Basics of social media marketing analytics tools

When it comes to measuring social media, what actually matters to you? I would argue that there are three basic categories of metrics, three buckets that truly matter when it comes to social media analytics. This is a topic I discussed in greater depth in my most recent book, Marketing Blue Belt.


The first bucket is audience. How fast is your audience growing? How large is your reach and your audience’s reach? Who’s in your audience – do you have the right people?

The second bucket is engagement. An audience that is passive is valueless. What content types do your audience engage with? What things do you do that get them to respond?

The third bucket is action. What actions are your audience taking that provide tangible benefit to your company? Perhaps this is visiting the website and entering the top of the marketing automation funnel. Perhaps this is  recommending your company to colleagues (which is not the same as sharing/retweeting!)

As is the case with the marketing funnel, this is more of an organizational map for your marketing rather than a clear way to measure where someone is in the customer journey. Customer journeys are rarely so neat. Someone can jump from being an audience member to recommending your company without needing to engage with you.

Map out your existing social media marketing data in these three buckets. You will note that you’ll have to go through several different data sources to obtain all of these numbers. There is no single tool that will effectively measure the entire impact of social media. That tool doesn’t exist (though some vendors may claim otherwise).

The tool that measures what matters most to me as a marketer, as someone responsible for lead generation, is Google Analytics. GA measures from just after engagement to the conversion on the website. For me, this is the part of the final that I need the most insight into. Assisted conversions and Google analytics lets me know how much social media contributes to conversions, even if it’s not the last thing that someone does.

That said, Google Analytics only covers a portion of the social funnel. There is no one social media analytics tool that does it all. Frankly, I would be a little concerned if there was one tried to do it all, because it could not possibly measure everything well. Imagine a tool that tried to measure audiences, engagement, lead conversion, ad tracking, and personally-identifiable information for lead management in one product. That is not a recipe for success. Imagine a car that had all of the utility of a station wagon, the speed of a sports car, the fuel efficiency of a hybrid, the power of a race car? Such a Frankenstein beast would be the worst of all worlds.

The closest you’ll get to one tool that does it all is reporting software and washboarding software. You can do this in spreadsheets and Google documents for free, or you can purchase more expensive systems that attempt to unify data sources. Chances are, you’ll end up doing some of your reporting in a spreadsheet no matter what.

What should you look for in a social media analytics tool? Given the above, avoid any vendor that promises you everything. Look for vendors instead who are exceptionally good at their small portion of the social media analytics spectrum. Look for vendors with strong export capabilities and strong, easy to use APIs. The true test of an analytics tool is how freely they let you take your data somewhere else.

You’ve now got the basics of social media analytics tools and measurement. If you want to learn much more about developing a marketing analytics framework, go grab a copy of Marketing Blue Belt.

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Should you have a social media marketing patron?

In one of many conversations yesterday at Social Media Marketing World, I was asked, “How does someone new get started building a following?” While there’s no cut and dried answer that makes it easy, one of the accelerators you can use to jump start a program is to leverage a patron, an idea

What is a patron? In this context, a patron is someone who’s willing to “sponsor” your social identity into a circle of influence and trust. This can be something as simple as someone retweeting your content on a consistent basis to their audience, or something as complex as having an advisor coach you through the beginning of building your audience.

Do you need a patron? No, of course not. You can accomplish audience-building entirely on your own by combining paid social media with organic content, and leveraging all of the marketing methods that we know and love. Patrons just accelerate the process by brokering relationships and making connections faster.


How do you find a patron? If you’re considering that avenue, look at your social graph, the people you’re connected to. Who is already talking about the things you want to talk about? Who has an audience that’s like the one you want? Who is reachable? Here’s one potential method: While social media influence scores are terrible KPIs and should never be used to measure the success of a program, they are a useful hint for the level of difficulty you might have in reaching someone.


If you’re starting out and you’ve got a score of 1, the 1-10 bracket is probably the first group of people you can do outreach to, to build your base. As your network grows, reach up into the next bracket. For example, if your score is 15, look to reach out to people in the 20-29 bracket. Connect with them, share their stuff, provide them value first, and after you’ve established a relationship, make whatever ask you’re planning on making.

To Mark Schaefer’s recent point, no one is holding you down, but there are lots of people who can lift you up if you’re smart and targeted in your approach.

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Where to find me at Social Media Marketing World

As many others are, I’ll be attending and speaking at Social Media Marketing World. If you’d like to talk about how I and SHIFT Communications can help your company with all things social (especially measurement, analytics, and down-funnel marketing), data-driven public relations, come find me and say hello!


Evening reception on the USS Midway. Look for the guy avoiding crowds and instead checking out World War II weaponry. I anticipate being difficult to find.


Invisible in the morning. Floating around during the afternoon. If you want to say hello, any time in the afternoon is fine, just tweet at @cspenn.


8 AM Keynote with Mark Schaefer, Guy Kawasaki, and Mari Smith. We’ll be talking whether content is killing social media or vice versa.

10:45 AM in Seaport H, How to use analytics to predict future social media marketing opportunities. This is my solo talk on predictive analytics. You’ll walk out knowing some brand new ways to use tools that you already own or can afford out of pocket.

11:45 AM in Seaport C, I’ll be moderating a panel with Susan Beebe, Dan Gingiss, and Chuck Hemann titled, “How to measure what matters and communicate it to the execs, managers, and the front line”. To be perfectly honest, I won’t be saying much in this session. Why? Because I despise the uncommon but annoying panel moderators who think it’s their job to talk for half the panel’s time because they couldn’t earn a solo session. The moderator’s there mainly to end fights and/or fill dead time when the audience fails to ask questions.

Hope to see you there! If you want to chat but for some reason can’t get a hold of me, contact me through SHIFT.

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