One thing about the social space is certain: The time to just be hanging out there because it’s what all the cool kids do is over.
Marketers spending their time and money crafting campaigns using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social sites are now looking for solid metrics to back up those activities. But what should they be tracking and how should they go about it?
The answer, of course, depends on what you want to get out of your experience, beyond racking up a bunch of friends and followers. Social is a new environment for a lot of companies, and many are figuring it out as they go, notes Keirsun Scott, director of social media at Oneupweb. For example, tracking overall analytics for your Facebook page or Twitter account, or measuring the ROI of a particular campaign on those sites, are two different animals.
“The more sophisticated customers are looking at how to understand which channels are important to them, and how they understand the volume of those channels in terms of clicks and beyond,” says Parker Trewin, director of marketing for Genius.com, which provides customers with trackable URLs. “[What's important] is understanding which of those channels are providing conversions to opportunity, and what is a qualified lead.”
“With social, you can’t look at it as a click to purchase method, because it’s really more of an engagement platform,” says Scott of Oneupweb, which offers in-house analytics tools, and also encourages clients to use the tools offered by social networks. “You need to measure conversations and look at it on a deeper level — where are interactions taking place, and what content are you putting out there that is spurring those interactions? You need to get away from the idea of just putting more content out there to drive traffic to your Web site.”
There’s definitely a lack of clarity when it comes to what to measure, agrees Steve Woods, co-founder and CTO of Eloqua, which offers monitoring tools for social media. And for business-to-business marketers looking to get social, the challenge is even greater because the volume of conversations just isn’t that high. In many cases, B-to-B marketers are finding they can follow the basics with things like Google Alerts. “The interaction can be more manual than it would be for large consumer brands,” he says.
At the individual level, an important factor to look at is what a person’s behavior in the social world says about who he is as a buyer and where she is in the buying cycle, Woods notes. “A lot of it comes down to context and why you ended up at my site.”
For example, if someone came into a site via a jobs page, he’s probably not a buyer. If he came to a product specs page after participating in a deep technical discussion on a blog, he might be a technical evaluator. But if it was a discussion on a LinkedIn group or on Twitter about a case history that led him to a case history page on the main Web site, that makes him a much more likely potential buyer, Woods notes. “A person’s interaction in social media could indicate how you should change how to communicate with them.”
Look at Body Language
One way to do this is lead scoring algorithms to access their “digital body language,” he says. For example, the fact that a person came in to your site via a LinkedIn case history discussion might give them an extra a 20 points as a potential prospective buyer, signaling that it is worth a salesperson’s time to nurture that person.
“It’s not necessarily analytics in the classic sense, but it’s very analytically relevant,” he says.
One other aim that isn’t necessarily objective but is essential is keeping an eye on your online reputation, he adds. “You need to know if there is an issue starting to brew, or if there are opportunities you could take advantage of.”
Marketers should also be considering all the various ways their content can be spun off and repurposed — e-mail newsletters, blogs, RSS feeds, social sites — and making all that information as sharable and searchable as possible, notes Woods. Then, you can look at what content is performing better where in a shift from medium-based analytics to content-based analytics. This, he says, pushes the marketers to reframe their mindset to better consider what is more interesting to the buyer.
“Buyers don’t typically have a religious preference on how they want to receive their content, they just prefer to see what is more relevant to them,” says Woods. “In the last six months or so, we’re seeing acceptance from the more classically ‘social’ social media sites like Facebook to more [marketing]-type content, as long as it’s not a sales pitch or a press release.”
Marketers need to be aware of what categories are resonating with social users, and to figure out how best to integrate social objectives and metrics into the rest of the organization, says David Berkowitz, senior director of emerging media and innovation at 360i.
Some are very keen on this, while others have very specific and siloed digital or social goals, he notes. And sometimes, those in charge of the digital plan don’t have enough exposure to the broader marketing plan.
“One huge challenge is that social media very often comes up too late in the planning cycle,” Berkowitz notes, adding that in the past year he’s seen a shift in how marketers are planning their social strategies. A year ago, marketers were very focused on shorter campaigns. But since the last quarter of 2009, they’ve been looking a year or sometimes several out when it comes to social. “That’s been a welcome change in the right direction.”