Social Media Measurement Plan: Why It’s OK to be the Rainman

Developing a social media measurement plan could be a bit boring. But we think it’s OK to take a scientific approach to social media. Here’s why it’s OK to be the Rainman.

In my last Conversion Science column I introduced you to the social media landing page. This landing page has the power to bring social media conversations to a measurable, business-building conversion. Let me show you how to develop the perfect social media measurement plan.

Social media is very important to us at Conversion Sciences. We know that education is the key to changing the web into a place where people find what they are looking for and reward companies for being so darn helpful.

Social media is a great way for us to share our educational and (hopefully) helpful stories, posts, columns and presentations. But to know how our efforts are performing, we need to create a social media measurement plan.

Why It’s OK to be the Rainman of Social Media

However, we aren’t really that good at social media conversations. It may come as no surprise that, as scientists, we are like the Rainman of social media. Like Raymond from the move, we are capable of amazing feats of insight and intelligence, but we often miss important social cues, especially when interactions occur 140 characters at a time.

“I’m an excellent Tweeter”

Social media measurement plan: Why It's ok to be the Rainman.

“I’m an excellent dancer.”

Given the fact that people like us sometimes have awkward digital interactions, you may not invite us to your swanky party. However, you certainly want us to participate in your social graph.

People like us provide an important service to the social spheres. Our content-oriented social media strategy feeds those who rely on social media for education and elucidation.

If you spend the bulk of your social time interacting with individuals, you are probably using a conversation-oriented social media strategy.

Choose the right social strategy

A conversion is more than just a conversation without the T&A.

In our studies, we have observed two broad categories of social media behavior:

  1. Conversation-oriented social behavior
  2. Content-oriented social behavior

While the posts, pictures and pokes that make up an online conversation certainly qualify as “content,” we distinguish conversational content from content that is specifically designed to educate, entertain or inform on a particular subject area.

This article is “content.” The comments you will inevitably leave are “conversation.”

We have found that content-oriented social strategies lead to more measurable campaigns. Plus, many conversion scientists don’t have the social skills to implement a conversation-oriented strategy.

Conversation-oriented social media

This strategy centers around conversations. It typically involves one or more personalities that interact with individuals in the social graph. This strategy is ideal for improving customer support, building awareness, personal branding and image marketing.

Conversations may involve content, but it is the interactions that are front-and-center in this strategy.

Results are typically measured using predictive metrics, such as friends, followers, likes, bookmarks, retweets and reach. These soft metrics are often more satisfying to us than definitive metrics such as leads, sales, and conversion rate.

I admire people like Kate Buck Jr. who make this strategy really work for their business and their clients.

Content-oriented social media

Unlike conversation-oriented strategies, this approach focuses on content as we’ve defined it here: communication that is designed to educate, entertain or inform. This strategy is ideal for lead generation, thought-leadership and building targeted social channels.

Content-oriented conversations don’t focus on the authoring brand or individual. Instead, these conversations circle around the content itself. This content will spur conversations, and ideally will be passed around, expanding our reach.

Of greatest interest to conversion scientists is that content draws visitors to social landing pages, where conversion beacons can drive business-building conversions.

Develop the Perfect Social Media Measurement Plan

It’s possible to automate and centralize the measurement of social media marketing efforts, in part thanks to a wireless tracking device that we attach to each status update, tweet and email that ties conversions to specific social conversations. Here’s how.

Step 1: Create some content.

The catch with the content-oriented strategy is that you must create content. Frequency is up to you. In a sixty-plus day experiment conducted here in the labs, five articles and seven blog posts drove 145 status updates, tweets, emails, Flickr images, etc.

We focused on articles that I write at The Conversion Scientist blog, that I contribute here at Search Engine Land and that I contribute at other venues such as ClickZ and the Content Marketing Institute.

Step 2: Devise a way to measure results.

To measure results, traffic must arrive on one of our instrumented pages. However, some of the content we used lived on other sites.

Our strategy was to create a social media landing page for each of our “off-world” articles in the form of a blog post. These posts teased the article and linked to it.

While we announce each new article through our social networks, the bulk of our marketing drove friends and followers to the blog post.

Right now, Google Analytics is our favorite single point of collection because of its content filtering and segmented reports.

For click tracking, still can’t be beat for its flexibility and integration with so many tools.

Step 3: Market each content item as if each was its own product.

Each of these content items gets a multi-network, multi-touch treatment designed to expose the maximum number of our friends and followers to this content. We maintain small but targeted social graphs on Facebook (<1000), Twitter (<2000) and LinkedIn (>1000).

On Facebook we did a single status post to my profile as well as “The Conversion Scientist” and “Web Strategies for Business” pages.

On Twitter each content item got between two and four tweets. We tried simply repeating the tweets as well as composing a series of unique tweets.

We did one LinkedIn status update, but did not post discussions on LinkedIn groups because the process couldn’t be automated. We’re looking for tools to help with this.

Several items got supporting posts on our predecessor site, the Customer Chaos blog.

All of this may sound like a lot of work. That is why we need tools to automate the process. Right now, Austin-based Spredfast seems to have the best support of the social networks we use, as well as one great collection point for analytics from across our social graph. Hootsuite is an alternative for those focusing on Twitter.

Note: We turned off all of our cross-network services, such as to implement this strategy.

Step 4: Attach a wireless tracking device.

This is real Hollywood stuff.

The most important feature of our measurement strategy is a wireless tracking device that we attached to each post, tweet, email and image. This is the secret sauce that enables the report shown above. is the carrier for this wireless device. Google’s link tagging feature provides the micro circuitry.

Each post, tweet, image and email carries with it the following micro-coded information:

  • Campaign name and date
  • Send date
  • Delivery method (Twitter, Facebook, etc.)
  • Medium (email, microblog, status update, etc.)
  • Format (text, html, image, video, etc.)
  • Identifier
  • Version (for split tests)
  • Keywords

As an example, here is the fully instrumented URL for the link-tagging spreadsheet offered in this column.

The URL builder provided by Google is quite unsatisfying for us, so we’ve developed a special Google Analytics link tagging spreadsheet that you can use to create and track your micro-coded addresses.

Next time, I’ll show you the queries and reports that reveal which content, social networks and conversations generate the most email subscriptions for us.

In the mean time, let me know the social media distribution and tracking tools that you use and love in the comments section below.

Article originally published on my Search Engine Land column “The Perfect Social Media Measurement Strategy.”


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Brian Massey

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