Can Social Media Can Help My Company?

There is an astounding amount of press about social media. Some companies – Dell and Comcast, for example – have strengthened their brands by engaging social media head on.

Some others have stumbled – but it’s clear that Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Flickr and the many other social networks around the world offer opportunities for businesses to develop new marketing channels and to build communities around their products and/or services.

This post isn’t about leveraging social media. If you need a place to start, you’ll find outstanding advice from very smart people, including from Paula Drum’s post earlier today – 10 Tips for Social Media Marketers.

I wanted to focus on three simple things you can do today to measure the effectiveness of your social media efforts.

1. Define Clear Goals.

It would be a mistake for companies to blindly jump into the social media whirlwind without first defining clear goals.  Having one or multiple people spend hours upon hours on Twitter might be fun, but not particularly helpful to your company’s bottom line. While each business is unique – and many will have diverse goals – let me offer one place to start. At crowdSPRING, we look at five goals when evaluating whether to participate on a social network – and the extent of our participation.

1. lead generation
2. building a community
3. building brand awareness with a new audience
4. managing brand perception
5. providing customer service

Once you clearly define your goals, you can begin to better understand whether your social media activities help you to meet those goals.

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2. Metrics, Metrics, Metrics. How the heck does one measure ROI?

Once you’ve defined your goals, you’ll want to understand whether the time and money you invest in social media efforts makes sense. Many people have opinions about social media metrics – just ask the millions of “social media experts” on Twitter.

There are today no universally accepted metrics for measuring social media ROI (the return on investment) for business.  Every business is different – and each business has unique goals and ways to measure those goals. I have little to offer to help you with metrics other than to share how we measure our own activities.

crowdSPRING focuses on qualitative (brand brand awareness, brand perception, customer service) and quantitative (leads, building a community) factors. We look, for example, at how often our company name is mentioned on Twitter and when it’s mentioned, what people are saying about us. We look to see how people compare us to our competitors. We identify customers who are having problems on our site and we do our best to help them – whether on Twitter, Facebook, in our own forums, etc. The platform is irrelevant – we try to be helpful wherever our customers are (within reason, of course – we are a tiny company).

We also measure how many people register as buyers or creatives on our site based on our activities on networks like Twitter and Facebook, or our blogging.  And of course, we evaluate the communities we’re building on the various social networks.

3. C’mon – give me something I can use NOW to measure ROI!

We use different tools, but I’d like to highlight two that we find particularly helpful to help us understand ROI from our social media efforts: and Google campaigns.

Take for example our recent tweet about LG’s Design the Future mobile phone product design competition on crowdSPRING – offering $80,000 in awards. While most of the time we use to shorten our URLs, we always use to shorten URLs that we want to later monitor (if you use TweetDeck or other Twitter clients, they’ll let you choose which service you use to shorten URLs). Why do we do this?

Most URL shortening services will create a small URL. That’s it. And most of the time, that’s all you need. But what if you wanted to see whether a link you posted was popular? The service gives you such metrics (there are other services – and perhaps in the comments, people can share what you use and why you prefer that service).

With – all you need to do is add a /info into the link and you can see very nice metrics about your link, including the number of times users clicked on it, when, from what countries, etc. Click here to see the metrics for the above tweet.

The second tool that we find valuable integrates very well with Google Analytics. When we focus on campaigns – on Twitter, Facebook, or pretty much anywhere – we use Google Analytics URL Builder to define unique ID’s for the campaigns so that we can easily track those efforts in Google Analytics.  You can pretty quickly customize any URL and add a few easy ways for you to later track what happened when users clicked the link. And the real benefit is that you can also set goals in Google Analytics that will let you measure those campaigns against other campaigns. Read about this excellent feature here.

This wasn’t meant to be an exhaustive look at goals, metrics, and tools for measuring social media activities. But in sharing what we do, I hope you’ll learn a thing or two about using these tools and approaches with your own business.

I’d love to hear from you (in the comments) about how your company is using social media. How are you measuring ROI? What tools are you finding to be most effective to help you measure your efforts?

If you haven’t read it yet, you also might be interested in an article I wrote last month – Increasing Conversions Using Google Website Optimizer

Photo credit: Jeff Milner

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