report.

The first question in this series is “How do I measure the effect of social media marketing on my business?

You could measure a hundred different things in regards to your social media marketing efforts, but not all of it will be helpful for your particular business. So the first thing you need to do to measure the success of these efforts is to define some goals for these efforts. They can be the same goals you have for all your marketing efforts (i.e. sales, brand awareness), or they could be specific to social media (i.e. engagement with customers and potential customers).

Each of these goals is measurable using various tools. One tool I believe nearly every business should have is a social media monitoring tool. This will not only help you figure out where your audience is–which will tell you which platforms you should use–but it will also show things like sentiment and brand mentions across the web. Examples of these tools that we use are Radian6 and Sysomos. These come with a price of around $500/month, but are far better than a free option–such as Social Mention–because they are learning tools, and will become more optimized over time.

If your goal is to get more sales, or visits to your website, Google Analytics (GA) is there for you. It’s free, and has a lot of functionality. You can see factors such as time on site and page visits. You can even see where in the conversion process visitors are bailing, and the top content on your site. Each of these metrics can be attributed to specific traffic sources. I would recommend, though, that you watch some of the tutorial videos they provide so that you know exactly how these numbers are calculated.

A tool that we’ve found helpful to build on GA is Argyle Social. This tool will shorten links and attach tracking parameters to them that are recognized by GA. Combining them, you can see what kind of attention specific posts directing fans to your site received. Argyle will also track link clicks and group them by campaign so you can get a better idea of which types of links get more attention among your audience. Pricing starts at $149/month.

To see what kind of engagement you’re getting on your Facebook page, you can look to Facebook’s Insights feature. It’s free and will show demographics of fans, which posts received the most engagement, and growth over time. These are always at least 2 days behind and can take a while to become stable, but these are metrics that only Facebook can give you, so they’re worth paying attention to.

Although Twitter doesn’t offer it’s own analytics right now (unless you’re paying for advertising), there are tools such as Klout and TwentyFeet that can show your rate of follower growth and engagement–@mentions and retweets. These tools each offer free options.

Once you have found the proper tools for your goals, the best way to use these tools is to look at the trends over time rather than specific numbers, as nothing is completely accurate all the time due to privacy settings and other factors. At Media Two, we create weekly or monthly reports so that we can see growth over time at a glance. Know also that this information can overlap other efforts such as SEO, SEM and market research.