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How to Measure the Social Success of Content Marketing

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measure-content-social-successContent marketing is often a key component of digital marketing strategies. Utilizing social media is frequently a key driver in content marketing success.

Knowing how to measure the impact that social media has on content marketing efforts is of utmost importance if you want to accurately measure success.

Before you can begin to accurately measure success, you need to ensure that you have accurate data. Without accurate data, you will be looking at a very murky representation of the results. This begins with implementing a robust system to tag all links to your sites content that you put out on social channels.

The process of tagging these links also needs to be ingrained in anyone involved in promoting the content on external sites. Without continuous and proper tagging, you will be left with gaps in your data. This can be done using a simple spreadsheet or by using a more advanced campaign URL tracking tool.

The key piece of tagging links is to make sure there are parameters that can be keyed in on to measure each individual link across various social channels.

Using Google Analytics as an example, there are five parameters that can be used. They are:

  • utm_source
  • utm_campaign
  • utm_medium
  • utm_content
  • utm_term

Utilizing these parameters will allow you to key in on any piece of content and segment it to see exactly which links posted on which sites delivered the best results.

As a very rudimentary example, let’s say you're trying to generate interest in Product XYZ using content marketing on social channels and have two blog posts that will be used to drive interest.

  • http://www.mysite.com/blog/post1 
  • http://www.mysite.com/blog/post2

Each blog post will be promoted on both your Facebook page and Twitter account. By appending the following parameters, you would create four unique URLs that would allow you to track each of the posted links separately in Google Analytics or segment by any combination of the parameters.

  • http://www.mysite.com/blog/post1?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_content=blog_post_1&utm_campaign=product_xyz 
  • http://www.mysite.com/blog/post1?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_content=blog_post_1&utm_campaign=product_xyz 
  • http://www.mysite.com/blog/post2?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_content=blog_post_2&utm_campaign=product_xyz 
  • http://www.mysite.com/blog/post2?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_content=blog_post_2&utm_campaign=product_xyz

Onsite Metrics

Once you have the system in place to ensure proper tagging of URLs, you can begin to analyze onsite metrics related to the content that is promoted in social channels. Utilizing the custom reports feature in Google Analytics is likely the best way to access the data.

You can customize both how you segment and drill in to the data using the various parameters as dimensions as well as customizing which metrics are included in the report. This will provide you with the greatest flexibility in how you view your data.

While you can see metrics such as visits, goal completions, transactions, and revenue in custom reports, there are a few key metrics that are currently unavailable. These metrics are related to assists, which can be critically important especially if content marketing is utilized more heavily at the top of the sales funnel.

Currently, to see assist related metrics, you either have to go through the standard reports or use the API. This makes it a bit more complicated to get all the data you need, but the combined data puts you on the right path to proper measurement of content marketing in social channels. Since the data can’t be combined in a single report in Google Analytics, you will want to export the data to Excel where it can be combined with the relevant offsite metrics.

Offsite Metrics

Now that you're measuring what is happening on your own site, the next step is to include offsite metrics that come from your posts on the various social channels. Since this post doesn't get into advanced techniques, I’ll stick to just Facebook and Twitter for the sake of keeping it simple.

Unless you're using a robust social media analytics tool, it will be a bit of a manual process to pull the data you need. Also, the process will vary slightly between Facebook and Twitter.

For starters, you need to keep a list of all your posts and tweets that contain links back to your sites content. This will allow you to go back to those posts and tweets and pull performance related metrics for each of them and then tie that data in with the related Google Analytics data. Doing so will provide a fairly complete picture of how the content that you share on social channels performs both on and off your site.

A variety of metrics are available for the posts and tweets related to the promotion of your sites content that can be tracked, but I’ll stick to two fairly simple categories. The two categories are exposure and engagement, which should be tracked for each individual post or tweet that directs people to your sites content.

Exposure

Exposure is fairly straightforward for Facebook since Facebook Insights provides it to you as the reach number at the post level. Since you have been keeping a list of posts that have links pointing people to your sites content, it's just a matter of pulling the reach number for each relevant post.

Twitter, however, isn't that easy. As of now, Twitter doesn't provide the number of people who have been exposed to your tweets.

While admittedly quite flawed, one way to estimate an exposure figure for your tweets would be to take the sum of your followers and the followers of anyone who retweeted your original tweet. Tthis is a very rough estimate as there's no way to know which of your followers saw the tweet, who may have seen it as a result of hashtags that you used, or anyone else who may have come across the tweet through other means.

Engagement

The second offsite metric category is engagement which can be broken down into three sub-categories – communications, endorsements, and distributions.

  • Communications: For Facebook, communications is the number of comments received on your post. It is easily retrieved from Facebook Insights by clicking on the number value listed in the Talking About This column of the Page Posts section. For Twitter, the communications value is the number of replies received. To retrieve these values manually, you will have to go through and find each relevant tweet and count the number of replies.
  • Endorsements: Endorsements are likes in Facebook and favorites in Twitter. While they aren’t exactly apples to apples, they are both indications that the individual enjoyed your post or tweet. To get the metric value in Facebook Insights, you again click on the number value listed in the Talking About This column of the Page Posts section. Twitter is again a more manual process since you have to go through and find each individual tweet that is relevant and pull the number of times that it was marked as a favorite.
  • Distributions: Shares and retweets represent distributions on Facebook and Twitter respectively. Just like with communications and endorsements, distributions is retrieved in Facebook by going to the Page Posts section and clicking on the number value for the relevant tweet in the Talking About This column. In Twitter, you again have to go find each relevant tweet and document the number of retweets that were generated.

Once you have all the data, you can compile it in a simple spreadsheet that tracks the performance each piece of content. The table below is an example of how the data could be brought together in a spreadsheet. Once the data is in place, you can then utilize pivot tables in Excel to segment or key in on any combination of the first five columns.

content-marketing-success-spreadsheet

While this manual process can be quite tedious and time intensive, it's a starting point which can be used to begin to understand the impact that social channels have on content marketing. Robust social media analytics tools can automate this process for you, so once value is proven, it is likely worthwhile to look into the options that are available to you.

Regardless of if you measure using a manual process or with an automated tool, the key is to make sure you're measuring results as accurately as you possibly can. Without proper measurement you will otherwise be left guessing and it's hard to justify the impact that social media has on content marketing if you don’t have the data to back it up.


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