Many people jump into social media marketing because they feel they “should be doing it.” Many times companies don’t take the time to identify their goals and why they want to engage in a campaign. Identifying and measuring social media metrics can be easy and inexpensive. Here are some simple things to keep in mind and free ways to track them. This list is based on a viral marketing / linkbait campaign where you are tracking one URL.
Traffic. Is your goal to get more traffic? Are you looking for more brand recognition? Do you have CPM based advertising on your website? Measuring traffic generated by a viral campaign is one of the simplest benchmarks. Simply measure the traffic generated to the specific URL through your web analytics package. Check out Tamar’s great breakdown of 6 Free (or nearly free) analytics packages here.
Links. Are you looking to naturally build links to help with your search engine optimization efforts? Linkbaiting can be extremely effective for this, but you should track where the links are coming from and whether or not they are helping you. I recommend checking links at the 1 and 7 day marks using either Technorati or Google Blog Search, then at the 30 day mark using Yahoo! Site Explorer or Google Webmaster Tools (use this FireFox plugin from Joost de Valk for extra info). Simply put the full URL (yourdomain.com/viral-piece.htm for example) into any of those engines and see who is linking back to you.
Buzz. Are people talking about you or your company due to the social media work you are doing? You need to know who’s saying what, and most normal search engines won’t track this. You can use free services such as Serph to help track what’s being said in places like forums and social networks. You can use Serph to search for things like your company name, the title of your linkbait piece or tool, etc.
Bookmarks. Bookmarks will tell you how many people felt your content was important enough to want to revisit at a later time or share with their own network. There are tons of online bookmarking sites out there, but I like to use del.icio.us to gauge the overall interest level. Simply go to the del.icio.us URL page and input your full URL (as explained above) – it will then tell you how many people have bookmarked your site and the different tags they used (which is important to see if people are tagging it with what you had intended).
Conversions. At the end of the day everything should come down to this. Many people want to discount direct sales via social media marketing, but that should never be the case. I firmly believe that you should craft your viral pieces in a way that will help to generate conversions and track them closely for such. Sometimes this might have to come after you have launched and have promoted your piece via the major social networks, but other times it might be the whole goal. Define what conversions you want to have happen and then track each. Do you want more people to sign up for your newsletter? Subscribe to your RSS feed? BUY YOUR PRODUCTS? You can do this simply and for free using Google Analytics.
With these different metrics, its important to put a realistic expectation for each in place before you launch your campaign. Think about what you want to accomplish and define your goals as specifically as you can get. Tracking your results and measuring them against your goals is the most effective way to tell if your efforts were successful and had a positive return on your investment (whether that investment be through time or money).
Chris Winfield is the President and Co-Founder of 10e20, an Internet marketing company that specializes in social media & search marketing services and is based in New York & Florida. The Let’s Get Social column appears Tuesdays at Search Engine Land.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.