Finding Your Social Yardstick, Pt. 2

So maybe you’ve spent 10 hours working on optimizing your site and lurking on social networks. Maybe you’ve spent 10 minutes. Either way, that’s valuable time, and you’d probably like to know it’s paying off with some hard evidence. Which brings us to layer three.

Layer 3: Analyze. The Numbers and Statistics.

As stated before, you can’t measure the brand trust your efforts are creating, but there are a few helpful and, hopefully, encouraging tools to measure response to your social presence.

1. Facebook Insights. This tool, which comes free with all Facebook Pages (but not personal profiles), delivers data about your fans and consumption in easy to read graphs. Insights breaks down your fans by gender and age categories and rates your post quality, to name a couple of features.

2. YouTube Insights. Break down by individual video or see total overall views for your content. Even view graphs on viewers by region.

3. Twitter Measurers. HootSuite, TweetStats, Twitter Counter, etc.

4. Budurl or Bit.ly. Bit.ly is free, budurl is not, but both provide a means of URL shortening for Twitter. Budurl allows you to create a custom name for your URL, which can really increase the chances a follower will click the link. More commonly used shorteners, like TinyURL, are being abused, making users less likely to click if they see those domain names.

5. Built in blog tracking. Many blog platforms, for instance WordPress.com, have statistics built into their Dashboard page, but you can also track a blog on Analytics.

6. A RSS Feed Tracker. Feedage.com, for one. Sometimes site visits are not the only indication of how many people you are really reaching. If a user subscribes to your blog via an RSS feeder like Google Reader, they can be avidly reading your content without ever making an impact on your Analytics. A feed tracker will let you know how many people are subscribed to your content through RSS.

7. Social Bookmarking sites: Digg, Delicious, and StumbleUpon are just a few sites through which others might share your content. See if you’ve produced any content that has been bookmarked by others to get an idea of what makes a successful post.

8. Traditional Measurements. How many sales are made through the website? How many dollars in donations come in through it? How many people respond with a social media platform or the website when asked “How did you hear about us?” over the phone or on a survey? Directly ask for feedback where ever possible.

Layer 4: Modify. Then do it again.

Use the analysis you’ve gathered to hone in on what makes people respond to you. Then optimize, push traffic, analyze, and modify again. Social media is fluctuating, and you can’t get comfortable. You need to be growing and adapting along with the platforms you are utilizing.

I’m posting the best content I can! What else can I do?

Just a few ideas…

  • Publicize company problems and issues and show how you’ve resolved them, or are working to take care of them.
  • Use tags on all videos, photos, and blogposts to maximize your “Google Juice” (how high in the search results you appear for certain keywords).
  • Use various platforms. Consider a live Podcast through BlogTalkRadio.com, or conduct a survey through Survey Monkey.
  • Open up social media to the whole company, not just your marketing department. Inner-office social tools, like SocialCast.com, provide a forum for real-time communication and the quick interchange of ideas. The more ideas are circulating between your network, the more content you can produce.

Why am I spending all this time on social media again?

Two words: Effective Frequency.

In 1885, a London businessman named Thomas Smith a guide called Successful Advertising, in which he alleged that a potential consumer must be exposed to an advertisement twenty times before they’ll buy. Whether that magic number is really as high as twenty or as low as three will, of course, vary for different businesses, but the overall idea of an Effective Frequency is true enough. This is the number of times an advertiser must put his products into the view of the potential customer to incite recognition, then curiosity, and finally, a decision. Under-advertise, and the customer never reaches the decision point. Over-advertise, and you’re wasting your resources.

Say your goal is ticket sales for an event this Saturday. It’s now Tuesday, and Bob tweets about “This cool event” on Saturday, which results in a Facebook “Like” from Susan, which appears in Joe’s Facebook feed. Thursday, Joe sees a billboard advertisement for the event, and, on Friday, hears a radio ad. The radio ad is also heard by Roger, who gives it a blog mention. Joe reads the blog, remembers the radio ad, and wants to email the box office a question. He gets on the website (which you’ve Optimized), and decides to buy a ticket.

Although the customer may cite the radio ad as their impetus to buy, the reality is that all these exposures influenced that decision, and the lack of even one may have meant that customer never reached action.

Conclusion and the Hype Cycle

The Garter Hype cycle (www.garter.com) was developed as a way to show predictions and observations about emerging technologies.

Click to open a more legible version.

The five categories, listed in bold across the bottom of the chart, represent the stages a new technology passes through before it is established, accepted, and mainstream. This is the Hype Cycle from 2009. As you can see, Garter finds that Corporate Blogging is well within the “Slope of Enlightenment,” and set to be mainstream in less than two years. Social Network Analysis is not too far behind. Microblogging (like Twitter) is on its way down into the Trough of Disillusionment, but the blue dot indicates that Garter does not write the concept off as “obsolete.” For more on the 2009 Hype Cycle, see http://www.gartner.com/it/page.jsp?id=1124212.

Returning to the idea of trust, consider this quote:

“Heirarchies exist where there is ambiguity in transactions, resulting in the need for authority. Authority manifests itself in the form of hierarchy.

Networks are constructive and destructive because the transcend hierarchy. They operate on the basis of trust.

This is a human design pattern.”

-Karen Stevenson

Social media creates networks, and therefore creates a system based on trust. These platforms are ways to keep in touch, whether it be with friends, or people who have only met through the sites.

As a company in the social media realm, you are capitalizing on the opportunity to create a dialogue directly with your consumer to build trust. You are stepping away from the traditional advertizing hierarchy, in which the brand and the expert reviewers are at the top, and the everyman is at the bottom. In social networks, everyone is on the same plane, and you are recommending your product as a “peer.”

It takes time, which comes in shorter and shorter supply these days, as you add these strategies onto an existing marketing plan. Hopefully, these methods of measuring your social media impact will make the time spent worth it.

Good luck!

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