Many marketers are dabbling in social media marketing, using high-traffic sites like Digg, StumbleUpon, LinkedIn and Facebook.
Some are doing this because it's the latest buzz and they want to be a leader, not a laggard. But that's not a good enough reason.
Having a public relations and direct response background myself, I look for ways to measure all my marketing efforts. For me, spending time (and money) on marketing efforts and not being able to see quantifiable results is a waste of time and a poor use of marketing resources.
All the tools and concepts are out there to help measure and monetize your social media marketing ... it's just that many marketers are not connecting the dots.
So here are some tips and tools to help you tie analytics to your social marketing initiatives:
1. Look at the "3 O's"—Outputs, Outcomes and Objectives.
- Outputs measures effectiveness and efficiency, such as new subscriber sign-ups and spikes in Web site traffic during your campaign. And it measures analytics, such as referring Web site sources, visits, unique visits and visit percentages.
- Outcomes measures behavioral changes such as internal customer/subscriber feedback (calls, e-mails, forum postings) on your Web site, as well as external reputation monitoring or visiting targeted chat rooms during your campaign looking to see the "buzz."
- Objectives compare direct product sales during the time of the campaign to other sales that occurred before the campaign. So it establishes a baseline, giving room for sales assumptions tied to your effort.
2. Use free Web tools and reports.
- Google Analytics is free and easy to use. Once you install the code on your Web site, you can measure "outputs," such as Web site visits, referring source pages and length of time on site. You're looking for the locations (URLs, etc.) of your social media marketing to appear in your "referring source pages" results.
- Google Alerts. By setting "alerts" based on your name, your company name and keywords in marketing your campaign (i.e., product name), you can get notifications of any "outcomes" automatically. An e-mail will be sent to you that indicates any viral activity, such as who picked up or syndicated your content/news and published it on their sites.
- Backlink and Link Popularity Tools. You can also measure "outcomes" (also known as your Web site's online awareness) by looking at the sites that picked up your message or content and placed it on their Web sites. Some free tools to do this are:
- Internal Sales and E-mail Collection Reports. Many companies allow marketers access to sales reports. If not, then it may take some coordination with your accounting or data processing departments. To view lead generation efforts, you can look at the e-mails that were collected via your "form sign-up." Or, if you work with an e-mail service provider like e-Dialog, ExactTarget or Constant Contact, you can use its "admin panel" to download e-mail addresses collected during a given time period. For sales, this data is largely assumption-driven. But you can view year-over-year or month-over-month comparisons for any correlations with recent social marketing activity to sales or leads. This helps quantify if overall "objectives" were achieved.
Three months after implementing new social media and online marketing tactics, one of my clients (a top online publishing company) saw an increase in both traffic rank and visits to its alternative health Web site by more than 3,000 percent and 80 percent, respectively. In addition, during the same time period, there was more than a 60 percent organic search conversion rate—that’s about 16,000 qualified names at virtually no cost. And all of this was measured using the previously mentioned methods.
Social marketing can be an effective way to reach new, like-minded individuals and build a strong community of potential subscribers and customers. But don't just try it because it's the rage. Try it because it may make sense for your business. Then, validate your efforts through good, old-fashioned direct response metrics.
Wendy Montes de Oca is president of West Palm Beach, Fla.-based online marketing services consultancy Precision Marketing and Media. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.