Social Media Analytics: How to Measure and Track Social Media Activity

Author: Gab Goldenberg

Social media is one of the most difficult things to justify in terms of ROI because current analytics aren’t well suited to measure its data. Here’s my proposal for social media analytics and tracking. This is an approach to use as a foundation for creating social media analytics tools, not a tool.

27/05/2011 – Update on Social Media Analytics Tools:

Since this post was written in 2008, lots has happened in social media analytics. For a social media measurement tool, your best bet is BuzzStream. It integrates Twitter with a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool so that you automatically track your relationships with Twitter contacts. This ties into a PR and social media tool (or a link building CRM). Read on to find out why this is the best kind of social media analytics…

Couple that is soon to be wed
(Soon to be wed by Simoty77/SLloydBottom)

Social media is a suite of tools for … socializing.

Therefore, the best measure of success in social media is how many relationships you have and how strong your relationships are.

Personally, I really enjoy linking to other people and/or submitting their stuff to Sphinn because I know it strengthens my relationships with them.

To reprise Sean Covey Jr.’s metaphor from his highly succesful 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens (reprised from his dad’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective people?), you’re putting a deposit into your relationship bank account. The more deposits, the richer you are.

The reason regular analytics aren’t suited to measuring this is because they collect clickstream data (word kudos to Avinash Kaushik). Whether we’re talking about logs or about javascript tags or sniffer packets, the data is what occurs in your visitors’ browsers. Social media analytics need to track what goes on in your acquaintances and friends’ minds. (Like the thought police, only different ;). )

That’s only a slight exaggeration. What I’m getting at is that you want to measure your network of friends and contacts. Since I’ve been getting more active and having more success on StumbleUpon, I know that my network is growing in size, and as I submit more content and thumb more up, in strength as well. Is your network a sturdy jungle gym or a flimsy spiderweb? (Jungle Gym by bazzmc.) Jungle Gym If you’re going to measure your social media results for now, the best you can do is sit down with a spreadsheet, write up your friends’ names and what you’ve done for them recently. Have you:

  • Connected them with useful contacts?
  • Sent business their way?
  • Linked to them?
  • Interviewed them for something?
  • Answered some questions they had?
  • Gotten them a ahead in some way, shape or form?

I emphasize the recency bit. To quote the Japanese , “A kind word can warm three cold winter months.” (Which means that if you’ll see a higher ROI in Canada.) More seriously, this will help you assess where you stand, because people forget favours quickly remember injuries extensively. I still remember which kids stole my hockey cards in grade school, and that was over a decade ago! Ask me who gave me a compliment, and I’d be hardpressed to tell. (Though that may be because I was a bit of a loner back then.)

Another advantage of this approach to tracking is that it’s more actionable than clickstream data. Compare “I haven’t been in touch with Sylvain in a while…” vs “We got 348 visitors today.”

On that same note, I’d like to highlight that I’m far from being the only one discussing this issue. Get some further reading from the following folks, who address social media, ROI and measurement, though none of them quite in these words, afaik.

Note: While Ann and Maki are pretty close to my thinking, I believe this post adds to the discussion (especially in terms of specifics, and pointing out the obvious which for some reason hasn’t been addressed yet) rather than just rehashing it.

  1. Maki – social-media-networking-and-roi/
  2. MindValley Labs – whats-a-friend-worth-to-you/394/
  3. Ignite (ft. Brian) – social-media-metrics-coming-to-an-algorithm-near-you-part-1/
  4. Huomah – social-media-marketing-is-it-for-you.html
  5. Huomah – the-Value-of-Social-Media-Marketing-Part-II.html
  6. SEOmoz in part – whiteboard-friday-tracking-nontraditional-conversions
  7. Annie at SEOmoz – creative-rss-button-could-it-work
  8. Annie @ home –
  9. Ann’s touched on it elsewhere (or was that just PMs?) but I can’t find it. You get the point though, the gal’s smart.
  10. Yours truly – seo-roi-tops-200-subscribers-case-study-on-feed-analytics-and-poll/ (update: tops 300 😀 )

To conclude, consider this illustration of the ROI you can get from social media.

Guy Kawasaki, when explaining how he was able to launch a site that got 200,000 pageviews its first day, said, “I spent 24 years schmoozing and paying it forward.”

And that, ladies and gents, was my proposal for social media analytics and tracking. Like this person said: Measure relationships, their strength and their growth.

On a related note, you may care to read this post on the measures and value of attention equity: How do you measure attention and what is it worth to you? If you think you’re likely to visit again why not just add my rss feed to your rss-feedreader ?

Existing social media analytics tools are as follows. Note that they’re mostly quantitative, rather than qualitative.

To analyze Digg, Mashable lists 5 tools.

Marty has a great item on building a reputation monitoring dashboard. He also has buzz pocket mining tools for those interested in mining social media for keywords.

Some other miscellaneous ones include Keotag – for tracking tag use ; Boardtracker – for forum conversations in particular ; Google Blogsearch, which lets you track blogs that mentions your desired keywods (e.g. Brands, products etc.); and Radian 6, which Ben has reviewed.

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  1. Absolutley spot on, Gab. Humans are social creatures, and we get best results (in any field, not just online!) when we reflect that. Emphasising 'recency' is especially important for the sense of routine or regularity it creates in a relationship. Your best, most trusted friends will be ones you have (or, had, once upon a time) some form of routine with. Routine is important for developing strong relationships! Of course, it's costly. So, I think this one area where marketers (profit driven) and individuals (arguably relationship driven) differ in their social media use; marketers end up establishing a lot of single, isolated interactions with the "potential clients" of social networking site whears individuals (can) establish a personal, trusting, routine dialogue.

    Comment by Steve - April 7, 2008 @ 11:17pm
  2. Steve, I'm glad you liked this. Recency and routine are some of the most important factors in social media success (defined here as building strong relationships) . I agree partly with the last point, but don't think it applies to all marketers. Certainly the quality ones are out there building powerful relationships. Guy Kawasaki is a marketer and he's connected to social spheres like crazy!

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - April 8, 2008 @ 10:09pm
  3. GREAT post Gabriel, I really loved it. It's really forward thinking and I reckon this is a major part of the future of marketing. I'm gonna go hit StumbleUpon my very next opportunity!

    Comment by Phil - April 21, 2008 @ 2:01am
  4. Phil, thanks for the great compliments :D. Look forward to chatting with you about your own successes and failures (we all have them; I'm not saying that in a mean way) with SU and social media analytics.

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - April 22, 2008 @ 11:05am
  5. Gabriel, spot on (although I'm a diehard user myself!). Anyway, just published "The Social Web Analyics eBook 2008" and thought you'd be interested in it. I'd definitely like to know what you think of it. It's at:

    Comment by Philip Sheldrake - July 4, 2008 @ 8:46am
  6. hey gab, nice post. it's really my feeling that this stuff isn't measurable in a practical way because it would need to be turned into a column in a spreadsheet to be really "useful" and since we can't do that, we may as well keep it vague. the stuff we talk about in the upcoming book is tough to nail down because of this. what causes increase in social capital online, and how is it different than in real life? we wrote the book thinking about SEO, Google, and the profit of link economies, amongst a lot of other things, which are part of social capital. remind me and i'll get you a copy when it comes out.

    Comment by julien - November 23, 2008 @ 1:00am
  7. Social Media Analytics: As most of you know, social media is a great way to attract links. Measuring the strength of your relationships in the social media world (and particularly any niche communities you may be targeting) is a great way to guesstimate how many links your awesome content will attract

    Comment by perde - December 8, 2008 @ 4:11pm
  8. Hi Gab, Great, great post. Covers a topic that is a tough one, both for marketers and also for clients. I think you have hit the nail on the head though regarding what you need to do for others, but turning this on it's head, you could use this list as part of your social media metrics: * Are they connected them with useful contacts (influencers)? * Have they sent business your way? * Linked to you? * Interviewed you for something / engaged in conversation? * Have they gotten them a ahead in some way, shape or form? Great stuff Gab - thanks for putting all this together. Ben

    Comment by Ben McKay - April 5, 2009 @ 4:07am
  9. Valuable metrics there Ben! Actually, some of this is beginning to take shape, albeit with mostly manual entry, via a nice tool called Buzzstream . I'm liking it and recommend you check it out!

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - April 5, 2009 @ 2:35pm
  10. Cool tip Gab, thanks very much. I've just emailed it to my work account to take a look tomorrow at work... Thanks again!

    Comment by Ben McKay - April 5, 2009 @ 4:08pm
  11. Hey, Thanks for the tips. Just putting together a social media proposal and this is very helpful. Interesting to note my comment comes almost a year after the others! So the agency I work for is a bit behind the 8 ball, but we're getting there. Cheers C

    Comment by Col - May 23, 2009 @ 1:14pm
  12. Best of luck on the proposal Colin! Don't worry about not having seen this earlier - we're all learning constantly anyways, and it's impossible to have read/know everything...

    Comment by Gabriel Goldenberg - May 24, 2009 @ 11:53am
  13. I just started using to track all my social media sites. It helps me track Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and about 20 other social sites on one dashboard. I like the fact that it tells me which network is referring the most traffic and the quality of the traffic. Very cool tool!

    Comment by Allen Ramsey - November 11, 2009 @ 7:53pm
  14. Great article! This topic has come up multiple times in my conversations with business owners. Now I have a better way to explain it to them thank you very much.

    Comment by social media applications - December 9, 2009 @ 10:50am
  15. A great tool for social media analytics is wp-stats-dashboard; Check it out!

    Comment by Dave - March 11, 2011 @ 4:42am
  16. Even if you don’t quite have the same reach and clout as some of these bloggers, you can still apply these principles to negotiate your own deals with smaller businesses in your niche.

    Comment by Kiran - September 29, 2011 @ 6:46am

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