Are you using social media to push your company’s message, gain a thought leadership position or generate new product ideas? If the answer is yes then thats great – consider yourself ahead of the curve. But if you are now wondering how to measure the effectiveness of your activity or if you have spotted that a lot of information is slipping through the cracks then it may be time to be rethinking your strategy.

Know what you want

The first priority is to define a goal. That goal may be as simple as generate new leads – or you may want to manage your brand reputation, segment your marketplace to communicate with them more effectively, or generate long term customer loyalty by forming an effective customer service channel. Think carefully about what stage your business is at and what goal is most important. Remember effectively utilising social media takes time so it is not possible to do everything. Focus on one goal and then set a realistic timeframe.

Know your tools

Once you have defined your goal you need to measure what is happening. Before meaningful KPIs can be set it helps to know how to define the metrics. The way to do this is understand the tools that do the measuring. They can be categorised into three groups.

  • Web analytics – One of the most important tools you, or your supplier, will need to utilise is web analytics. Google analytics is an extremely good free option but there are many others depending on what it is you are actually trying to do. Make sure you do your research and know what option is right for you.
  • Social media monitoring – There are a number of ways to monitor what is happening in the social media space. There are some free tools available but some of these lack precision as the technology is not consistently invested in or not enough effort is put into collecting the data. A well developed tool is worth the investment. Good monitoring tools can give you extremely detailed information: what people are saying about your brand, who is saying it, details of the demographics of your social media following and even what people are saying about your competition. The right data allows you to snare the low hanging fruit.
  • Data mining tools – To dig deeper into data it may be necessary to employ more advanced tools. You may need text mining to get an overview of what words or themes seem to be surrounding your brand or geo-locating comments to identify potential new markets may be essential.

Good choices require your knowing what type of data is available and how to best get your hands on it.

Choose your platforms

There are thousands of social media platforms operating in the market place. Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are three of the best known ones but there are many many others. These social media platforms are brands designed, like any other, to meet a specific need. What matters then is finding out what your customer needs are, then choosing the platforms that fit them best.

It is also well worth remembering that social platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn make their money through targeted advertising. This means that their most valuable asset is the users data – what they like, who they talk to, what stage they are at in life and so on. While this may make your advertising on these platforms cost effective it may also mean that you have limited access to the raw data. 

If your market is big enough you may need to set up your own social network so you can own the data and use it to define new products, segment your market and really understand what people are talking about. There are many ways to approach this, from blogs and forums to fully fledged social platforms with user profiles and interest groups. Dont get caught up in the technology, its your customers needs that are important.

Get going

Of course you will need to define how KPIs are going to be set, who is going to be managing the communities and how your reports are presented. But knowing what data is available and how to read it is vitally important. In some cases just collecting the data and really understanding your customers may be a goal the is adequate enough. 

Your customers are openly discussing their likes and dislikes, what they saw on TV and what they think of the news. There is also a good chance they are talking about you. If you want to get on the front foot and respond to that then get moving – start to collect data and make decisions based on what it is telling you. 

If knowledge is power then data is its generator.