Even if you’re using an analytics solution like Google Analytics, you’re probably only scratching the surface of data that could lead to opportunities to engage with, cater to, and monetize users.
Although there is no shortage of social media monitoring tools, each one is a bit different in its approach, methodology, metrics, depth of analysis, channels measured, reports and UI. The existence of this many tools and the fragmentation of the tools market is evidence of the fact that the space is not quite mature, and doesn’t yet have a set of agreed-upon metrics and best practices.
In your search for the right tool(s), you should be looking to both monitor and measure your brand on social media. The two terms are used somewhat interchangeably, and although there is some overlap and similarity in business goals, monitoring and measurement are distinct processes. Let’s take a look at each one in a bit more detail.
Social Media Monitoring
Monitoring (or perhaps the more evocative definition is “listening”) is the process of continuous and immediate discovery of conversations with the purpose of learning, engaging, helping and collaborating. You can do this with anyone, whether it’s your customers, prospects, industry thought leaders, former customers, partners or others. There are also different cues to listen for and different ways to engage. Typically, monitoring has a stronger real-time implication than measurement, as one of the purposes is to track keywords as they appear, with the goal of quick reaction.
- How it works: Typically, monitoring is performed on a keywords basis. Relevant keywords include your brand name, product name, etc. Based on your keywords, your monitoring system of choice goes out to the social networks you specify, grabs the relevant articles and messages, and hopefully arranges them for easier digestion and action.
- Why it’s important: My favorite analogy for social media is that it’s like the “largest cocktail party in the world.” It’s a room filled with people driven by one desire to communicate, share, digest and relate, while carrying on many independent conversations. Some of these conversations can be about you, your competitors or your industry. Some of these conversations could be people looking for a product like yours. They will talk about all these topics regardless of whether you are listening or not. However, you wouldn’t know any of this if you weren’t listening.
Social Media Measurement
Unlike monitoring, measurement is more concerned with metrics over a specified time period. Whereas monitoring answers the question “Who is talking about [insert keyword] right now and what are they saying?” measurement answers questions of “How did my keywords perform over time?” “How does that compare to my competitors?” and “What are some trends I can glean to make my product more usable by these people who are giving me feedback?”
- How it works: Similar to monitoring, your system of choice goes out and looks for articles where that specific combination of keywords occurs. It then tabulates these occurrences and presents them to you in relevant data reports. You need to be able to slice and dice the data by source, date, and other dimensions, as well as drill down to the social media “atom” level — the individual message — if you need to.
- Why it’s important: Unless you are immune from management or client accountability, you will probably be expected to provide some metrics that justify your company’s social media marketing or listening program. But that’s only a part of the story. Constant benchmarking is the only surefire way to know if things are working. Social media is a quickly evolving beast, so if you don’t routinely measure and course-correct, you could be marching down the wrong path. The idea is to “fail fast.”
As you can see, social media monitoring and measurement leverage the same data for different business ends. Measurement is crucial for benchmarking and tracking your success over time. It’s what helps you draw comparisons to your peers, analyze the huge ocean of tweets and blog posts, and distill them to a list of actionable insights. Monitoring, on the other hand, lets you listen and respond in real-time and protect your brand from negative word-of-mouth. Clearly, both monitoring and measurement should be a significant part of your social media strategy.