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!