The Power of Social Media and Tracking it Effectively
First of all, let me start by saying this is not a complete guide. This is merely a look into why tracking social media is necessary (yes necessary) in a modern SEO's (and thus company's) life, and what kind of tools can be used to make doing this a) a lot easier, and b) much more powerful.
Social Media Influence
Social media is quickly becoming a key part of the web. "It" now takes in traffic comparable to that of search engines, and in the internet game, traffic=power. Practically everyone on the web at this time uses some form of social media. It has become so powerful that some journalist's are beginning to use it as a source of, and to verify, news stories. A recent survey suggests 47% of respondents used Twitter and 35% used Facebook when searching for news*.
Even search engines have begun to take social factors into account when deciding rankings. They also have begun to try to get involved in the social side of the internet, with Google's launch of the "+1" service imminent.
This not only influences advertising (and all that encompasses e.g. PPC etc...), but also ecommerce, with things such as peer reviews becoming embedded into internet culture. People's opinions are developing into a more trusted source of information. Taking this into account, it's becoming more and more critical for companies (and professionals) to have an online presence via social media. This then effectively becomes another marketing campaign, with all the needs and drives applicable to any other.
The problem with social media as a marketing campaign is the "newness" of the medium. As seen in UK Search Engine Marketing Benchmark Report released by e-Consultancy; the biggest barrier to marketing success in social media is measuring success (45%). So tracking this form of marketing is as vital a step as in any other campaign.
However, in this medium, there are some subtle differences. Interaction, for one, is key. As is finding the most influential people in your given sector. Doing these two steps effectively can help a small campaign go viral.
Things to get data on include;
Specific campaigns aka give-aways, finding influencers, interacting with the crowd in your niche, finding out the feelings towards your brand/company, finding out the expressed needs of your (potential) customer base, seeing what your competitors are doing to interact and promote themselves to your target audience etc...
So, how do we do this?
There are three main tools of the trade with which a successful social advocate needs to become familiar with (a list with a brief description will follow). These are:
1. Quick tools such as extensions, tool-bars, summary sites, etc. These are used for more general social statistics of a specific site/page/blog and give you a quick and easy look into how it is connected to the social side of the internet.
2. Personal tools (note for personal I refer to specific usernames, pages etc... so can refer to a single person or a company, brand etc) for social media analysis of individual accounts to help process how this account is performing socially in relation to specific campaigns, subject-matter updates, reactionary comments etc. These are mostly used for twitter.
3. Powerful, in-depth analysis tools. These tools are slightly more complicated but can be extremely powerful if used in the correct way. They allow you to not only do the majority of what the first two can do, but can also go into real statistical analysis that gives you comparable data across campaigns, in the way something like Google Analytics does for other campaigns. These however take more time and require a slightly higher level of expertise to use. You can even use Google Analytics to analyse social media as you would other sources of traffic (see list for how to do this).
Additionally, for the more technically able of you (if you are not wanting to use 3rd party tools) using Google docs to create a spreadsheet by means of API's is the way forward! (This calls data from remote sources using JSON and makes it viable for spreadsheet use). In here you can build your own spreadsheet that analyses social media for you.
Eventually, if you're skilled enough, you could build a spreadsheet that lets you input a keyword and come out with top 10 SERP ranked sites and their social media data, allowing for quick analysis of the social footprint of the keyword. This is possibly the most powerful tool you can have, but obviously requires a higher level of technical expertise than using a 3rd party tool, not to mention much more time! It can however create a more flexible spreadsheet with the data that is most applicable for you!
To finish, here is the aforementioned list of tools to make your social media presence easier and more effective. The list is colour-coded to help you easily identify the use of each tool.
(Pink= Google Chrome extension)
(Red= site summary)
(Green= individual account tracking)
(Blue= powerful analysis tools)
Tweetdeck - good for keeping all forms of social media linked and is easy to access.
Bit.ly - shrinks URL's and allows you to track that URL to see how it's performing
Seo site tools - good source of quick information in general for SEO, and has social media tag to it with similar info to Sharedcount.
Sharedcount-gives quick access to statistics for given URL across social media, also supplies API (useful for Google docs creation).
Summarizr - gives you ability to set up hashtag/keyword/account name. Lets you quickly analyse twitter conversations. Good for seeing who is influential/making the most noise. For any hashtag you submit, you will see the following statistics:
Top 10 Twitter users;
Twitter user distribution;
Top 10 @ reply recipients;
Top 10 conversations;
Top 10 tweeted hashtags
Top 10 Tweeted URLs;
Tweeted word cloud.
Topsy - real time search for social media. Easy to use and very useful data. Good search tool.
Twitter-counter - gives quick graphical data on your Twitter account measured over time e.g. followers in last 3 months. Can also use it compare to other users, your other campaigns etc...
Tweet Effect - Find out which of your Twitter updates made people follow or leave you (although hasn't been working 100% lately!). Its useful when used in conjunction with...
who.unfollowed.me - shows who unfollowed you recently.
twittergrader - shows how influential you are on Twitter.
PostRank - tracks pages and gives engagement metric. Less powerful than other analysis tools, but relatively easy to use. It can even hook up to Google Analytics giving you real stats for visit counts.
Google Analytics - just as you can get analysis, in its various forms and metrics, for diverse aspects of your site; this can also be applied to social media. One of the methods of doing this is to use the advanced segment in Google Analytics. To do this, create a new segment and drag the 'source' box which under 'Traffic sources' to 'dimension or metric' window. After this open the 'Condition' drop down and under value put in the sources applicable e.g. stumbleupon|linkedin|facebook|del.icio.us|twitter|bit.ly etc... You can then use your social networks traffic medium vs. other traffic sources which are already segmented such as direct and organic traffic and use this method to compare your social networks traffic against other traffic sources.
Alterian (formerly Techrigy) /Radian6 / Visible Technologies (Trucast) - All these are 3rd party tools that let you fully monitor your company (or individual) websites and brands social media campaigns, and allow you to listen and interact with customers.
So, with all these tools at your disposal, isn't it time to properly organise your social media efforts?
*(Study by Oriella PR - The Network Digital Journalism Study).