A few weeks back, I received two emails back to back in my inbox. This is a regular occurrence of course, but both of these were promoting two different social analytics tools. One was for Instagram, the other for Pinterest. If you subscribe to news from any of the various social software programs, you'll discover that they are quick to innovate a new way to track metrics for the latest social network. This is great if you're already paying for a software subscription, and it's added free of charge, but what if it's not?

Measuring Objectives

Before you pull out your company credit card to place an order for the latest social analytics software, take a second to think about what you're going to measure. Are you going to measure the trend of new "likes" or followers? The total amount of repins that each of your new products gained when placed on a company Pinterest board? Be sure to determine what your objectives are in measuring your social efforts. It often has something to do with the value of social referrals to your website or to the value of your greater social community.

The Value of "Like" on your Website

Do you ever link to your website from your social accounts? If you have some basic website analytics software, such as Google Analytics, Adobe Omniture, or WebTrends, pull it open, and see what sorts of traffic each network has generated for your website. Do you see a big spike in your Facebook-referral traffic after hosting a big fan competition, or a decline from Twitter when you took a vacation and no one bothered to send out a tweet or two? Mark down what dates you saw spikes or dips from your social networks, and any rationale for why you think it may have happened. If you track conversions, or purchases that users make on your site, check to see if they mirror the same spikes and dips that your social traffic experienced.

Social Value from the Network

If you don't particularly care about traffic to your website from social networks, think about how your company generates revenue from social itself. Is there an app that they use to download coupons, or make purchases right on a particular network?

If you find yourself saying "we just use that social network to build community, not generating revenue", that notion is completely fine. But then ask yourself: Is it worth spending money on a software for a social tactic that doesn't usually generate additional money for your company? Are there analytics tools that you can use for free to track community growth? Facebook Insights provides some great baseline metrics, and tools like Crowdbooster can give you weekly emails on how your Twitter follower count is doing.

Digging Deeper into Social Analytics

This past week, I attended an event with the Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association (MIMA) presented by Adam Singer of Google. He showed us that there are even more options than just tracking referrals from social media, you can see some of the conversations that are happening on certain networks in Google Analytics. If you haven't checked out this option, I highly suggest that you do!

He also mentioned Justin Cutroni's social dashboard, which I quickly added to almost all of our client accounts in GA. Why? Just check out all the data!



Here, not only you can tell which social networks are getting you the most traffic, but which ones are actually making you money. You can see how it compares in generating new visitors to your website, and finally, how much traffic your site generates from mobile.

If your social efforts are purely based on building community and gaining the largest number of "likes" in your industry, then certainly check out those special analytics tools geared toward particular networks. But if you want to get down to the details and tell your CEO why you should stick with social because it will make you money, then I'd definitely make sure you have Google Analytics properly configured on your site and get started analyzing some results!