In the practice of online marketing, analytics has almost always played a vital role. I don’t recommend spending a lot of time drooling over real-time analytics, but the cumulative stats of your website activity are probably the most important way to figure out what’s working and what isn’t.
Many SEOs utilize Google Analytics or some other reasonably powerful software to track their visitors, referrers, bounce rates, click-through rates, etc. With the addition of the social feature in GA, it’s become firmly established that social analytics matter. This year, I’d argue they’re going to matter more than any other yet.
While social virality is largely driven by social shares and retweets, these days even organic search rankings are affected by the social activity that centers on a page or website. In order to leverage this, you first need to figure out what works “socially” — and that’s where social media analytics comes into play.
Going Beyond Likes and Retweets
Beneath the entire social media hubbub, there’s still just one thing that drives it all: content. If you can figure out what type of content evokes the kind of response you want, you can push more of the content that boosts engagement and social response.
But how do you find out if a particular piece of content strikes a chord? That’s precisely why you should track the responses to a post on Facebook or Twitter. There are tons of tools like Sendible, HootSuite, SproutSocial, etc., that can help you analyze the response to a particular social share. You can study the number of click-throughs, the likes, retweets, and shares generated by a post to gauge how successfully it has provoked action among readers.
Tracking likes and shares, or retweets and pins, is one of the easiest ways to take the pulse of your audience. This helps you refine your content strategy and workflow, and provides you with a somewhat clearer understanding of what your audience “likes” to read or receive.
By focusing more on response-evocative material, you can leverage more social interaction, which paves the way to higher traffic. Note, however, that this does not immediately present an opportunity to increase your traffic; rather, the results are passive.
You’ll need to be very specific about what you are tracking and on which channels, because it can get confusing if you proceed without a clear plan. The idea is to focus on a few channels at first and gradually build on that. The key takeaway here is to tweak the type of content you push.
Demography: Finding Out Where Your Audience Is Really Active
One of the key elements of social media analytics is on which social channel the majority of your audience is active. I see many experts waste too much time sharing content on several social channels because they’ve been asked to use social media. They’re doin’ it wrong.
For instance, if you run a photography blog, your key audience is most likely going to be active on Instagram or Flickr or 500px, or similar social sharing websites that focus on photography. Facebook doesn’t hold particularly well among photography buffs, although it may help you keep a brand portfolio.
Focusing on the social media demography helps you concentrate your efforts more on the specific locations where the chance of leveraging the power of social is largest. Facebook and Twitter are two huge social channels, but for certain niches, Google+ appears to be quite a bit stronger. Similarly, Pinterest tends to have much more value than other social channels for businesses with a wealth of share-worthy images.
Needless to say, you can only find this out by performing social media tracking on all the channels on which you are active. This means you should start by sharing on all possible channels and then analyze the results to eliminate the ones that aren’t generating much of a response in your niche.
Tracking Social Media ROI
Before tools to track social media efforts became widely available, it was difficult to assess the ROI. Even with the social features in Google Analytics, it continues to be a challenging task.
In most cases, you’ll need more than GA to figure out the actual ROI, or even the CTR. Tools like KISSMetrics make this easier by bridging the gap between tracking a visitor from Facebook and figuring out what actions that user actually took on your website.
Many SEO experts merely “add” social media to the SEO cocktail and don’t think about calculating the ROI that it generates. But this data can play a pivotal role in establishing the credibility of your social media strategy.
Tools of the Trade
With all the tools available, management of social media advertising is easy. You can track the clicks, shares, retweets, mentions, repins, and much more through web apps that are designed to help you track activity in your social channels.
Here’s a few of the social media tracking tools that can help you track, analyze, and manage your social efforts: