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.

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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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