Facebook, MySpace, Linked In, Flickr and Twitter are the most popular forms of social media today, giving members easy ways to connect with each other and stay updated based on their affinities and professional activities. But the activity taking place in social media is hard to measure, and there are still no clear standards on how to evaluate it before visitors show up on your doorstep, so to speak.
Better ways of measuring social media through Web analytics and search marketing are raising the bar on the quality of information small and midsize businesses can collect--and what they can do with it.
What Are We Measuring?
Until recently, measuring social media around a current or planned event, a brand, an advertising campaign, or a topic was confined to measuring how often the events, brands, campaigns, topics, and associated keywords were mentioned in mainstream media and on the Web. Measurement wasn't very precise and was similar to listening to chatter on the radio, with only indirect evidence, at best, that buzz around your brand, for example, did anything to increase sales.
How We Measured, Until Now
Most activity on a Web site can be measured, analyzed and optimized using site analytics (i.e., Google Analytics, WebTrends, Omniture Site Catalyst, Coremetrics). But it's much harder to tell what visitors were exposed to before they reached a site or what they did shortly after leaving. Web analytics, search marketing, and social media provide incredible opportunities to gain insight, but it has become increasingly difficult to learn from the information or to apply it practically. Plus, the expectations of small and midsize businesses are evolving and require more precision than what each platform provided.