(Full Disclosure:  The author’s company sells a social media measurement product)

At least once a week I run across an article or blog post about tools for measuring social media. Headlines like “5 Social Media Measurement Tools That Save Time and Money” or “Six Free Social Media Measurement Tools for B2B” have become as common as graduation parties in June.

While it is encouraging to see so many measurement options emerging, the wide range of products in this space can be confusing. Part of the problem is that the term “social media measurement” is used to describe tools designed for many different types of users and tasks.

I keep a running list of many different types of tools that can help users measure social media in some way. My list is divided into five categories based on the primary function or use of the tool.  Here are my five categories:

Listening Tools

Listening tools are commonly referred to as social media monitoring, buzz monitoring, or social media analytics tools.  Their primary function is to monitor social media channels for conversations that are relevant to a particular brand, product, or topic.  Although tools in this category span a broad range of sophistication, the analytics component tends to be fairly in-depth across the board.

Primary Use:

  • Used by PR to gain insight into brand or product perception, credibility and awareness
  • Used by marketing to track word of mouth/buzz about the brand and about specific campaigns
  • Used across multiple departments (customer service, PR, marketing) to identify engagement opportunities with customers, prospects or Influencers in social channels
  • Used by customer service to find and respond to questions or complaints

Metrics Examples:  Listening tools generate metrics that capture the depth and breadth of online conversations, or “buzz”.  Some examples include conversation volume, positive brand mentions, share of voice, competitor buzz.

Variations/Subcategories:  Many areas of specialization; sophisticated versions use advanced natural language processing for deep analysis, customer and product research, topic categorization.

Workflow/Management Tools

These tools are not designed primarily for measurement; rather, their main purpose is to manage and organize social media marketing activities across multiple people and departments (for example, posting content to multiple social sites and accounts).

Many of these products incorporate a social media monitoring feature (typically not as robust as tools in the Listening category).  Workflow tools almost always include at least an analytics component; some tools in this category provide an extensive set of metrics.

Primary Use:

  • Used across departments to manage multiple social profiles, schedule posts/messages/Tweets to various social media communities
  • Used by social media marketing staff to track and organize assignments, content calendars, and the activity (number of posts for example) of individual users

Metrics Examples: Workflow tools generate metrics about usage (for example, posts assigned, posts per user, posts by team, etc.).  Most workflow tools also provide some or all of the standard metrics available through social sites like Twitter and Facebook (for example, likes, followers, Twitter reach, Facebook People Talking About This, etc.).  Workflow tools that include a monitoring feature provide a set of “listening” metrics (brand mentions, positive buzz, etc.).

Variations/Subcategories: New tools designed to facilitate the time consuming task of content development, e.g., content-curation tools, tools that manage outsourced writers and editorial planning, etc.

Site-Specific Tools

Many of the tools in this category are Twitter-specific and are not primarily used for measurement and analytics (for example, tools that help the user find the right people to follow or discover hot/trending stories on Twitter). But some focus heavily on analytics and measurement.

Facebook Insights, for example, provides in-depth analytics data for brand pages and a number of tools provide unique metrics for Twitter (true size of a follower list, extended reach of a Twitter network, psychographic profiles of Twitter followers.)  Free options are plentiful; vendors often provide free tools in this category as a way to demonstrate broader capabilities.

Primary Use:

  • Used by community managers to grow and manage an engaged community
  • Used by social media managers to maximize time, streamline process, gain insights, and/or research or get insights on a specific community like Twitter or Facebook

Metrics Examples:  These tools generate some unique metrics that are not commonly available, such as Tweet Density, True Twitter Network Size, Follower Churn Rate, Community Growth Rate, YouTube Audience Retention, Facebook Interaction Rate.

Variations/Subcategories:  Tools for managing Facebook ad campaigns; tools that facilitate management of branded social communities (with analytics built in).

Influencer Identification Tools

A growing number of tools focus on the ability to identify online influencers your brand may want to engage with through social channels. Tools in this space span a broad range of sophistication in terms of how influence is defined (from size of network to algorithms that attempt to determine influence in terms of the impact an influencer might have on others).

Many tools in the Listening category include some type of influencer identification mechanism; however, stand-alone tools that specialize in Influence identification and measurement are becoming more common.

Primary Use:

  • Used by PR to inform various brand awareness activities and to manage online reputation
  • Used by marketing to grow social communities and connections and to expand reach/exposure
  • Used across multiple departments to identify highest priority engagement opportunities and brand threats
  • Used by customer service to monitor high-priority questions or complaints

Metrics Examples:  These tools generate scores and rankings of people or properties that qualify as “influential” (definitions and criteria for influence vary). Some types of buzz metrics are also usually included, like influencer brand mentions, positive/negative influencer buzz, or influencer penetration.

Variations/Subcategories:  Community mapping (identifying connections between people), brand relationship assessment (intensity of a person’s connection to a brand in social channels), topic affinity analysis, value assessments (i.e., potential value of influencers and their networks).

Web Analytics Tools

If you are a digital marketer, web analytics tools need no explanation. These tools offer users information on traffic, leads, transactions, etc. driven by social media marketing.

Unfortunately, much of the data needed for measuring social media comes from sources outside of the web site — sources not covered by web analytics tools. But with the increasing availability of social media modules/components for standard web analytics platforms (Google Analytics Social Reports for example), these tools are beginning to offer much more robust intelligence about the impact and performance of social media marketing.

Primary Use:

  • Used by marketers and analysts to measure performance or results based on actions taken by visitors to a web site that is owned by the web analytics subscriber
  • Used to enhance user experience and improve effectiveness of a web site against multiple types of goals
  • Used by social media marketers to track actions taken by visitors driven to the site through social channels

Metrics Examples:  Some key metrics that relate to social media performance specifically include assisted social media conversions (assisted by social media) and conversion value, last interaction social media conversions and conversion value, traffic to socially shared pages.

Variations/Subcategories:  Business Intelligence, predictive analytics, CRM integrations.

Social media measurement is still in its infancy, so the steady flow of new products and vendors (and perhaps new categories!) will likely continue for some time. To determine the fit that is right for you, start with your measurement goals and work back from there to find the product or products that deliver the right combination of metrics, data sources, and features.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Analytics | Analytics & Marketing Column | Channel: Analytics | Marketing Tools: Analytics | Marketing Tools: Social Media

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About The Author: has over 25 years of communications experience touching almost every aspect of marketing, including conventional advertising, public relations, and digital. Her current company, Social Snap, focuses on social media measurement, providing marketers with a powerful social analytics platform that combines data from social channels, web analytics, and social media monitoring tools.



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