Measuring social analyticsIf you aren’t measuring social analytics, you’re just operating on intuition.

That’s what Adele McAlear told the group attending a gathering of IABC/Toronto’s Professional Independent Communicators. Adele is Director of Operations for Measurement & Analytics at Edelman Digital’s Montreal office, heading up a team that provides social insights and measurement to help guide business decisions.

Some reasons for measuring social analytics include reducing risk, proving or disproving your work and improving results. But there’s always a hard reason behind everything you do, which generally comes down to one of two things:

  1. Reducing costs.
  2. Generating revenue.

Calling social analytics the “starting point for engagement,” Adele pointed out that we’re tracking conversations on the web and “trying to move the needle.” To those who say social media can’t be measured, Adele noted that “If it changes, you can measure it, and if it doesn’t change, why are you wasting your effort?”

Adele ran through five steps to measuring social analytics:

1.  Define your objectives.
What changes do you want to make? Be specific, and more than just “awareness.” Push for a goal, whether it’s selling your product or changing perceptions. “There are ways to measure social media, but it’s not ROI [return on investment],” Adele stressed. “What does success mean to you? Is it increasing customers, increasing repeat purchases, streamlining customer service? Measure THAT.”

2.  Establish benchmarks.
Do an audit to review where you are online. How do people talk about you? Your competitors? How far have you come? Use Google Insights to see how people are searching and finding you — it’s the difference between a company saying “mobile device” and most people saying “cellphone.” Pick something to measure and stick with it. Look for patterns. Always benchmark at the beginning and end of campaigns or promotions.

3.  Set key performance indicators.
A small business owner with a goal of gaining new clients will want to measure the various ways prospective clients can move along that path. Companies might want to measure a shift in sentiment or conversation topics.

4.  Report on results.
Track your output (blog posts, tweets, press releases, events, etc.) and look for reaction, comments, brand mentions, click-throughs, web visits, likes, sales revenue. What are people reacting to? Isolate the peaks and valleys and find catalysts, such as a price drop or YouTube video. Look for positive, neutral or negative sentiments and correlations between sentiment and the market segment important to you.

Free measurement tools include BlogLevel, BlogGradr, Facebook Insights, Google Insights, TweetLevel and Twitalyzer. Paid tools (although check for free trials) include Crimson Hexagon, Radian6, Simply Measured and Sysomos. Whatever your tools, learn to love Excel, because you’ll track most information in a spreadsheet.

5.  Use insights from the data you’ve gathered to structure future objectives and strategy, and then “rinse and repeat.”

While the whole process may seem daunting, Adele encouraged the group to “Figure out what you want to achieve, and start small and try a few things.”

Pencil and measure photo credit thanks to Paul at