An old man is approached by a traveler. He’s asked how to get to Dublin. The old man replies: “I sure wouldn’t start from here.” As a web analyst I’m occasionally tempted to use that line. It happens when I’m brought into a project long after a site is launched and I’m asked to report on user behavior the site just wasn’t built to measure.

Increasingly the metrics requested are of user engagement, related to social media conversations surround the site content. If my client is lucky I’m able retrofit a solution, but it’s always best to plan for these from the start. Here’s how. I’ve drafted a short list of considerations for you as you prepare for your next site or site redesign.

A warning: The more sophisticated social media practitioners are going to find the first part of this post rudimentary. Hang tight. There are a few juicy power-user rewards once I’ve laid the necessary groundwork.

Start With Marketing Objectives

Measuring time

Image by aussiegall via Flickr

What is it you want to do online? Sure, you want people to tell their friends about your content — but then what? Start with the bread-and-butter business objectives. Things like: “I want to sell more of my product.” These are what you really care about.

There. Now you’re working off of your business plan!

Now you can strategize on accomplishing business objective(s). You can begin answering this question: How do you craft social media tactics that fully use your site and drive measurable conversions? What is help is a bit of a paradigm shift.

It has to do with how you regard your site.

Make Your Site the Main Attraction

Regardless of how active you and your corporate team are on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, don’t forget that ultimately the most effective social media conversion application is your site.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you have a corporate blog. Good call.

One reason it’s a smart idea to have a blog on your site is you can point to your posts from Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and elsewhere, and they thereby serve as expansions of these microblog headlines and posts. In other words, each time you embed a link back to your site within a tweet (for example), you’re giving people the chance to learn more by clicking. Your site greatly expands the scope and breadth of this humble 140-character teaser.

Your microblog applications capture attention. Your blog then kicks in and commences to cultivate this attention and perhaps even asks for the sale or some other conversion. That’s the conversion aspect I was telling you about. Here’s the sequence:

  1. People see an interesting teaser or headline on Twitter, or other social media channels
  2. They click on the link. They read the blog post that goes into greater detail
  3. It contains links to web pages describing the product or service in even greater detail, answering buyer objections
  4. There’s a call-to-action in each of the key pages, inviting web visitors to identify themselves or even making a purchase

Once this happens, these folks are in the lead pipeline. They’ll receive emails or phone calls — whatever it takes to make the sale or further qualify them as prospects.

If you produce a brand that is sold downstream in the distribution chain, the site may simply tell prospects where to go to get the product. That’s okay too. A conversion can be the use of the Find-A-Dealer function of the site, or an e-newsletter subscription.

The role of the site to support buying actions remains the same.

And yes, all of this is measurable.

Gauging Social Media Success

Let’s look at a few ways that you can measure the impact of social media on your site.

Standard web analytics can watch click-throughs from channels like Twitter and see how successful these messages are in moving people to the conversion stage. For many this granularity goes all the way down to individual Tweets.

If you’re using Google Analytics (GA), search in Google for the phrase “Google URL Builder” and the top link you’ll find is a form that allows you to easily create specific campaign codes. For instance, when you create a new blog post about how your company’s grommets are the best in the world, you can turn that post, whose URL is this:

http://EB.com/new_blog_post_our_grommets_rock/

Into this:

http://EB.com/new_blog_post_our_grommets_rock/?utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=Social_Media&utm_campaign=Our_Grommets_Rock

This trailing code is for GA’s use only. When you shrink down this massive URL within your Tweet, its length is no hindrance … but its power is formidable! Your Google Analytics report will tell you that visitors from this link are in the campaign called “Our_Grommets_Rock,” the source of “Twitter” and the medium of “Social_Media.”

This provides you with feedback. You can easily see which tweets drove people to take action most often, versus those that simply caused them to look around and leave. It’s not 100% accurate, but it does server as “qualitative” research that can direct your future social media efforts.

Two Notes:

  1. This technique can also be applied to systems like ClickTracks and Omniture’s products. Do some digging and you’ll see what I mean.
  2. Curious about the domain name EB.com? I used it first in my post Brownie Charts: Delicious Ways To Analyze Social Media Metrics, and explained why in my own blog, Visualizing bounce rates using brownie charts.

All Hail The Call-to-Action

Sometimes visitors don’t actually commit to something. They just click on a link that shows that they thought about a commitment seriously. That’s not terrible. They could come back. Many certainly will.

Either way, visitors who did commit started by reading your content on the site, then clicked on a little snare that you set called a “call-to-action.”

If you search on that term you’ll find plenty of information about it, but a more fun way to get to know this device is to visit the excellent blog, Which Test Won? by Anne Holland. She presents one test a week (check out her archive!), and each shows the memorability of calls-to-action, as well as how often some even slight variations can yield huge dividends.

Sharing Is Caring — And Measurable “Caring” Is Another Type of Conversion

Some calls-to-action have to do with sharing what you’ve seen. In an earlier post I compared this to leaving nose prints on storefront windows. There are many ways to share online (“Like” on Facebook, a tweet or re-tweet in Twitter, a recommendation on StumbleUp are just three).

I consider the whole array of sharing options as one thing: buttons and links available in an Interest Action Gallery. You can measure those in GA as well. This post tells you how, and links within it talk about ways to leverage an Interest Action Index web metric to continually improve your site’s content.

Link To Related, “Official” Content

Blogs are fine, but they are by design conversational. Many corporate sites eschew them, but even those that don’t really need to publish more information online about their products. Let’s say you have a new line of product. You can publish a page talking about it. And you can publish a few blog posts extolling this feature or that. But there is yet another way that you can publicize this news. It’s with a press release.

Many corporate sites still just upload PDFs of their printed press releases. Huge mistake!

Instead, use the same mechanism that you employ for your blog to post these releases. You can learn how on my own business blog, Digital Solid, in yesterday’s post How to make your press release more like blog posts. Using blogging platforms to publish press releases has several advantages, but one of the biggest is it makes sharing easier. These press releases become additional engines for driving conversions.

Another advantage is this makes providing a separate Press Releases RSS feed a snap.

Finally, from a communications standpoint, you are more prone to publish press releases. That’s a good thing, because with each you have an official statement that you can point to in your social media efforts — especially your blog posts.

Here’s the new sequence:

  1. People see an interesting teaser or headline on Twitter, or other social media channels
  2. They click on the link. They read the blog post that goes into greater detail
  3. It contains links to web pages describing the product or service in even greater detail, answering buyer objections
  4. Other links within the post lead to the official press release — adding another level of detail
  5. There’s a call-to-action in each of the key pages leading to a conversion

With this new step, #4, you’ve increased the depth of your tweets to include a more official voice. This helps to provide authority and authenticity of the message, and ultimately increases conversions. (Your compliance people will applaud  your liberal linking to press releases because this carefully-worded content helps clarify statements made in the blog).

This technique greatly improves your measurable social media efforts. With this method and the use of Content Interest Index, your site becomes a looking glass into the effectiveness of all of your social media messaging. The site starts relaying conversion-based feedback to those responsible for content — feedback that was heretofore nonexistent.

Your Turn To Add To The List

I began contributing to Jason’s blog because I wanted to share how I’m measuring social media activity, but also to learn of new techniques.

Have I missed a few? I’m guessing yes. How do you add social media awareness to your site? Let me know!

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About Jeff Larche

Jeff Larche

Jeff Larche has a deep background in database marketing and direct response. His is a consultant specializing in CRM and interactive marketing with Accenture. His own blog, which is also the name of his original consulting business, is Digital Solid. When he's not working at his day job, he's provided digital strategy support for a worthy not-for-profit, Rock the Green: mixing education about our environment with a day of great live music on Milwaukee's beautiful lakefront!

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Comments & Reactions

Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://Themelis-Cuiper.com Themelis_Cuiper

    Yes genuine spread the LOVE ♥ and a call to action,
    and listening !
    I always listen to my friends !
    They share the best beer, women and toys to play with
    or do you think I write my own jokes ?

    sharing is caring,
    greets from Amsterdam

    Themelis Cuiper
    Social Media Marketing Expert

    • http://twitter.com/TheLarch Jeff Larche

      Yes, love seems to be the theme of two of my latest three posts here. LOL Glad you enjoyed it. I also posted today on an elaboration of that more social media friendly way to post press releases. There's a link to it in this post, but in case you missed it:

      http://bit.ly/h8Np9n

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  • http://trafficcoleman.com/blog/official-black-seo-guy/ Black Seo Guy

    Encourage people to share your news..and engage in on the conversation..this helps..

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

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    I'm really glad I have found this information.

  • http://insightsandingenuity.com heatherrast

    Dude, the awesome richness of this post is mind-blowing. And the way you lay it out is great; attracts semi-pros and newbies like then empowers them to go learn more through tracking. Eureka! Love, love.

    • http://twitter.com/TheLarch Jeff Larche

      Blush, blush. ;-)

  • Bill Anton

    Good article to read for A5M

  • http://www.modernpigeon.com Gregory Shumchenia

    Hey Jeff,

    Really amazing post. Especially the gauging social media success section where you explain the Google URL building. I've read a lot of social media ROI articles that leave this step out and it's always been somewhat of a mystery to me. Thanks for the insight. The whole article is so accessible and easy to read, a great job.

    • http://twitter.com/TheLarch Jeff Larche

      Thanks, Gregory. The best thing about it is that with many systems, including Google Analytics, you need set up nothing inside the system. It automatically takes campaign codes, etc, and begins reporting on them. In the past I've needed to work with an IT department to add new campaign codes .. something that takes time and often “clairvoyance.” You want to reply: It takes three weeks to implement new codes?!? How in the world can I know what I'll need in a fast-paced marketing environment?

      This feature of many analytics systems addresses that problem quiet elegantly. Have fun with your URL builder.

  • http://www.winyourbadge.com Cory

    Great information. I have pieced my social media stategy together but it was without vision. Look forward to implementing. Thanks for the Anne Holland link…great info.

    • http://twitter.com/TheLarch Jeff Larche

      Glad you liked, Cory. Have fun

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  • kumutu

    Great post. Very interesting

  • http://www.online-business-virtual-assistant.com/ Virtual office assistant

    Great post and thanks for generously sharing these info with us. Social media is effective way of connecting with potential customers and with your post we will do it in a better way.

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    nice information

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  • http://profile.yahoo.com/KDN77YWWYV2DTEXWI4KTV5DDVE Termini Vickers

    What a nice piece of info!
    Thanks for this article! 
    These tips are really  very  useful for me as  far as I’m starting my own business and try to develop  its site. Yeah, the gauging social media success part is especially useful!
    Amazing!

     

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