Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Social Media Analytics

How can you use social media to improve your marketing reach?  By working with an online marketing strategist, you will be able to define a program that best suits your business.  But how do you KNOW that your social media campaigns are effective?  That is where social media analytics are essential.

Social media analytics have various components, none more important than the other, that are all interconnected, informing and driving your social media campaigns. 

At the root of these analytics is, of course, data.  Most data related social media campaigns are "machine" data (see previous blog post) - data about some human activity that is captured by a machine .  For example, if you were click on the "Share" or "Like" buttons at the top of this page (go ahead, click them!), Facebook and LinkedIn machines would create data about this blog post: who liked, when they liked, what they liked, why they like (if they left a comment), and who they know that "liked" before them.  A tremendous amount of information for a single button click!

But what do you do with this information?  How can analytics help?  When thinking about social media analytics, one must consider three questions: What campaigns have you done (that work)?  How are your campaigns doing right now?  How do you expect campaigns to turn out?

The first question "What campaigns have you done (that work)?" goes beyond basic reporting.  It requires in depth statistical analysis that ties a particular campaign or marketing channel all the way back to earned revenue (or equivalent business metric if revenue is not a key business objective).  It is only through this linkage that you will be able to determine how successful a campaign has been.  Naturally this is easier said than done.  But going through the effort of linking relevant corporate data sources (marketing, sales, accounting) to make this connection provides exponentially more value than simply reporting on arbitrary (and self-fulfilling) key performance indicators (such as Tweets this month).  Despite all the "noise" that comes in between a Tweet and cashed check from a client, the right statistical analysis can tease out those campaigns or channels that contribute to increased revenue.

The next question of  "How are your campaigns doing right now?", gets at the "proper" use of key performanace indicators.  Through the statistical analysis of the previous question, you will be able to determine the relative effectiveness of various social media campaigns (on revenue) and work backwards from revenue goals to set smart and informed campaign targets (i.e. how many tweets, blogs and friends do I need to drive my revenue target?).  The collection metrics that are expected to contribute to revenue should be monitored in concert, against targets or goals, as no single campaign will drive revenue alone.  By the way, revenue should be monitered with these metrics as well.  Afterall, this is what we are ultimately trying to impact, right?

The last question, "How do you expect campaigns to turn out?" requires the modeling of social media campaigns or channels before they are initiated, or while they are in progress.  This will allow you to tweak or turn the dials of the campaign initially or mid-stream to influence the expected (revenue) outcome.  This type of decision support is critical to making smart spending decisions relative to social media campaigns.  The analytics involved in this effort include predictive modeling of revenue for a particular or group of campaign strategies, marketing resource optimization models that allocate budget and staff in a manner that maximizes (revenue) impact, and adaptive models that will rechart a course when a campaign gets off track or is derailed by unexpected events.

With the right analytics strategy of "looking back, being present and looking ahead", you can take the guess work and leaps of faith out of your social media campaigns.  Facebook does not have to be a "huge waste of time" as Betty White quipped in her Saturday night Live monologue.  It can, with social media analytics, be a powerful tool!

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