It’s easy to get overwhelmed by everything that social media has to offer.  What’s more is that most organizations are not optimizing the human and capital resources they are allocating towards social media programs.  Imagine taking the same approach to paid search – the horror!  And yes, with that statement I am looking at social media as another marketing channel.  Admittedly, social tactics can be employed to facilitate customer support but the bottom line is that if social efforts were to stop there it would be about as interesting as IVR.  The focus here is on revenue generation and not cost savings.

This is the first in a series of blog posts that I am going to write on social media analytics best practices.  Subsequent blog posts will provide the details behind each of the elements outlined below.  In an effort to get everyone grounded in some key concepts, I’d first like to frame the scope of social media analytics.  In other words, make some sense of all of the moving parts.  At the most basic level, social media strategies and tactics that marketers are leveraging (or benefiting from) can be characterized in one of three ways:  on a social platform, on the website or at the intersection of the two.

Social Platforms

Two categories of social platforms exist – those that provide marketers the opportunity to manage their own presence (e.g. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube), and those that facilitate general sharing and conversations around a variety of topics (e.g. StumbleUpon, Delicious and Digg).  Each presents its own analysis opportunities.  Some of the obvious questions that need to be answered here are:

  • How and at what level are visitors interacting with managed properties?
  • What content is being shared?
  • What is being said about the business and its products/services?
  • How does all of the above impact bottom line results?
  • Given these results, has a positive ROI been derived?

Lest you think you are done if you have answered the above, think again.  The fun (yes fun – I am a data nerd after all) really begins when you take the reports you are using above, dig in, and analyze what is and is not contributing to said results.  This is where you find those little nuggets of optimization gold, and by taking advantage of these findings you continue to increase your key performance indicators.

The Website

Even before the phenomena that are Facebook and Twitter, online businesses were dabbling in social media via user generated content such as ratings & reviews, blogs and forums.  While understanding the impact and value of these strategies is far easier given the level of control a business has over measurement, I know that many are not fully capitalizing on analysis and optimization opportunities.  It’s unlikely that my next blog post will be focused here, however.  There are some interesting trends emerging around the next generation of communities within the confines of businesses’ own websites and until these play out a bit more there are other areas to focus on.

The Intersection of the Website and Social Platforms

There are two ways in which the website intersects with social platforms.  The first is where platforms are extended to the website via social plugins.  The Facebook Like button is one of the most widely used social plugins, but you can find similar offerings across the board.  Clearly, marketers need to understand not only how to best deploy these plugins, but also where and how often visitors are using them.  Finally, measuring the impact on bottom line results and identifying optimization opportunities are both critical.

While there will be more details on social plugins measurement in a future post, please check out the webinar I recorded with Tiffany Chang Black of Facebook on monetizing the Like button as well as the companion white paper co-sponsored by Facebook and Adobe.

The second way in which the website intersects with social platforms is where the website is extended back to managed properties via the use of digital assets.  The most prevalent examples of this include posting links back to the website, leveraging Facebook tabs and applications to provide a more interactive branded experience and doing the same with YouTube sponsored (or branded) channels.  The measurement opportunities are enormous in this scenario.  So enormous that I may have to devote more than one future blog post to the topic.  The principals involved in measuring these strategies are no different than those used in measuring paid search or websites.  In other words, posted links should be treated as campaigns with the requisite tracking parameters in the query string, and branded experiences should include analytics and optimization (e.g. SiteCatalyst and Test&Target) code.

This is a topic I feel very strongly about and am begging everyone to focus on.  Pretty please?!?!  By leveraging the above measurement principals you are going to be able to answer the following highly valuable questions:

  • What is the value of social users?
  • What is the direct impact of social interactions on website conversion?
  • How do the affinities of social website visitors differ from those of non-social website visitors?
  • What can you learn in understanding the above that can fuel more relevant communications on the social web?

I promise, you will hear a lot more from me on this topic in the near future.

For those who are visual learners, here is an image that illustrates the above three components:

Social Media Analytics Scope

So now that we have a feel for the scope of social media analytics, let’s quickly focus on a framework for executing on social media analytics.  All of the data and analyses referenced above can be placed into two buckets:  social media monitoring and social media measurement.

First, a visual representation:

Social Media Analytics Framework

Social Media Monitoring

When I discuss social media monitoring, I usually refer to it as a comprehensive view of everything that is happening on the social web relative to a given brand, set of products, etc.  This includes social platform engagement with managed properties as well as broad listening and sentiment analysis.  In addition, understanding the relationship, or correlation between social activity (e.g. mentions) and site activity (e.g. revenue) is certainly a critical component of any social media monitoring solution.

Of course Adobe SocialAnalytics is our answer to social media monitoring and the critical step noted above is why it is a standout in the market. Not only that, it goes beyond social media monitoring which is surely not the end all and be all of social media analytics.  There is a second component to social media analytics which is needed for a complete solution.  Enter social media measurement.

Social Media Measurement

I referenced the need to correlate social and site activity to understand the relationship between the two.  Social media measurement takes this concept to the next level as it directly attributes social interactions to a customer profile (i.e. a SiteCatalyst visitor profile).  With respect to the scope discussion, social media measurement is primarily focused on the intersection between the website and social platforms and allows for the questions in that section to be answered via the use of JavaScript tags and query string parameters.  Think about measuring branded assets on YouTube and Facebook the same way you would a micro-site, and Facebook wall posts and Tweets the way you would paid search links or display ads.

One very powerful component of social media measurement is the ability to bring an individual’s Facebook profile data into their SiteCatalyst profile.  This has obvious benefits in terms of more robust segmentation analysis, relevant targeting and ad exchange bidding strategies.

The only true social media analytics solutions will have both social media monitoring and measurement capabilities.  For your convenience, Adobe provides such a solution! I look forward to expanding upon all of these concepts with you so that you are able to maximize the actual value of your social programs in terms of dollars and not just fans or followers.

I would love to hear what you did / did not find valuable in this post as well as what you would like to read about next.  I’ll prioritize my efforts based on your feedback if I get it!