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Raj Kadam is the CEO and Co-founder of Viralheat Inc., a social media analytics firm focused on delivering detailed social media analytics to major brands and agencies world-wide.

Today, you would be hard-pressed to find a marketer who’s not buried in a mountain of data.  The average marketing pro’s data sources include the usual web variety –- inbound analytics, e-mail marketing, open rates, SEO, and more.

And then there is the ever-expanding social media universe, where standbys like Facebook and YouTube generate an ever-increasing volume of data.  And just to make it a bit more fun, there is a constant barrage of new categories and services that generate even more information, and on grand scales — Google Buzz being only the latest example.

But just because there’s a raging river of marketing data available doesn’t mean it’s worthwhile to track it all. Here are a few tips for honing in on what’s relevant to your marketing strategy.

The Challenge of Extracting the Most Value

Marketers have gotten wiser during the turbulent economy. They know that they need to demonstrate their value the same way that the sales department does, or else their budgets, and possibly their jobs, will be far less secure. The CMO position has been known to have the shortest expected tenure of any in the C-suite.

The first crucial steps in demonstrating that value were to acquire the data and set the necessary systems in place. Now they’re struggling to find a way to harness that data — to use the scientific and the empirical in service of what matters even more: Actionability. That is, knowing how and when to engage with the right people and what the value of each interaction is.

The challenge is no longer merely acquiring the data from that raging river; it’s understanding the data, bending the data to your will, taking action on it and, above all, making data come alive in the boardroom.

Taking the Right Measurements

We can talk all day about the importance of analytics and measurement, but the real question is whether or not you’re measuring the right things for the right reasons.

The best measurement efforts start with clear goals. You need to have a framework that identifies exactly what you’re trying to measure.  Here are a few questions you should ask yourself to help focus in on what you should really be measuring:

Why do you have a social media function at your company?

Customer Service?



Product development/support?

Grassroots marketing?


What social sites/platforms are most relevant to your community/customers?

Who are you trying to reach with your program?  Customers? Influencers?

Once you are clear on why you’re doing this in the first place, you can start thinking about what metrics and analytics matter most to you.  You don’t want to spend your time looking at metrics that indicate how well an influencer relations program is going when your focus is all about customer service.


Tie Your Analytics to Your Intent

Here are some examples of readily available analytics that tie back to specific intents of a social media program.  Some of them apply to many different types of programs, but the point is to start thinking about which ones are most relevant to your specific goals.

Engagement: If you are using social media to drive sales, and your product requires true engagement, multiple conversations and a strong relationship to get someone to a purchasing decision, then you should be paying attention to data that indicates high engagement.  Track your ratio of organic conversation versus mentions that are just links or simple participation like retweets on Twitter.

Traffic: If you’re a big brand and creating a lot of chatter across the web, do you know the traffic levels of the sites where you are engaging?  Your efforts should be focused on finding the stuff that drives the most results for your business. If you’re a major brand, chances are there is more ROI when you focus your efforts on higher-traffic sites.

Sentiment: How do people feel about your product or service?  For some brands, social media is a lot like a real-time focus group.  Sentiment should be incredibly important to you if you have chosen to strategically use social media as a way to inform your product development priorities.  If people are generally positive or negative about a product or new feature, there should be a feedback loop to the development team.

Viral Analysis: What is going viral for your product or brand and why? You want to see what kinds of trends are emerging for your product or service in real-time, and you should have a good sense of why they managed to go spread so far, so fast. This should be a measurement priority for businesses that know word-of-mouth and grassroots marketing is a big driver of sales for their products.

Influencer Tracking: Are you a relatively new company, or an entirely new type of product?  If you’re targeting early adopters and influencers for credibility, then you should know at any given moment who your biggest influencers are, what they’re saying and where they are talking about you.

As I mentioned, many of these metrics will apply to several types of social media programs.  But the trick is to have the discipline to determine which analytics are critical to your social media program, and use them accordingly to take action.


The goal of social marketing analytics is to be able to track the impact of your efforts and optimize your campaigns based on social data for maximum effect.  That means you need analytics, insights and, ultimately, action.  Knowing what the data means –- in real-time — is the next important step.  If you don’t have that, you really don’t have anything.  And if you don’t turn those insights into action, you may as well stop measuring.

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Tags: business, data, MARKETING, small business, social media, social media marketing