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Measuring Social Media Success

Written by Terry Van Horne   
Wednesday, 30 September 2009 13:47

The Search For Social Media Metrics

(the following post is from Terry VanHorne)

One of my favorite jobs is doing traffic audits. After publishing ' How I became a Social Media Convert' and monitoring the early activity I was looking forward to doing a traffic audit because we always learn more about a target audience from the audit then from any other sources. The difference between conventional traffic audits and Social Media audits is the extra layer of sources.

You have Twitter as the web source, however, from a marketing standpoint the second source of "who took the action" using Twitter is more important than the traffic source in your analytics. In some cases a third source may be important. The device can have implications if it is a download or device specific promotion.

Measuring social influence

Much like when we started marketing using websites the realistic near term goals were identifying the means to which we could leverage the communication and infrastructure of a business using the technology. To some degree Social Media isn't much different and to a large degree is just a reflection of the improvements to the original web technologies and devices.

There is still a long ways to go on the sales side. After all in many ways Social networks are walled gardens running on proprietary platforms which stifles marketing innovation by limiting the players and degree of innovation possible.



Measuring emerging markets


When measuring an emerging market channel or internet activity it is important we understand what metrics matter and which don't. Finding suitable measurement metrics that recognize the full value is an important factor in monetizing websites and services. Social Media metrics are in their infancy as marketers differentiate the positive signals from the negative noise.


My bias is rooted in finding a means to monetize Twitter applications and services. My initial feeling is that old metrics of clicks, pageviews and sales/conversion will not measure full value in some cases and will inflate value in others. I have been reviewing advertising models for a twitter service International Website Builders is developing.

Finding the best metrics to measure Social Media activities is the topic for today. In part two we'll discuss the suitability of different metrics for advertising. Today we'll look at traffic audit data and access the marketing value of the data.


Social Media Noise or Measurement Metrics

I am surprised that so many of the blog posts and articles we read daily are about the measurement of value from a Social marketing activity.

This is a good indication of the anxiety/resolve the industry is feeling due to our ability to establish consensus on yardsticks for success and more importantly "obtainable goals" for Social Media activity.


Quantifying success in $'s, IMO, will be illusive for some time as Social activity is studied and consensus drawn.



Tracking Root Sources of Clicks


Using Twitter as the source of traffic is like an SEO only auditing traffic as far as Google. The most intriguing facet of Social Media is the human element. The source of all traffic from Twitter is attributable to humans not content. Shorteners  and URI edits make tracking a clicks true source a daunting task. Many people are changing the original shortened URI in RT's so they can monitor the outcome of their activity. This makes me skeptical of any metrics based solely on clicks.

The recent announcement by Twitter that RT would be changed and incorporated into the application is an indicator that Twitter has determined that this is a problem that will get worse as more people adopt personal shorteners outside of those in the Twitter eco-system. Two possible reasons for the move to incorporate RT are that this will cut down the chars needed to add the citation and take away for removing/editing URI's and citations. This is thought to be an abuse in many circles and these changes would curtail this to some degree.


IMO, there is a strong case for Twitter doing this in preparation for an ad platform. Presently all ads platforms on Twitter are 3rd party I do not see that as a best case scenario if I were investing 10's of millions in Twitter. In essence when you allow others to monetize the app you have put the revenue stream in an unstable environment and limited your ability to garner a fair share.




Pageviews and Site Metrics


Pageviews are useful metrics for the same reasons they are in SEO. This metric measures the number of requests for the page so could be used for measurement of content quality and interest when combined with other page metrics like bounce rate, time spent on page and from site metrics number of pages viewed (degree of engagement with the site). Time spent on the page will provide insights into quality and degree of engagement of the content i.e. they use an app etc.

All the page and site metrics combined will indicate a lot of different aspects of engagement. We can measure the suitability of content using site and page metrics which can be combined with RT to determine the users perceived quality of content. Usability is an important aspect of engagement because the easier a site is to use the more engaged a person can become because they are focused directly on the engagement not figuring out how to use the site.


Sales/conversions are easier to track but have the same problems as clicks where attributing "exact source" is concerned. Sales also have the added problem of engaging potential customers when they are at best browsers and seldom in buying mode. We believe any goals based on sales are misguided. We don't believe sales are a poor goal we see them as a way to distort value and to some degree setting unrealistic goals in the current environment.



Conclusions on Measuring Social Media Goals


The traditional web marketing metrics of clicks/traffic and ROI are IMO, noise in part due to the fragmentation of data across multiple "URI" shorteners. Whether the traditional web marketing metrics are applicable to Social is debatable. Traditional on page usage metrics will continue to be useful as indicators of usability, quality of content, ability to drive sales and to a lesser degree could be an indication of influence, however, that is a bit of a stretch that I will go into in part two.

I mentioned it in the first article I'll say it again... when Google admits it can't monetize MySpace and it's obvious YouTube will be a challenge; then it is obvious that the level of buying engagement on Social Networking sites is extremely low. To be totally clear "users of social networks aren't in buying mode" and that is why SE's are so effective. Buyers are actively in the buying process when searching.


Search and Social work together


Even if it is a person engaging friends and acquaintances about a purchase they are engaged to a lesser degree than if they were actively searching. Secondly even after knowing the exact product somewhere along the line the shopper will likely use search to find the best price or closest location the product is available. For this reason alone I think it laughable when people say Social Media will replace search engines.

Combining Social Media Marketing activity with your search and content strategy will make the transition from engagement to sale or customer contact that much easier by accommodating the customer/contact with content that aids in the buying decision and locating of products, prices and locations.


Search results visibility for comparison shopping or content discovery should be part of any Social strategy or you are running a risk of having a store with no door to enter it. Since much of the material in these Social Networks is nofollowed Search engine crawlers, in particular Google, may not find the content you intend so it is important that information be elsewhere as well so it can be promoted in a way that search engines will find it.


Be sure to check in next week for Part II of this journey....


About the author; Terry is an old school SEO geek that works out of International Website Builders and the founder of - You can also hook up with him on Twitter. As a guy that had to be dragged into believing the world of SMM had long term value, it is good to see others that also resisted... Maybe there's something to this social media after all? hee hee...



Related Articles from The Trail:


As is customary on the Trail we'll leave you with a few articles Dave passed on when he heard I was interested in different methods for determining influence and means to measure Social Media Activity.

Targeting Social Media Influencers Overview of measuring influence to extend reach in a social network.
Social Networks are Open for Profiling


Related Patents:



The goal of exercise is to identify influential persons within a social network.
Ranking Content Based On Social Network Connection Strengths



A trio of patents from Google to further mine social data for better Ad serving, content delivery, association suggestions and the like.
Open Profile Content Identification - Filed Mar 2007 : Published Oct 02 2008
Related Entity Content Identification - Filed Mar 2007 : Published Oct 02 2008
Custodian based content identification - Filed Mar 2007 : Published Oct 02 2008


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