Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Web Analytics and Social Media

Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, Linkedin, and Tumblr are comprise over 88% of U.S. social media market share (see graph below). Businesses and individuals alike heavily use these sites, and the more these sites are used, the more important it is to understand how to use web analytics to leverage information collection from social media usage. Both Google and Twitter provide their own analytic software, but there is a wide variety of other companies which provide similar services (some are free, others require payment).

For commercial use, Google analytics recommends measuring the impact of social media by quantifying the value of conversions and by knowing which sources referred visitors. Stephane Hamel, on his online-behavior web site, argues that social media return on investment is useless, that “social media ROI can only exist when measured and clearly correlated against clearly defined business outcomes.” In his article discussing analytics trends he writes that companies that use social media are often trying to improve soft metrics, that is, they use social media to give an unplanned boost to web traffic or to revenue. If companies truly want to measure the impact of social media they can do so with analytics, but they must do it in a thoughtful way that focuses on predetermined and well-defined metrics. “Big data,” a new buzzword has become popular as a new way for companies to increase their bottom lines. Big data is great for a business, but only when coupled with a company’s ability to analyze such data and to come to meaningful conclusions; otherwise, they only have masses of data that they are unable to draw any information from.  In September 2011, Twitter released Twitter Web Analytics  so that users could understand how much of their site is being shared across Twitter, quantify the traffic that Twitter facilitates to their site, and measure the impact of a site’s integration of the Tweet button. All of these features can help a company to move away from soft metrics and instead quantify the impact that Twitter has on their site so that they can truly calculate social media return on investment.
Another twitter analytics tool, Twtrland, can be useful for both individuals and for companies as they navigate through over 500 million registered twitter users. Twtrland allows users to search for names, locations, or tags and returns a set of twitter accounts that fit the search criteria. Once a user selects a account, Twtrland quantifies the gender, country, and type of user (casual, power user, celebrity, etc.) for all of that account’s followers. For example, followers of the NRA’s twitter account are 68% male, 95% are from the U.S., 8% are power users, 0% are celebrities; those numbers can be compared with those of Justin Bieber’s followers: 74% women, 34% from the United States, 64% power users, and 8% celebrities. The social analytics tool also displays the number of tweets per day, the retweets per 100 tweets, replies per 100 tweets, tweet content distribution (replies, links, pictures, etc.), and identifies other tags and twitter accounts that the user might be interested in. This tool is not only useful for the average  twitter user who subscribes for personal use, but could also help companies to identify target audiences, view key metrics, and track progress as they refine their social media presence.
In the end, social media analytics can be used by any type of user. Whether it’s to find new accounts to follow or to monitor the effect that a company’s social media strategy has on profits, using sites like Google Analytics, Twitter Web Analytics, and Twtrland can provide meaningful information, so long as it is implemented diligently and with the right focus and metrics.