How Do You Know if Social Media Is Working?

Before we talk about how to track success with social media we quickly need to touch on how to succeed in the first place. First, social media is… you guessed it, social! You can’t treat it as a new way to push the same old message. Much of what there is to be said on this can be found in my Breaking Down the Barriers blog post, but in a nutshell, social media is a chance to give your customers a more integrated online experience.

Using social media, you are able to add information and value that your customer would otherwise not have access to. I like to think of it this way: Traditionally, if a prospective client was not in your personal network, all you had to attract them was word of mouth, your head shot and your pitch. But now you have all of these different channels to connect with people, and to show them what you have to offer–not only as a business owner, but as a father, a mother, a community member….  When you combine active social media use with a solid web platform you will be able to  attract people to your website through all of your online and offline channels and track your progress as you do it.

Measuring Social Media’s Success

Now down to business. The simple answer to the question, “How do I know if social media is working,” is to look at how many Friends, Fans, and Followers you have on Facebook and Twitter.  These numbers, however, are not very nuanced pieces of data. If we look at it through the lens of the online sales funnel (on left) these metrics would fall into the acquisition section of the funnel. You have captured their attention and they are listening, but do you know how many of them are really engaging with you and your web presence and ultimately converting?  This is really the information that is most valuable from a marketing perspective.

To dive a little deeper into how much engagement and conversion you are getting out of your efforts with social media you need to spend some time in Google Analytics (GA). By looking at GA you can see how many people are coming to your blog and website from Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. From there you can look deeper and find out how much time they spend on your website and whether or not they convert.  Google Analytics Navigation

GA views social media channels as referring sites. To find this data from your GA dashboard you click on Traffic Sources -> Referring Sites (see the figure on the right). From that view you can look at the all of the different websites that send traffic to your site.  Once you are on the Referring Sites page you can look at the number of people who have arrived at your website from your social media channels, as well as their level of engagement with your website.

Take Facebook, for example:

For this company’s website, we see that Facebook is the third most common referring site. Click on the Facebook entry in the referring site list, and we can see how people from Facebook are really behaving on your website.

In this example, we find that Facebook traffic has a higher level of engagement than the site average in both pages viewed per visit and average time on site. That is accompanied by a slightly lower bounce rate than average and a lower than average percentage of new visits.  No surprise here, as Facebook is an excellent client retention tool.

Different Media, Different Results

This brings up an important fact: Different social media channels will have different patterns of engagement. Facebook focuses on people you already know, so as we have seen here, we can expect higher levels of engagement and a lower number of new visits. But what about other social media channels, like Twitter?

Twitter is often more of a geographic based channel, especially when used for local business purposes. People who know you will follow you, but you are also talking to your town, city or state. In Burlington, Vermont, for example, we Tweet with #tags of #btv and #vt.  We can, therefore, expect different engagement patterns. Lets look at another example:

And if we dig a little deeper, into just the metrics for Twitter:

In this example we see lower engagement coupled with a much higher percentage of New Visits and a higher Bounce Rate. This suggests that many people who are visiting from Twitter may not be familiar with the organization.  They may be less invested in their message and are inclined to spend less time on the site.  The benefit here is that Twitter has allowed the organization to reach out to new people and gain some additional exposure to potential customers.

Are Your Social Media Visitors Converting?

To drill down to the conversion level and find out how many of these visitors are converting you need to set up goals in your GA account. Once you have done that you can look at these traffic sources through the conversion lens and really focus in on your bottom line. We are not going to get into setting up goals in GA in this post, but look for it coming soon.

Through the above metrics you can track your progress to gain insight into what you are getting for the time you are investing in social media. That being said, don’t lose sight of the fact that much of the benefit of engaging with social media is unquantifiable. The ROI window of social media is infinite because so much of the benefit you get is just getting your name and your personality out there, and being on people’s minds. If you are on Twitter and I am familiar with you, I might not need your services now but chances are that when I do need your services you will be the first person to come to mind.

The numbers that result from the above metrics are just the tiny piece of the iceberg that is poking out of the water. The overwhelming benefit of social media is the visibility you are receiving and the network that you are building just under the surface.

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8 thoughts on “How Do You Know if Social Media Is Working?

  1. Great insights Spencer, it’s important to be able to look at social media within the context of the rest of the site, which you’ve done by drilling down past the standard metrics that GA provides.

    Certainly being able to compare to the same time period the previous year as we see social media explode is also fascinating and Facebook in particular acts as an extension of a brand, they’re complimentary.

    • TC I totally agree with you on the time period comparison point. All web successes need to be compared to past performance to have have real meaning.

      This is especially true when focusing on organic optimization and Social Media campaigns as their metrics are not stand alone but instead are part of an ongoing narrative of online traction and visibility. Thanks for commenting.

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    • We are glad you liked it!! Let us know what other topics you would like to hear about. We are always looking for input.

  3. Spencer, have you installed GA on your FB page as well? I didn’t know that it was possible but I read a post a couple of days ago. It could be useful but I haven’t tried it yet.

    • Hello Alex

      I have read about it as well. The best source I have found on it is this article. We have not installed GA on our Facebook page as of yet, but there are definitely advantages to GA over Facebook Insights. Insights has lots of limitations – most notably it does not track people who are not fans. The reason I have not prioritized this is that Facebook page navigation is pretty simple and thus internal metrics are not that critical. If you use Facebook Insights and actively track Facebook in the traffic sources section of your main GA account you can have a pretty good idea of how your efforts are paying off. Alex, if you use the GA workaround on your Facebook page let me know how it goes. Thanks for reading.



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