The Art and Science of Social Media Analytics

social media analytics

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve had numerous discussions with a new client regarding the art and science of social media analytics. After several years of trying to generate revenue for his business with social media, he’s finally turned to me because he’s just not getting the ROI he needs alone. Luckily, he didn’t give up on social media, as do many similar mid-sized businesses, believing social media won’t work for their particular industry or target market.

After several weeks of analyzing his metrics and doing some judicious A/B testing, I’ve learned a lot about why he’s not seeing the market performance he hoped. He has some content marketing issues we’re working on, poor SEO performance, and was miss using some social media platforms. Today, however, I’d like to talk about what I discovered in his social media analytics reports that is already creating big returns for his efforts.

The art and science of social media analytics

Interpreting social media analytics is really 1 part art and 1 part science — or maybe 2 parts art and 1 part science. A dollop of experiences and a smidgen of intuition doesn’t hurt either. Jim Sterne, founder of the Digital Analytics Association, describes a data arts combining necessary attributes as someone who has:

a firm comprehension of hard science, a sound understanding of business goals and processes, a penchant for creativity, and a talent for communication — a very rare combination.

And, that’s my challenge in explaining to my client why he needs to change his social media marketing strategy.

Sometimes, I think I’m getting through to him. Other days, we joust at windmills — returning to ask and answer the same questions already discussed several times. Personally, I think it’s the dollop of experience and smidgen of intuition that separates our perspectives of what is the “RIGHT” social media marketing strategy.

KPIs, vanity metrics, and conversion

Ultimately, a brand seeks conversion from its social media marketing strategy. With accurate metrics from Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, etc. analyzing conversion isn’t really that hard. The pathway to obtaining that conversion isn’t so clear.

Vanity metrics are those metrics that don’t clearly contribute to the success of your social media marketing strategy — in other words don’t impact conversion. We often talk about Facebook Fans, Twitter Followers, etc as vanity metrics because, while everyone likes to list these as KPIs, they’re nearly useless. Slavishly accumulating higher performance across vanity metrics is a waste of resources and can seriously derail your social media marketing strategy, according to Social Media Today. Probably that’s why there’s so much variation in estimates of the value of a Facebook Fan.

Explaining this to my client, I have to acknowledge that a Facebook Fan isn’t ENTIRELY useless, as each reflects a certain ability to spread awareness of my client’s business. The question really becomes, what happens when awareness spreads. Hence, the art and science of social media analytics.

Here’s the scenario: He shares posts on his Facebook page, which has a really respectable number of Fans. He’s spending $1000’s a week to boost these posts.

Here’s what his Facebook insights look like:

facebook_insights_cgwt7jMy argument is that he needs to re-evaluate his Facebook spending. Sure, he’s getting a bunch of new fans and great reach. He’s also getting good engagement on his posts — which is NOT a vanity metric. Post engagement reflects folks who’ve liked, commented, or shared a post, which not only increases awareness, it acts as a tacit endorsement of the brand messaging contained in the post.

Despite showing some good numbers, his conversion rate sucks — a very technical evaluative term only used by seasoned analytics professionals. He’s driving a ton of traffic to his site, but less than .1% convert. Really sucky.

He argues for continuation of his strategy because it yields great numbers (even arguing for increasing his spend) and I argue for a change in strategy to get higher conversion. Of course, we need a better understanding of why we’re so successful in creating a social media marketing strategy capable of generating great KPIs and vanity metrics, but really bad at generating conversion. Is it the CTA (call to action)? Is it something in our segmentation strategy (which is my personal suspicion even though I can’t put my finger on WHY I think it’s the target market)?

Some metrics are totally confusing. For instance, we get great engagement from France, but few of all those engaged Facebook visitors even show up on the website.

Any insights? I’d love to hear your ideas. I need both the art and science of social media analytics.

Need help?

Whether you need a complete analytics strategy, some help with brand marketing, or some consulting to optimize your existing social media marketing, we can fill your digital marketing funnel. We can help you do your own social media marketing better or do it for you with our community managers, strategists, and account executives. You can request a FREE introductory meeting or sign up for my email newsletter to learn more about social media marketing.

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Social Media Marketing Strategy: Affiliate Marketing

social mediaWhat is Affiliate Marketing?

Put simply, affiliate marketing is much like retailing — you’re selling someone else’s products.  Except, you don’t pay for products upfront, like you do if you’re running a retail store.  You can use affiliate marketing to make money from your authority blog or pay affiliates to others who host your ads on their sites. Today, we’ll focus on how you can use affiliate marketing to make money with your website.

Most affiliate programs work the same way, although there are major differences in how much money you can make and the level of support provided. Let’s take a look:

How does Affiliate Marketing Work?

Find affiliate programs – many of the online products and services you use have affiliate programs.  So do some manufacturers, resorts, and other types of businesses.  If you want to join the affiliate program for a company, you can normally find information at the bottom of their website.  Otherwise search the site for “affiliates” and you’ll easily find information on their affiliate marketing program — they want to make it easy for you to find their programs because YOU reflect a major revenue source for them and it costs them nothing.

Google Adsense places ads on your website based on visitors’ cookies — so they get ads for things they’re interested in. With Adsense, you make money each time someone clicks on an ad. Other services, such as ClickBank, host affiliate programs for smaller retailers who don’t want the time and expense of creating their own affiliate programs. You choose which advertisers to host ads for based on their relationship to your target audience, their payout, and how attractive their ads are.

Sign up – commonly, affiliate programs require you sign up by giving them contact information, a payment method, and tax information — the government needs to make sure they get their share.  I normally get paid through PayPal. PayPal takes a small fee, which you can avoid if you then use your affiliate money to pay things like hosting fees. Using PayPal, I don’t have to give companies my financial information, so I feel a little more comfortable. Of course, some people make huge amounts of money from affiliate marketing, so the fees don’t hurt that bad.

Some affiliate marketing programs require approval before allowing you to participate in the program.  I’ve had this take several weeks, so you want to get started early if you’re planning linking your affiliate marketing to content, holidays, or other marketing that involves a timing element.

Get the code – companies give several options for advertising to sell their products.  It’s up to you to decide what kind of affiliate ad you want on your site.  For instance, you can use a banner ad, a small ad or button, or even just a link.  The code will contain information controlling the look of the ad and identifying you so the company knows who to pay.

If you want to see examples, take a look at the affiliate links on this site or other sites. You’ll find other examples on the Wacky site.

You need to decide whether the website is designed to make money from affiliate marketing or whether you have other goals and use a few affiliate ads to subsidize your other efforts.

Insert code – you insert the code into a widget on your site or, for the more technically adept, ad codes anywhere on the site.  Ads are inserted directly into posts by switching to the HTML option and inserting the code.  Affiliate codes are copied into text boxes and inserted as widgets or are inserted into your ad management system, if your theme allows.

That’s it.  Your affiliate marketing program is LIVE and ready to make money for your blog.

Things to watch for in affiliate marketing

Here are some warning and things watch as you embark on affiliate marketing.

  • Choose affiliate marketing programs carefully – be picky.  You can only put a few affiliate ads on your site or risk your SEO, so put up the ones most beneficial.

    • only advertise product you believe reflect a great option for your readers.  I only advertise products I feel work well and offer great value for you.  I also normally work with smaller companies to get more favorable deals for you.
    • Every company offers different terms so look for the best opportunities.  Look at how much you’ll make — the percentage payoff, conversion rate, and the average sale.  Also look at how long the cookie last — a cookie identifies a visitor to the website including that you sent them there. Some firms, like Amazon, only pay if the visitor buys immediately after visiting your site, while other firms pay you if the visitor buys within 30 days of their initial visit from your site.  Finally, look at support the firm provides.  For instance, Market Samurai provides landing pages, video tutorials, and great support for visitors, thus increasing the conversion rate.
    • fit with your target market is important.  Products and services needed by your target audience will convert while ones that don’t fit probably won’t sell.
  • Track performance – don’t trust the company — check.  I hear stories of people who aren’t paid their affiliate fees all the time.

 

 

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5 Social Media Marketing Strategy Lessons From 2012

At the beginning of the year, it seems appropriate to look back at 2012 and how these milestones impact your social media marketing strategy.

Major social media events in 2012

If you take a look at the infographic below (courtesy of the SEO Company), you’ll see major social media events in 2012.  I’ll highlight just a few that I think significant for their impact on your social media marketing strategy:

  1. Social media continues its growth
    1. Facebook gains its 1 BILLIONth user
    2. LinkedIN gains 175,000 new users per day
    3. The Pope sends his 1st Tweet
    4. The impact of social media on the US Presidential election mirrors the impact of social media for all kinds of business uses.  The victory post by President Obama is the most Liked post in history.
    5. rEvolution (Jim Spinelllo) predicts the use of social media marketing by business will become nearly universal.
  2. Social platforms grow and change
    1. Pinterest – named the best new startup in 2011, Pinterest continues to be a force for business (and personal users), sending more traffic to sites than any other social platform.  80% of pins on Pinterest are also repinned — suggesting the virality of pins.
    2. Google+ still struggles – with most businesses posting once then never again and little usage compared with Facebook and Twitter.  Yet, Google Hangouts have huge potential, especially now that they allow more than 10 people.
    3. Facebook’s new timeline confuses users.

Social media marketing strategies for 2013

These events suggest somethings for your 2013 social media marketing strategy, such as:

1. If you’re not using social media as an integral part of your marketing strategy — start

Businesses haven’t implemented cohesive social media marketing strategies for a number of reasons — fear, inability, immeasurable ROI, etc.  But, social media is a major force driving consumer choice and taking a wait and see strategy is dangerous.

Businesses who wait to implement a social media marketing strategy will find other brand beat them to the party.  These brands developed social media communities when it was easier to glean followers because the competition was low.  Early adopters of social media marketing learned the complexities of social media marketing and learned from their mistakes early.

The longer you wait to develop and implement a social media marketing strategy, the further behind you’ll be.

2. If you’re not on Pinterest — get on

Pinterest has huge potential for social media marketing strategy because it brings folks to your website and pins are likely to go viral.  If you don’t know how to use Pinterest, see my link above.

3. Master Google+

Even though Google+ struggles, I think you should plant a flag and commit some effort on Goggle+ because I predict an increased impact of Google+ on your social media marketing success.  That’s because Google is the most popular search engine (accounting for 70% of search engine traffic) and Google +1’s factor into the search algorithm.  I expect Google to increase the weight of Google +1’s on SERPs (Search Engine Results Page) to encourage increased utilization of Google+.  Plus, Google Hangouts offer a great (FREE) platform for webinars and other forms of online engagement.

4. LinkedIN is important for your social media marketing strategy

Companies increasingly use LinkedIN as a tool for recruiting new hires and networking.  But, be careful.  Currently, LinkedIN users send promotional emails to connections. Not only are these emails violations of LinkedIN’s terms of service, they’re dangerous as they damage your reputation and show you don’t REALLY understand social media marketing. Instead, use LinkedIN to build your network and your online reputation by posting and engaging with your network and in groups related to your business.

Other ways to build your reputation are through recommendation and endorsements.  Request these from your network and clients to validate your services.  Social platforms such as Quora and posting to YouTube and Slideshare also increase your reputation.

5. METRICS

Although not mentioned in this infographic, I truly believe social media marketing is growing up and should focus on analytics to monitor performance and build successful social media marketing strategy.

 If you need help getting started on your social media marketing strategy, contact us — we’re professional, thorough and affordable.

Hausman and Associates

Hausman and Associates publishes Hausman Marketing Letter and the monthly email newsletter of the same name.  We also provide cost-effective marketing and social media through our innovative virtual agency concept.  We welcome new clients and would happily provide a proposal to show you how we can make your marketing SIZZLE.

 

 

The State of Social Media 2012 by The SEO Company

The State of Social Media 2012 by The SEO Company

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Social Media Analytics: Predictive Analytics

predictive analyticsPredictive analytics have been around a long time in finance and economics.  Slowly, these analytic tools are finding their way into the marketing and social media arenas.

What are predictive analytics?

Predictive analytics use data regarding past behaviors to predict how individuals will behave in the future.

For instance, your credit score is a predictive model including your repayment history and other information to predict whether you’re a good credit risk or not.

Predictive models commonly include a number of variables, such as # of late payments, and weighting factors that reflect the importance of that variable in predicting future behavior.  These are commonly regression-type models.

Modern predictive analytics use similar data and build similar models to predict how groups of people will behave, in general, or classify individuals into such groups.  For instance, we might build a model that predicts how much of a product we’ll sell if we lower (or raise) the price.  While we won’t be able to predict WHO will buy at the new price, we really don’t care.  We only need to know if we’ll sell more at the new price.  Thus, predictive analytics help us determine which marketing strategies will produce the best ROI (Return on Investment).

How businesses use predictive analytics

Businesses use predictive analytics in a number of ways, such as the one discussed above.  In addition, a number of tools, such as CRM (Customer Relationship Management) use predictive analytics to determine marketing strategies. Another type of predictive analytic is CLV (Customer Lifetime Value) which uses purchase information to classify customers into groups and determine the level of profit reflected by each group, which is used to build marketing strategies to each group.

Descriptive models and predictive analytics

Descriptive models are often overlooked as tools for generating predictive analytics because they suggest strategies that will generate better results without being able to quantify how much better the results will be.

An example is the TRA (Theory of Reasoned Action).  This model states that buying behavior is impacted by a consumers attitudes and beliefs about the products, as well as the norms related to that purchase.  This theory, of course, underpins how social media works. Social media helps build attitudes toward products based on the most credible sources — our friends — and establishes norms of behavior when we see all our friends buying the product.

So, why aren’t these descriptive models used more frequently in businesses.  In part, that’s due to poor exchange between businesses and academics who seem to speak different languages.

Predictive analytics and social media

Marketing in general, and social media marketing in particular, are not heavily influenced by predictive analytics.  Although, that’s changing as supercomputers allow organizations to use massive data captured during transactions to build predictive models of what consumers buy and factors that impact their purchases.

Still, relatively few companies use predictive analytics to drive marketing strategy.  Sometimes, when I pitch to prospective clients, I’m shocked at how few demand any true analytics from their agencies and almost none even understand the concept of predictive analytics.  If the agency provides any analytics, it’s commonly simple ones such as # of Fans, # or RT, or other somewhat meaningless data.

Agencies and in-house marketing employees often develop simple correlations as a way to build social media marketing strategy.  For instance, they might notice that certain types of content drive more engagement or that posting at certain times generates more engagement, so they do more of this.  But, this lacks to depth of understanding necessary to build predictive analytics.

I have several proprietary predictive analytics tools I use to help clients optimize their ROI.  For instance, I have a complex algorithm (model) to help businesses generate leads for the sales force from their email marketing programs.  In other cases, I build predictive models from scratch or use descriptive models to generate predictive analytics, such as my hierarchy of effects in social media.

Hausman and Associates

Hausman and Associates publishes Hausman Marketing Letter and the monthly email newsletter of the same name.  We also provide cost-effective marketing and social media through our virtual agency concept.  We welcome new clients and would happily provide a proposal to show you how we can make your marketing SIZZLE with predictive analytics.

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Analytics: Social Media ROI

Calculating Social Media ROI (Return on Investment) is a little tricky.  So many folks don’t bother trying to link analytics like ROI to evaluate your social media marketing efforts.  Others default to simple metrics, such as Likes and Followers.  But without some notion of your Social Media ROI, firms are uncomfortable investing or increasing their investment in social media.

Social Media ROI

I’ve created several posts to guide marketers on assessments of social media ROI, but here’s another take from UberVU.  I thought I’d take an in-depth look at the strategy underpining this infographic.

Measuring Social

Media ROI

Businesses are getting much more sophisticated in the way they measure social media ROI.  Businesses go well beyond meaningless metrics like number of Fans or Followers, to assess metrics that have a REAL impact on social media ROI.

Here are some examples:

Attitude Toward the Brand

A vast number of studies show the strong link between attitude toward the brand and behaviors that create Social Media ROI — specifically, buying the brand.  Attitude toward the brand also motivates folks to recommend the brand.

social media ROI

So, it’s good to see more businesses measure sentiment, with almost no one measuring sentiment in 2010 and lots of businesses (nearly 50%) measuring sentiment in 2011.

Engagement

Engagement is a much better measure because it actually impacts social media ROI.  The more engaged your Fans and Followers, the stronger your brand and the greater your ROI.  ROI increases happen in 2 ways:

  1. Consumers who share about your brand are more likely to buy the brand (this is cognitive consistency theory – again lots of experimental support)
  2. When consumers engage with your brand, your message travels to wider audiences — amplifying your message.
  3. When folks engage your brand, it acts as an endorsement to their friends and we KNOW consumer recommendations are MUCH more powerful in getting folks to purchase than paid commercials.

Businesses measuring engagement in social media is increasing — with over 50% of businesses measuring engagement in 2011 versus none in 2010.

Customer Service

Handling complaints and problems quickly and efficiently is the hallmark of a successful company.  That’s because complaints travel 5 times as far as compliments.

More companies integrate customer service into the social media marketing strategy today than ever before.  But, firms need to do a better job tracking this metric, because we know customer satisfaction is a major driver of repeat purchase and recommendation — both of which increase you social media ROI.

Final Thoughts

OK, so social media marketing doesn’t translate directly into social media ROI, but it may have the GREATEST impact on ROI of anything the business does. Sure, turning out a great product or service is important, but buying a product is basically a social process heavily influenced by what your friends do.  And, social media increases the visibility of what you buy to your social network.

As you can see in the infographic, metrics support this.  Nearly 75% of people who buy entertainment products discuss them online and 66% of users agree that Tweets influence the brands they choose.

Increase your Social Media ROI

To increase your social media ROI, you need a detailed understanding of your market, a social media strategy based on a clear understanding of how social media marketing is different from traditional marketing, and the right metrics to no only assess your social media ROI, but provide guidance for optimizing your social media ROI.

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