social-media-analytics-mutualmindThere’s been a lot of discussions on the web revolving around the topic of social media measurement and metrics. Some of the most often asked questions include: What to measure? How to measure? What tools to use? This post provides some objective criteria on how to evaluate the tools currently available on the market.

Let’s start with a basic question: What are your needs?

If you are a social media professional (consultant, agency, marketer, PR professional) who deals with social media for a living, then the answers will be quite different. This post takes a look at social media measurement for the pros – those who work with popular and often-talked about brands. If you are one of these professionals, you most likely deal with large volumes of conversations, manage multiple campaigns at a time, and work with clients and team members to stay on top of things. Needless to say, time is a big factor for you.

Not all social media marketing products available today are the same. It is important to understand the differences found in the solutions available in the market. The solutions may differ due to the:

  • scope of the solution
  • focus around the consumer/business/agency
  • the breadth/depth of features

For instance, reputation monitoring tools offer only one piece of the puzzle for brands.

Here are four categories that social media measurement and analytics products fall into:

  • Category 1: A general solution with limited business features. Mainly designed for social media tracking for brand mentions
  • Category 2: A business focused solution with basic analytics and some work flow
  • Category 3: A solution with PR or media publishing focus
  • Category 4: A solution with advanced business capabilities (work flow, collaboration), integrated response management, social media monitoring and deep analytics. Products in this category allow for customer service, sales leads and other enterprise capabilities

The first category is for generalized products whereas products in the fourth category offer greater breadth and depth of features and are focused on solving mission-critical business problems.

Now that we have some background, lets take a look at how you would evaluate an Social measurement and marketing product.

5 Criteria for Selecting a Social Measurement and Marketing Product

1. Comprehensive Listening Capabilities

Persistent, real-time search across all major social networks is important as listening is the starting point for all activities whether it be brand reputation monitoring, sales lead generation, customer service and/or product feedback.

The tool should allow for fine-tuning of the listening parameters.  Look for tools which don’t set limits on the number of keywords for instance. Avoid tools which tie pricing to number of listening results as that may push your costs really high – with no control from your side. The goal is to be able to scale up without surprises. Also look for a solution that offers intelligence for fine-tuning your settings for maximum efficiency.

2. Sophisticated Aggregation and Automation

Why is aggregation, automation and work flow so important? Would you go up and down a 20-storey building 10 times a day to fetch the same thing that you need from different people? Or would you rather make one trip to get that thing just one time and from one place?

Today’s social media landscape is a noisy, chaotic place with information silos everywhere. A good social media product should make it effortless to bring your the best information in concise, well-thought out ways (in the form of charts, heat maps, tables or whatever visually makes sense).

The flexibility of the tool is also important. You need various options and the flexibility to export the data to use the information the way you want to.

3. Powerful Analytics and Insights

You need to have access to cross-channel analytics to understand trends and patterns across the board. Traffic patterns, click through analytics which are measured for all of your social accounts, insights on users who are interacting with you are just some of the things which are a must have. A good product will offer more than colorful charts. It should also provide actionable business insights and help you identify valuable trends and patterns.

4. Integrated Response Management

Once you start listening to the conversations and have the tools to get the deep insights and analytics, you are ready to engage in the conversations and start promoting your brand.

A good solution will allow you to do that without having you juggle through multiple accounts on multiple internet sites. And more importantly, the tool should help you track who posted what, when and what was the impact after the content was posted.

5. Collaboration-based Approach

Professionals today realize that managing large scale social media campaigns and support can be overwhelming. You need a team which is “in sync” on issues and strategy and has the tools to execute quickly as needs arise.

The ideal product will allow for web 2.0-style collaboration so that all information is present in one central place for all of your extended virtual team. Collaboration not only boosts productivity but also helps with scaling.

Final Thoughts

Finally, think about support. What if you have questions? Is there a dedicated team available to answer your questions and support you? When things go wrong (and believe us, we have seen all kinds of issues), who will be there to fix them and help you? The people behind a product are as important as the product itself.

No doubt that it takes time and effort to setup, measure, analyze and fine tune social media effort. It is also critical to keep in mind that a right strategy and plan comes first and tools follow. However, choosing the right tools and measurement setup can keep you focused on the big business goal and not get you all tied up in manual, laborious work.

I hope that this gives you a good idea of how to approach social analytics. What has been your experience with social media tools and what are the lessons that you have learned?

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