Are you measuring social media in isolation from your other marketing activities? Are you overwhelmed trying to understand how social media metrics compare to other marketing metrics? Do you want to have a holistic dashboard for all of your online activities? Today we will focus on how to leverage standard metrics from other digital marketing channels so you can finally have baseline metrics that mean something.

When I talk to companies about how they are measuring social media I get a variety of responses. Some aren’t measuring at all and have decided that it can’t be measured while others are trying to understand all of the new social analytics and determine how much a retweet or a Facebook fan is really worth to the company. Many times I will ask questions about what other types of online marketing the company is focused on and I get the standard list: Pay per Click Advertising, Banner Advertising, Search Engine Optimization, Link Building, and Affiliate Advertising.

Social Media Silo

Naturally, the follow up is “how do you measure those channels?” In most cases I will receive a list of metrics that the company has been using to gauge the performance of their other digital marketing activities that is fairly robust and straight forward. When I ask how these channels are performing I get deep explanations and insights that show they clearly understand these metrics and what they mean to the organization.

Stop Measuring Social Media in a Silo

I think the hype of social media has gone to our heads. We think we need “fancy…schmancy” metrics that are different from everything else because social is “special.” There are all these different factors we need to take into account to tell whether or not it is working and using standard metrics won’t tell us that story, right? Sorry folks, but WRONG!  You have to stop measuring social media in a silo like it is some prince on a chariot. The only way you are going to be able to really tell whether or not your social strategies are delivering value to the organization is to use a set of metrics that doesn’t require your executives to have a PhD in cool. Here is a list of standard metrics that you can use across all of your digital marketing initiatives so you can finally have apples to apples comparisons.

Leverage Online Advertising Metrics

Cost per Impression & Cost per Thousand (CPM)

One of my least favorite metrics, but one that is still very commonly used is the cost per impression and cost per thousand commonly referred to as CPM. If your company uses this as a standard measure it can also be calculated with social media. These metrics are available in almost every social media channel; you can use TweetReach for Twitter since it doesn’t have it available.

Cost per Click

This standard measure in online advertising applies directly to social media too. Use the stats you can get out of any URL shortener dashboard and determine what your cost per click was in social media. Then compare it to your Pay per Click and Banner Advertising costs.

Cost per Lead

Across all these channels you can also use the standard cost per lead metrics. First, determine how leads are measured in other areas as this is different in every organization. The most common type of lead I’ve seen is the result of a lead form. Whatever the standard is in your company, use the same standard for social media.

Cost Per Site Visit

You can also compare the cost per site visitor and the cost per site visit across channels. Because you aren’t always sending traffic directly to your site in social media you don’t want to solely rely on cost-per-click as an indicator of performance.

Leverage Search Engine Optimization Metrics

Ranking Reports

Show social media content such as blogs, white papers, articles and e-books as a separate line item in your ranking reports. If the content that is ranking is a piece of social media content then include it in that section.

Cost per Inbound Link

One of the key strategies for SEO is to generate inbound links. Start measuring the cost per inbound link from standard SEO and from social media.

By measuring social media with metrics that are commonly understood you can decrease your time to understanding with non-social media folks and be able to utilize existing baselines to determine your performance. While you can use these baselines, I also recommend that you keep an open mind. Social media may not perform as well in all of these measures as some traditional channels in the beginning. However, once you start measuring them you can work towards optimizing your strategies to deliver numbers that are more in line with what you want. And if after a reasonable amount of time social still isn’t delivering within an acceptable range, then you may want to reconsider other parts of your marketing mix that are having an impact on the ability for it to deliver. This may not be a result of social media, but could be the follow up process or the pages on your site you are selecting to send people.

What do you think? What are some other standard marketing metrics you would leverage to measure social? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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About Nichole Kelly

Nichole Kelly

Nichole Kelly is the CEO of Social Media Explorer|SME Digital. She is also the author of How to Measure Social Media. Her team helps companies figure out where social media fits and then helps execute the recommended strategy across the “right” mix of social media channels. Do you want to rock the awesome with your digital marketing strategy? Contact Nichole

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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://fbml-templates.net Tim Soulo

    Hey Nichole, thanks for the post! To be honest, I was always avoiding this topic. I do think that Social Media channels need to be measured just like anything else you do for your business. And those metrics that you’ve mentioned are truly the core ones. But at the same time I think there’s a lot more than that. Let me explain my way of thinking:

    By Social Media we not only mean Facebook fans and Twitter followers, but dozens of other popular websites. For instance, you can invest a lot of time into answering questions on Quora and the amount of visitors/sales from this particular channel will not be that huge. But the downside of this practice is that your paying customers can find you on Quora and see that you’re really open and valuable – this can potentially increase their loyality with your comany/brand and they will buy more. But how can you measure that?

    There are lots of cases like that, but I have mentioned this particular one because it worked for me, not as a business owner, but actually as a customer.

    So my suggestion here is to add one more metric to this list, called “Overall”. Once you start investing heavily in Social Media Marketing – just measure your Overall performance and see which of the metrics start having a boost. The picture will be exceptionally clear when the budgets/efforts that you spend on other marketing channels stay the same, thus you know that it’s Social Media responsible for all this “magic” that is happening with your business :)

    • http://twitter.com/Nichole_Kelly Nichole Kelly

      Tim – Thanks so much for adding your perspective. I agree that there are overall metrics that will get a boost from social media as well and they should absolutely be measured. However, one of the many challenges with social media is that intangible results are hard to sell when you want to expand and/or need additional budget. I also look at overall performance to see where the golden nuggets are. But when I’m pitching for more budget or resources these metrics help to tell the story in a way that the management team understands because these metrics have a history and baseline in the company. The intangible metrics are absolutely important and should be on your list. I look at them as the icing on the cake. :-) 

      As far as measuring loyalty…you can measure changes in customer behavior. Do customers who have interacted with you on social media channels purchase more often or spend more at each transaction? Do they refer new business to you more often than other customers? Those are the metrics I would look at. 

      Once we start asking the questions of how to measure the intangibles I’ve found there are ways to actually get data to show it, sometimes we just have to be creative to figure out how to actually implement the tracking. 
      Again thanks for sharing your perspective. Measuring magic is awesome!

  • http://twitter.com/DelishaEasley Delisha Easley

     Hi Nicole, I am just getting informed about how to use social media properly for business. I think that it essential in this generation. Also, as you mentioned its not all about being so flashy but having valuable content and making it simple for visitors to navigate through your website or blog. I enjoyed reading your post!

    • http://twitter.com/Nichole_Kelly Nichole Kelly

      Delisha – Thank you so much for your feedback. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post.  

  • http://twitter.com/JGoldsborough JGoldsborough

    Hi, Nichole. Thanks for sharing the perspective. One thing I would encourage people to measure with social is how it is driving overall comms goals and objectives. Because you are right — social may not compare to the other pieces of the mix (especially the ones we pay for) numbers-wise at first or for a long time. Have to find that impact somewhere else.

    Every company has goals and objectives. How is social media helping you get there?

    • http://twitter.com/Nichole_Kelly Nichole Kelly

      I agree…Measurement against goals and objectives is critical. The next step is to align metrics to those goals you can actually answer the question of how social is helping you to get there. Even if social isn’t looking that great in the beginning you can’t improve if you don’t know how it is performing to begin with. Thanks for commenting!  

  • Anonymous

    This is really great advice.  I work for a new startup company, and this will help us out with marketing and budgeting. 

    Thanks! 

    • http://twitter.com/Nichole_Kelly Nichole Kelly

      I’m so glad you found the post useful. Thanks for commenting. :-) 

  • http://twitter.com/freighter Marty Thompson

     Hello Nichole,
    Good stuff. Just a few ideas to perhaps help folks round out their approach to social media measurement. I had a client who had previously dived (and I mean without any strategy whatsoever) into social. They committed a couple of cardinal errors along the way. First, they had not considered what the impact of using Facebook and Twitter would have on their internal processes. They began using social as a way of telling their customers and the marketplace about the goings on at their business. And they were not engaging, per se. You don’t need social media to do press releases! When they began thinking about using it more effectively, they thought about customer support, which is a great thing. However, internally they still relied on ineffective communication channels, asking others in the organization for answers, which could take a day or more. They had not considered that an intelligent, thoughtful strategy that uses social media, among other things, would have studied their internal processes, how they do business if you will, to ensure that if and when they use social for support, HR, sales, marketing, whatever, that the organization is modeled to perform in the proper context. The net was that their foray into social exposed almost all of their internal weaknesses. Second thing was, they had one person in marketing doing all the social stuff. And they considered social to be free, since that person was already on the payroll. This can make any effort to determine “cost” very inaccurate. Why? Because they didn’t take into account that other resources within the company were on the hook to provide information, etc. And since they didn’t integrate social components into their overall marketing strategy, they also didn’t have any indicators in place to tell them when social was  “costing” them outside the normal measurement mindset. This is important to understand, since although most organizations are moving towards using social as a component of their marketing efforts, it can and will at some point become intertwined in your organization. As social becomes a part of the overall DNA, we must also understand when it is not only “under performing”, but actually hurting the organism. How much did it cost them to respond to and resolve a customer issue using Twitter as the point of contact? Now this is very difficult for most organizations to do even without adding social components, but the point is, now that social is all grown up, we must think about it beyond the cadre of marketing measurement. 
    Marty Thompson
    Founder, President (aka chief banana)
    http://www.twobananasmarketing.com

  • http://twitter.com/freighter Marty Thompson

     Hello Nichole,
    Good stuff. Just a few ideas to perhaps help folks round out their approach to social media measurement. I had a client who had previously dived (and I mean without any strategy whatsoever) into social. They committed a couple of cardinal errors along the way. First, they had not considered what the impact of using Facebook and Twitter would have on their internal processes. They began using social as a way of telling their customers and the marketplace about the goings on at their business. And they were not engaging, per se. You don’t need social media to do press releases! When they began thinking about using it more effectively, they thought about customer support, which is a great thing. However, internally they still relied on ineffective communication channels, asking others in the organization for answers, which could take a day or more. They had not considered that an intelligent, thoughtful strategy that uses social media, among other things, would have studied their internal processes, how they do business if you will, to ensure that if and when they use social for support, HR, sales, marketing, whatever, that the organization is modeled to perform in the proper context. The net was that their foray into social exposed almost all of their internal weaknesses. Second thing was, they had one person in marketing doing all the social stuff. And they considered social to be free, since that person was already on the payroll. This can make any effort to determine “cost” very inaccurate. Why? Because they didn’t take into account that other resources within the company were on the hook to provide information, etc. And since they didn’t integrate social components into their overall marketing strategy, they also didn’t have any indicators in place to tell them when social was  “costing” them outside the normal measurement mindset. This is important to understand, since although most organizations are moving towards using social as a component of their marketing efforts, it can and will at some point become intertwined in your organization. As social becomes a part of the overall DNA, we must also understand when it is not only “under performing”, but actually hurting the organism. How much did it cost them to respond to and resolve a customer issue using Twitter as the point of contact? Now this is very difficult for most organizations to do even without adding social components, but the point is, now that social is all grown up, we must think about it beyond the cadre of marketing measurement. 
    Marty Thompson
    Founder, President (aka chief banana)
    http://www.twobananasmarketing.com

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  • http://www.thefourthrevolution.org Jeremie Averous

    Thanks Nichole for reminding us that going into social media needs a consistent application, which includes managing people’s expectations in terms of response time.
    And that’s also particularly important – more so – when it comes to responding to a negative feedback or news spreading in the social network. I came recently upon a story of how a tweet was mistakenly sent saying there was a metro accident, spread like wildfire in the social media. The transportation company reacted within 30mins by contacting the originator, getting him to delete his tweet, and counter-tweeting and communicating so effectively that nothing came out in the news.
    So it’s not just about reacting to direct interaction it is also reacting timely to any negative news spreading on the social networks. Beyond the Fourth Revolution, large companies need 24/7 watch and timely response per media!!! and they often forget about it.

    • http://twitter.com/Nichole_Kelly Nichole Kelly

      Jeremie – You’re welcome. Thanks so much for commenting. :-)  

  • http://blog.socialmediahq.com Nick Robinson

    When calculating cpm, cpc, cpv, cost per inbound link, what is the definition of “cost”? My guess is (the employee salary multiplied by % of time spent on social media activities) + software + training costs. Am I missing anything?

    • http://twitter.com/Nichole_Kelly Nichole Kelly

      Hey Nick – It depends on what the company uses to calculate cost within the channels you are comparing against. If employees who manage your PR program are not included in the cost metric for cost per impression in PR than you wouldn’t want to include it with social media. However, in some companies employee time is always part of the equation. For some these costs will include items like agency fees, paid advertising costs, and other types of vendor fees. When you are calculating your costs you want to do it in a way that is comparable to the other channels. I hope this helps. Thanks for commenting!

      • http://blog.socialmediahq.com Nick Robinson

         That makes sense. Thanks Nichole. I am looking into attending your Boot Camp!

        • http://twitter.com/Nichole_Kelly Nichole Kelly

          Awesome! I’d love to hear your feedback on the Boot Camp. I poured my heart and soul into it. :-)  

  • http://twitter.com/Hassanmirza Hassan

    Yes, good question from Nick – how do you define cost? I’m confused what kind of results online advertising metrics  would signify? Is it because these metrics are used to measure SEO and display ads as well – and using the metrics would essentially standardize reporting? If that’s the case, that’s cool because it could potentially show how valuable social comparatively. Can you please give examples of how you would calculate cpm, cpc, cpv, cost per inbound link – and the kind of conclusions you could draw from those metrics?

    • Nan Dawkins

      Hassan, the traditional definition of cpm is cost per thousand impressions generated in an ad buy.  For social media, you need a social media reach number in order to calculate cpm.  Our social media analytics platform, Social Snap (www.socialsnap.com) calculates the total social media reach across all channels used (this is a dervied metric provided by our system), divides by 1000 to get the “per thousand units” metric and then divides that by the overall cost of the client’s program.  Nichole’s answer below addresses the various cost centers that can be used; most of our clients do use employee time as part of the cost calculation. The cpm metric is simply another (familiar) way to analyze the cost of the overall reach (first step toward increased awareness( you are gaining through social channels and can be compared (although not apples to apples) to other channels.  There are some issues in getting a good sm reach number, but “cost per” metrics are always going to have some weaknesses.  As Jim Sterne says, we’ve always counted what we could and estimated the rest.  :)

    • http://twitter.com/Nichole_Kelly Nichole Kelly

      Hassan – I provided a little insight into cost calculations below. Basically you hit the nail on the head…the goal is to standardize reporting so that people understand social media metrics and where it fits. To calculate the cost per impression on Twitter, I like to use TweetReach to find out how many impressions my tweets generated and divide that by what I spent on social media. Then I can compare that to my other channels like online advertising and PR, because those are standard metrics used to measure those channels. At the end of the day the cost per impression isn’t telling me anything other than whether or not social media generated more cost-effective impressions than the other channels. It’s when you get into things like cost per lead that it gets really interesting. Thanks for commenting. 

  • http://www.ventureneer.com Geri Stengel

     Measuring social media should be taken out of the silo as should planning a social media campaign. Social media work best when integrated into an organization-wide campaign and their impact can then be measured along side the impact of other media.Measuring social media should be taken out of the silo as should planning a social media campaign. Social media work best when integrated into an organization-wide campaign and their impact can then be measured along side the impact of other media.

    • http://twitter.com/Nichole_Kelly Nichole Kelly

      Agreed Geri! Thanks for commenting. 

  • http://www.marketingsutra.com/ Alex Grechanowski

    Great job, Nickole! 

    It’s a good point on leveraging SEO metrics. Year ago I wrote a blog post “Use Google Analytics for Your Social Media Monitoring Efforts” http://www.marketingsutra.com/blog/keyword-monitoring-ideas/ Take a read.

  • Anonymous

    Great points there, Nichole!
    I agree that we must not make the process complicated just because we use social media platforms. It may not perform as well in all of these measures as some traditional channels in the beginning. Measuring anything is a prerequisite of success in any field.

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