Measure Twice, Cut Once: Why You Need Digital Analytics
One of the greatest advantages of bringing your business online is the ability to get deep data on what people want. This, coupled with the social web, can help you design marketing campaigns to successfully identify customer types to test and target only the hottest leads online and find out why some leads aren’t as hot as others.
There are hundreds of ways to measure who’s doing what online, but before we get into methods and tools, it’s important to address a few questions first:
What do you want to know about your customers? What is the ultimate goal? You *could* measure everything, but how would you know what you need? If you have numerous needs, write them out, and prioritise them. You need to concentrate on testing one thing at a time.
What would define success in this instance? If you’re looking to increase Facebook fans, for instance, how many or by what percentage would you be happy? Write down your goals.
How long will you need to measure? This is important, because if you’re judging the lift of a contest or short-term campaign, you may only need to measure for a month or for two – a month before and the month during for good measure. If you’re getting into a regular routine of reporting, you need to establish the interval by which you will be measuring (Day over day? Week over week? Month over month?)
How do you need to view the results? This is key if you have cross-functional groups, outside agencies, or non-technical people on your team who want the “USA Today” version. The type of program you choose is pretty dependent upon this answer.
Once you’ve figured out what you need, it’s time to take a look at what’s available to you.
There are many free ways to track behaviour. Some networks already have analytics panels built in.
Facebook has a great set of tools built into the Pages experience called Insights.
Bit.ly is not just an URL shortening service, but if you want to know more about who clicks which links on your site, e-mails, or social media channels, bit.ly can tell you.
One-off reports from SimplyMeasured can be useful for measuring a lot of baseline activity, and telling you more about your audience.
Kred started out as an alternative to Klout, which measures your “influence.” Kred is more useful, as it shows you in realtime how your posts are performing.
Google Analytics: the blogger’s best friend has added new functionality to test your social media as it relates to your site.
Some cheap products can give you more information than the free ones. Among them:
Sprout Social: Lets you know more about who follows you on Twitter, what type of engagement certain tweets got, and how you measure against competitive Twitter accounts. (Starts at $9.00 per month)
Beevolve: gives you a friendly interface with some clear insights into your presence. Lacks some of the pro features of its competitor, but it has come into its own as a viable option for those getting started and without $500 dollars to spend every month. It starts at $50 per month)
PageLever: Used by some of the most liked Facebook pages, this is a juggernaut of deep data for Facebook. Get concrete tips on what’s working, what’s not, and when to post. Prices start at $99 dollars a month.
Radian6: Considered the granddaddy of all analytics packages, Radian6 is considered one of the “best in class” analytics services. It can be daunting to get started with, and you will need to have a dedicated person trained to truly unlock all of the features.
Sysomos: Considered the best competitor to Radian6, Sysomos has a user-friendly interface, the ability to identify influencers at the touch of a button, and benchmarking against competitors. The service with Sysomos, while being one of the most expensive options, is unparalleled.
Other analytics providers exist, but these tend to be the packages most used and recommended by pros. Whatever program you go with, make sure you have sufficient training, so you can get the most out of your service.
How to get started
The most important thing to do is to get a baseline of what your metrics look like before you begin testing. To facilitate this, some of these programs allow you to go back in time. A good interval to go back for the sake of a baseline is 1 month.
Now that you have a baseline for the metric you’re trying to measure, you’ll want to check in on your progress regularly to see if there is anything you can optimize and if certain tweets perform better than others, try to look at why.
Test only one variable at a time. This might seem really time-consuming, but it’s important not to have one variable affecting another. You want data you can feel confident is accurate.
Once your data is in for a month-over-month report, you will be able to plan better, test another variable, and know more about your fans/followers/visitors online.