Social Media Measurement Tools for the Small- to Mid-Sized Business

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There are so many different tools around that help you to measure the efficacy of your social media campaigns, it can be extremely difficult to know where to start and what to use. Before proceeding much further, I want to emphasize that this post considers the requirements of SMBs, and therefore assumes a modest budget.

The many dimensions you can track can be quite bewildering and are described using terms like ‘engagement’, ‘velocity’, ‘influence’, ‘sentiment’ and ‘signal.’ All of which, it seems to me, are pretty meaningless in business terms. Of course there are terms that do convey more meaning, such as ‘followers’, ‘comments’, ‘retweets’, ‘mentions’, and ‘likes’, but the question remains – do these lead to positive business behaviors?

I suggest that starting point has to be to challenge yourself about what you are trying to achieve, and then use the tools that best measure the behaviors you employ to meet your business objectives. Not too helpful perhaps, but unfortunately, while there are many free or moderately priced tools, they all measure different things and are driven, it would seem, by different motives.

I have tried a wide variety of the available tools in an effort to find a basket of products that I can recommend to my clients. My findings are based on my own use of these tools. I won’t pretend any rigorous process has been applied here; my views are pragmatic and reflect my perceived value in each case.

I will start with a couple of the tools that try to set the standards for influence and social capital respectively:

Klout

There are a wide variety of social media tools available for small- to mid-sized businesses. Here is a list of some of the top social media measurement tools you can use to track your campaigns.

Klout is allegedly ‘The Standard for Influence’, but what does that mean? Does a high Klout score mean you have a high level of influence? If so, does this enable you to add value to your bottom line, and is the value you add proportionate to your influence score?

Right now there seems to be much argument about changes to the Klout algorithm and whether or not it measures all of the components it claims to. There is also plenty to suggest that Klout can be ‘gamed’, and I have certainly seen evidence of certain people who seem to spend more time giving and receiving ‘K+’ and tweeting about it than anything else.

It also seems that Bots can gain high Klout scores without ever making any effort to ‘engage’ with their audience. Interestingly those that are most vehement in their detraction of Klout are those whose scores have declined. I wonder if this directly impacted their businesses or just their egos?

In its current form I find it difficult to see what Klout’s measure of influence really is, this is because it seems that the same Klout score can be obtained by people who:

1. Just get on with the stuff they do well – a positive outcome
2. Spend a lot of time gaming the system – a pointless outcome
3. Have no interaction with anyone – a negative outcome

PeerIndex

PeerIndex claims to ‘Understand your social capital’. Again, I am not sure that I yet know how to apply this in a business meaningful way. However if this is an index that measures an individual’s propensity to value social relationships, and to cooperate and collaborate with others within and across networks, then I think this is a reasonable method of indexation.

PeerIndex scores seem less volatile than Klout, and seems not to be driven by the same demand to ‘feed the system’. It also appears that there is less ability to game the system, and I sense that PeerIndex is less likely to attract or reward celebratory.

On balance those that score well on Klout for the ‘right’ reasons, also score well on PeerIndex.

Is it any better or worse than Klout? I think it is simply different, and doubtless still evolving. I guess I am slightly more drawn to it than Klout, but I still find it difficult to translate this to something business meaningful for my clients.

Okay, so in my book at least, I am no further forward. So where else might I get a general perspective on how my social media interactions measure up? Let’s have a look at some of the tools that are designed to make the management of all of our social streams a little easier, and along the way provide some sort of health check on how we are doing.

Sprout Social

Sprout Social is certainly one of the more user friendly products out there. It comes in a number of different guises and prices, which define how many profiles you can track and the extent of analytics data you have access to. I am limiting my views to the entry level ‘Pro’ plan costing $9 per month, which has limited measurement tools. However this does include some key data, so you can get basic demographic information, and details such as followers, clicks, retweets etc. shown as trend charts.

You also have a bar chart which tracks ‘influence’ and ‘engagement’. These are both a little easier to understand than perhaps the more pretentious measures used by PeerIndex and Klout. Yes they can be ‘gamed’ by pumping out high volumes, re-tweeting incessantly, and the like, but there is perhaps less motivation to do this because you would only be fooling yourself, rather than trying to impress a wide audience. (Gosh did that sound cynical!).

As you go up the range of plans, so the extent of monitor and measurement tools increases, including in the DeLuxe plan integration with Google Analytics, which is where I believe this all starts to get real.

So a nice tool with good functionality, and some measurement capability, however at the ‘Pro Plan’ level I still don’t see how these measures necessarily fuel my bottom line. Upgrading to DeLuxe at $59 per month, will, I suspect, begin to answer the questions.

CrowdBooster

CrowdBooster is quite an interesting toolset that allows you to manage your Twitter and Facebook accounts, 1 of each in the free account, more in the paid accounts.

The measures provided are relatively basic, but provide a useful gauge of your daily and accumulated activity, including total followers, tweets, mentions and retweets. It also provides a nice graphic representation of the potential reach of your retweets.

Other charts show follower growth, tweets, retweets and mentions over the past week, month, all time or a custom period.

It also shows you who your most influential followers are (that word again, this time influence is measured solely by numbers of followers) and identifies those who retweet you.

Recommendations appear from time to time suggesting you follow or follow back certain people, or respond to someone who mentioned you.

So if you have any conversion metrics that can equate business generated, relative to retweet reach or similar, then maybe this is for you. Otherwise it is one of many tools that provide a dashboard of your overall ‘busy-ness’ but not necessarily business.

Others

There are no shortages of tools in this broad category, most of which will provide some volumetric based measurements reflecting your activity levels. They all have different strengths and weaknesses and which, if any, you choose will be largely based on personal preference. I quite like CoTweet, but I can’t get to grips with MarketMeSuite. Sendible has lots of functionality, but lags behind real time significantly and is rather ‘clunky’ to use. Twaitter soon, allegedly, to become Gremln is potentially useful, but right now seems to be very unreliable.

If you are still reading, I’m grateful, but you must wonder where this is leading. Well I’m going to fast forward over more Twitter products than you can shake a stick at, but do investigate them, oneforty.com is the place to find out about this vast range of tools.

So what can you measure and how? Well I’m a big fan of sticking to the basics, and trying to work out what will prompt a business interaction. Not surprisingly this leads me back to the hub of most marketing campaigns – the website.

Google Analytics

I firmly believe that using Google Analytics will best inform most businesses of the efficacy of their marketing campaigns. The key is to identify the outcomes that are most likely to result in business, and define these as goals within Google Analytics. To understand this in more detail my article “How to measure the success of an internet marketing campaign” might help.

Having determined what website visitor interactions lead to business generation, it is now possible to cast your net wider and look at how social interactions might generate more website visits and, in turn, how these can fuel business growth.

Google Analytics enables you to determine the origin of traffic to your website, so the first step is to look at the traffic that comes from social properties such as Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin etc. Are your campaigns and the content you generate through your blog encouraging prospects to visit your site for more information? Are your efforts being rewarded with comments on blog posts, sharing of your content and updates, etc.? If not, it really doesn’t matter what your Klout score is, or how much ‘signal’ you generate.

By starting closest to the point where you turn interested bystanders into supporters, advocates and customers, you can quickly and easily determine which of your social interactions are most likely to fuel this process.

Google Analytics will at some stage integrate Post Rank into the product set to further enhance the ability to track social activity. The inclusion of ‘Share This’ or ‘Add This’ capability along with ‘Like’ and ‘+1′ functions will all help to determine what content is most engaging. Measuring comments, trackbacks and pingbacks by using an enhanced comments tool such as ‘Disqus’, will again show you what impact you are having. At present all of these tools provide analytics which will help you monitor these activities. With PostRank integration into Google Analytics it is likely that much of this information will also become integrated.

So let me, at long last, wrap this up.

All of the social tools will continue to evolve and develop, and as they do will doubtless offer more meaningful measurements. There is increasing evidence of many of them providing an interface into Google Analytics, which suggests to me a growing awareness of the need to set meaningful business measures.

There are plenty of reasons to exploit the rich portfolio of tools available to help you manage the increasing volumes of social activity, but use them for this purpose. If you have determined what social interactions drive business and you can relate those to a measure offered in any of these tools then that is a useful bonus. But please don’t waste effort modifying your social behaviour to influence these scoring systems, modify your social behaviour to support your business.

 

Peter Rees is an independent Internet Business Consultant. He specializes in a metrics based approach to internet marketing, making extensive use of website analytics and website performance auditing tools to best inform and advise his clients. He is a strong advocate of the need for companies to implement a formal Social Media Strategy, supported in turn by Social Media Policies and measurement

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  • http://sproutsocial.com Brittany at Sprout Social

    Thanks so much for including Sprout Social in the list, Peter! I think you touched on some really great features of the product. 

    In regards to the Pro plan, I understand your point, but I think the price point and offerings are in line with what some small businesses are looking for – maybe it’s to save some time or just get some basic analytics all in one place. For example, a one or two-man show may just be looking for an easy way to manage their accounts, see which posts perform well, and schedule updates. They might not be looking for all the bells and whistles. As their business and staff grows (and hopefully web mentions as well), they may see the value in the Small Biz or Deluxe plans. I think it really just depends on the company.

    Also, I couldn’t agree more with you – these tools should be used to help companies meet their business goals and optimize their social media presence, but shouldn’t necessarily dictate their efforts just to raise a score. We’ve included engagement/influence scores to help businesses benchmark their efforts as well as encourage them to engage with their audience, not fully automate every aspect.

    Thanks again for including us in the roundup and happy to hear you found the application easy-to-use! 

    Brittany Morse
    Online Marketing at Sprout Social

  • http://www.wsiebusiness.co.uk Peter Rees

    Hi Brittany
    Thanks for your comment. I don’t doubt your view of how businesses might use your different products. My experience was of the entry level plan, and I can only comment on that basis. I surmised that the DeLuxe plan, given it’s Google Analytics interface, might come nearer to the mark of enabling business relevant measures to be developed. This was the theme of the post, and no criticism of your pricing structure, or the level of included functionality at the entry level, was implied or intended.