How to Manage a Social Media Presence

facebook-twitterWith the mainstream media constantly name-dropping facebook and twitter, you’d think that it’d be a no-brainer for every business to get themselves setup on them and start seeing the dollars roll in. The trouble is, there isn’t often a direct approach to measuring success on these networks. Like what was promised to Kevin Costner long ago, at best they offer the hazy promise of “If you build it, they will come.” The trouble is, people don’t have to pay to use facebook or twitter, these are free sites. Worse still, there’s really not even an e-commerce component to these websites that would allow you to directly track sales from them. It’s the powerful-but-always-elusive measurement of word-of-mouth: everyone wants it; no one knows how to clearly quantify it.

So if you can’t measure how much your Fan Page on facebook is worth, or how much money your twitter messages are generating, what can you measure?

Note: For the purposes of this post I’ll not be mentioning display advertising (e.g. banners) on facebook, but rather the value of creating profiles, or Fan Pages.

Effective social media campaigns, unlike some other online marketing tactics, require an eye for quality, rather than quantity. It’s essential to select meaningful performance metrics. One familiar value marketers recognize is the cost-per-thousand, or CPM. If your Page (previously called “Fan Pages“) is accruing followers, all of the people following them are also seeing this activity. Since it was free to create the Page in the first place, you’re not paying for any of these impressions. So the burden of measurement comes back to your website.

Your website’s analytics contains a list of any visitors that come from facebook or twitter (or any website for that matter). It’s available under the “Traffic Sources” section and “Referring Sites” module of Google Analytics (and is available in a similar location in most other website analytics software). Now you can begin to evaluate in hard numbers how many visitors any social media sites are generating, and what the quality and level of engagement these visitors have. Stats like Average Time on Site and Average Pageviews per Visit are insightful points to review.

It’s important to keep in mind that because of the nature of social media, there is a multiplier effect. Some users who hear of your product or service through a friend on one of these services won’t necessarily be coming directly from one of those sites. In fact, there have been studies proving the fact that a lot of web users will remember something to look up later, they may search for your name or remember your website’s URL. In these 2 scenarios they would show up in a different part of your website’s analytics, usually under Search Referrals and Direct Traffic, respectively. Just because you don’t see a flood of visitors to your site coming from these networks every day doesn’t mean it’s not boosting your traffic. It’s important to take a holistic approach to account for these types of effects.

Lastly, don’t lose sight of the sensitive nature of your presence on these sites. Don’t try to add a bunch of random twitter followers, say from the same city, as this will backfire once you’ve been identified as a marketer, and that may get you blocked for spamming. It’s alright to be a marketer, you just have to be a respectful and conscientious one. Likewise with facebook: carefully and strategically select which conversation threads you participate in. Don’t over-reach or you can see yourself blocked by many users, defeating any progress. Remember that these are unique opportunities to directly communicate with your existing and potential customers. Be a good citizen and they’ll respect you too.

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