“Exploring Evaluation” is a new blog series devoted to exploring the rapidly growing field of social media metrics and evaluation. In an industry like public health where page views and clicks don’t always translate to improved patient outcomes, we’ll take a look at the latest trends, lessons learned, and possibilities for more meaningful evaluation data. Stay tuned for additional posts in the series with specific evaluation tactics covering Facebook, Foursquare, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and more.
Public health communicators have a responsibility to deliver effective, engaging messages that reach their target populations. Fortunately, analytics tools have become more prolific and sophisticated, and allow us to know more about our audiences than ever before. The metrics and evaluation world has now reached a point where companies have numerous strong options for both Web site analytics and social media monitoring software. Omniture and Google Analytics, for example, have been enhancing their product offerings to include more robust site tracking. Other companies like Salesforce Marketing Cloud (formerly Radian6), Lithium, and Sysomos have been working to create comprehensive analytics platforms targeted strictly at tracking social media activity. With growing industry expectations and increasing capabilities, the logical next step, which has already begun, is the integration of these two types of measurement for even stronger evaluation and analysis.
Companies want to know how their social media activity is affecting their consumer’s actions, particularly on their Web sites (that is, “Is all of my social media activity through Facebook and Twitter actually driving any action from my target audience?”). Web analytics tools such as Google Analytics and Omniture have already begun integrating with social media monitoring tools such as Radian6. Companies also have been manually tagging links they place throughout the social media universe to track the level of response, compare data across various social media channels, and measure results against their other forms of advertising and communication. This allows us to understand our audiences more. If we know where they are coming from and what channels are most responsive, we can target our efforts effectively. Now that more analytics are working together, we can cut down on the time it takes to compile data. When it comes to resources, analytic tools that allow us to consolidate efforts and be more productive are assets to public health missions.
In addition to tracking the level of response from social media activities, companies also have been closely monitoring the activity of visitors after they arrive at the company’s Web site. Consensus about what works and doesn’t shouldn’t be just an internal effort. Analytics allow us to get into users’ heads and get closer to the complete picture. Conversion funnels and goal tracking are often used to analyze not only how much traffic is being driven to the site through social media activity, but also how successful each channel has been in terms of producing conversions. Conversion rates can then be compared across the various social media and advertising channels to analyze which are most successful in terms of producing the desired results on the Web site. This type of analysis can play a key role in optimizing your marketing and advertising activities to achieve the best possible results. Within the public health sphere, the ability to change behavior is our return on investment. Feedback from both the populations we serve and our partners is essential to determining whether we should move forward with our campaigns or identify other pathways.
While many companies have gotten a hold of their Web analytics and social media monitoring, it is this integration and holistic approach to truly analyzing the success of social media activity that will be the next frontier in digital media metrics.