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Social Metrics: What Does It Mean?

Measuring Social Media Is Crucial

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Social metrics
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Social metrics is the relatively young science of measuring social media to determine what kind of impact it is having.

It's particularly relevant in the field of digital marketing. Companies increasingly are looking for ways to measure the impact of their online marketing campaigns across a wide array of social networks. Quantitative measurement tools for social media are an increasingly component of the larger, related field of social analytics.

Type of Items Analyzed in Social Metrics

Here are some of the most common items or activities used to measure the impact of social media:
  • Number of visitors to a website or web service
  • Referral sources for website traffic, or where the traffic originated
  • Number of participants in a network, such as followers, friends, fans, members
  • Amount of time a participant spends engaging with a social network or website
  • Frequency of engagement, or how often people interact with a brand, product or company
  • Positive or negative nature of communication involving a brand, product or company; sometimes called sentiment analysis
  • Volume of comments of posts mentioning a particular service or company name
  • Number of messages sent about a particular brand or service
  • Interaction rate, or the percentage of total users of a service or social network who actively engage with it.

Actions Taken

There are other types of social media metrics or quantitative ways of measuring the activity and impact of social media, especially for marketing campaigns. One popular metric is specific actions taken, such as

  • Votes in an online or mobile poll or quiz
  • Entries in a contest or players in a game
  • Uploads of video or audio files
  • Posting of photos
  • Invitations sent to join or participate
  • Retweets or reposts

 Counting Contributors, Participants

Another set of social metrics involves the people participating in social media. Items to measure or analyze include:

  • How many friends/followers does the contributor have?
  • How many times has the contributor participated in the past?
  • How long has the contributor been participating?
  • How recently has the contributor last participated?

Recency and Relevance of Content

Another way of measuring social media is to look at the content involved--comments, posts, status updates--and try to determine how relevant and/or recent it is.

Recency is relatively easy to measure--you just look at the dates. But relevance to various topics is harder to measure and more prone to error.

Social metrics is still a relatively young science, and as such, it is still feeling its way in an attempt to determine which metrics are most useful.

Return on Investment

Companies want to earn a return on their investment in social media, which is a fancy way of saying they want to make sure they aren't wasting their time and money participating in social networks and communicating through social media that isn't going to have an impact.

 

Measuring the true yield or result or impact of social media marketing efforts isn't as easy as it might sound. If the goal it so sell products or services, then it's relatively easy to do before and after sales comparisons and get an idea of how much impact most marketing campaigns have.

But it's harder to measure how each type of social media is having indirect effects on the image of any company or product, especially over the long term. If the outcome is delayed or likely to come much later, that makes tracking the true impact of social media harder. And if the impact is highly indirect--such as enabling a company to know more about its customers, for example, which eventually could lead to higher sales--then it's hard to quantify the financial impact.

So since social media metrics is a relatively new science or set of techniques, marketers often aren't able to tell what the exact financial impact is of using most social media. Researchers are constantly developing new approaches to measuring potential benefits, including various approaches that look at the intensity of user participation and result in a metric called return on engagement.

But marketers are demanding more sophisticated social media analytical tools all the time, and the ability to measure financial impact of each type of social media communication is improving all the time.

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