No one's disputing the importance of social networking any longer – neither in terms of search engine optimization or in the ways it enables you to connect directly with your audience.
However, just because social networking is enjoying its newfound status as a legitimate business tool doesn't mean that it should be approached willy-nilly, without a concrete way to measure its ROI. To ensure that the time you invest in your social networking campaigns is well-spent, it's important to identify key metrics to track in order to analyze your returns.
If you haven't yet implemented a system to determine whether or not your investment is paying off, consider adding the following social networking metrics to your regular analytics check-ups.
One of the easiest metrics to track when it comes to social media involvement is the traffic your site receives from referring sites, including Facebook, Twitter and other social networking platforms. To find this information, simply log in to your Google Analytics account (you do have one set up, right?) and navigate to the “Referring Sites” report in the “Traffic Sources” section.
By looking at this chart, you'll be able to see which social networking sites are sending you the most visitors. For example, if you see that Facebook has sent you 300 visits, while Twitter has only sent a handful, it's logical to assume that your audience spends more time on Facebook. This means that you should increase your investment in this service over dedicating more time to Twitter.
Of course, this is something of a simplistic look at understanding the value of referring sites. In our previous example, it makes perfect sense to increase investment in Facebook based on the amount of traffic the site sends over. But what if visitors from Twitter are converting into buyers at a much higher rate than traffic from Facebook? Say 20% of your Twitter visitors wind up buying your products, while only .1% of Facebook readers do.
In this case, we need to consider the conversion value of social networking traffic as well…
The best way to determine what percentage of visitors from social networking sites are performing your desired action (whether that's buying a product, subscribing to an email list, contacting your for more information or so on) is to use the new Google Analytics Event Goals feature in combination with their advanced segment tools.
A complete, step-by-step guide on how to set up a system that tracks conversions by social media traffic can be found on Unbounce, but more advanced Google Analytics users can take the following steps to start tracking this data right away:
Step 1 – Set up an Event Goal for the specific type of conversion you want to track. You'll need to use the new version of Google Analytics to access this feature, and once there, you'll need to provide information about the specific action you want to measure as part of your conversion testing. For example, if you want to track product sales by visitors from social networking sites, you'll need to enter the URL of the landing page that a buyer reaches after completing a purchase.
Step 2 – Create a custom segment to define visitors that arrive on your site from social networking sites. Within each custom segment you create, you'll be able to set up the segment based on the source of the traffic, so it's possible to set up a custom segment for visitors from all social networking sites or to create separate segments for each individual social networking site. If you're trying to determine which social networking site provides the best ROI for your time, set up a separate segment for each site you want to compare.
Step 3 – View conversions data within the Goals Overview screen. Navigate to Conversions -> Goals -> Overview, and then adjust your view settings to analyze only the conversions that can be attributed to the specific custom segments you defined in Step 2. This will allow you to quickly see which social networking site is providing the best ROI for your time.
Of course, you may not be using social networking sites to drive conversions, but instead to build your brand awareness by actively participating in conversations in your niche. This type of benefit is much more difficult to quantify – or, at least, it was until the introduction of the Klout system.
Klout allows business owners to connect their social networking profiles together and assigns a score based on their spheres of influence. Scores fall on a range of 0-100 and, according to Klout:
“…measures influence based on your ability to drive action. Every time you create content or engage you influence others. The Klout Score uses data from social networks in order to measure:
- How many people you influence (True Reach)
- How much you influence them (Amplification)
- How influential they are (Network Score)”
Now, there are a couple of different ways this information can be used. For example, on a base level, if you were trying to determine if your investment in social networking is paying off in terms of brand awareness and influence, a quick glance at your Klout score would tell you if you are achieving this goal or if you aren't connecting with the right people in order to share your message.
However, if you find that your number isn't as high as you'd like, you can use Klout data in a different way. Because Klout also tracks the most effective influencers in any given niche, one of the fastest ways to expand the reach of your message would be to connect with the most influential people in your niche. According to Jason Keath, writing for Social Fresh:
“Browsing influencers by topic is one of the real untapped opportunities of Klout. Saying someone has a high potential for influence is nice and as Shankman said tells us they are passionate about something. But if we know who is the most passionate about snow skiing or cooking or New York City, we have much more relevance.”
Obviously, in order to determine which social networking metrics are most important for you to track, you'll need to invest some time in understanding exactly what you hope to get out of these programs. Do you want your time spent on social media sites to pay off in terms of sales? If so, tracking specific referring sites and their relative conversion sites is essential to determine whether or not your campaign is paying off.
On the other hand, if you're simply involved in these sites in order to spread your brand's message, you may not need to devote time to implementing a detailed metrics tracking system. Instead, simply looking at measures of influence, like the Klout score, may be sufficient to determining if your investment in social networking is paying off.
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