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Analytics Magazine

Social Media: Five measures of social media karma

September/October 2014

Return on investment: Quick wins and fundamental measures of posts, tweets, blogs, pings and uploads.

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By Kshira Saagar

Post, tweet, blog, ping and upload are some of the poignant actions in the social media universe. Like, share, re-tweet, favorite, re-blog and download are the karmic reactions that help assess the validity and credibility of your actions in the same universe. Almost all organizations these days spend quite a lot of financial and human resources to understand and make sense of their social media actions, leading to the eventual reactions. And a surprising 49 percent of CMOs are unable to quantify social media impact on their companies.

Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics, YouTube Analytics, LinkedIn Analytics and Pinterest Analytics are some places that offer their own analytic platforms to measure your social media karma. But what should these measures be about? Let’s look at the five fundamental measures that will serve as quick-wins to analyze your social media karma.

Measure 1: The “Who” – Who is the core group of your audience base?

Getting a pulse of your audience and the crowd that comes looking for you is always the key. Instead of shooting in the dark with broadcasted content, a firm grip on who your audience is could enable a very easy way of chalking out content and tailoring the messages. Facebook Insights and other social media analytics platforms provide a complete breakdown of your follower group in terms of gender, age and location.

The metric of interest here would be the population of your audience in each of these demographic buckets, resulting in your eureka moment of social media. Is your audience young, mobile and highly concentrated in specific urban locations? Or is it a completely different story? The answer to this question sets up the base for all forthcoming social media activities.

Eventual insights from this exercise should help you do two things: 1) validate that you are talking to the right crowd of people at the right places; and 2) comprehensively understand the groups of people you have been ignoring but who seem to have considerable presence in your audience base.

Measure 2: The “What” – What specific activities have any visible/tangible benefit?

Understanding the mission of your audience is another significant step toward engaging them better. Your social media flock comes to your page with a specific intent in mind – is that information, offers, knowledge or just pure entertainment? Facebook Insights offers a way to gauge this by looking at the reach of each post and page. The adventurous-at-heart can download the entire Facebook Insights data at a post or page level and analyze what content works and what does not.

The metric of interest here would be the reach of your posts – differentiated by text, image, video, links or other multimedia options. The way “reach” should be defined in such a way that it acts as a proxy for how many people “viewed” or “engaged” with the content. Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter define reach intrinsically. For the others, which do not have an explicit “reach” metric, a proxy of number of views or number of clicks can be taken.

An eventual insight from this exercise should help you precisely understand what the customer expects from your social media channel – is it an image with a collage of discount offers or is it a DIY video of how-to-use-a-product-smartly or is it plain old philosophy on things?

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Figure 1: Five measures of social media karma.

Measure 3: The “Why” – Why does specific content work better than the others?

A video or an image is not quite actionable in itself. What is more important is the content within the image, which makes the multi-media work.

The metric of interest here would be a mixture of the sentimental response to your posts and the contextual messages contained in those posts. Sentiment analysis is a simple enough exercise in an open sourced platform like R or other online sources, which can provide a rundown of the positive and negative views for each post. A contextual analysis of each post based on its theme can help users understand why a specific post is more preferred compared to the others.

An eventual insight from this exercise should help users figure out why a customer likes a post and how they feel about it. Many social media listening centers set up by big corporate houses focus specifically on this part – real-time management of sentiments and assuaging the angry customer.

Measure 4: The “When” – When does a time-bound game plan work according to the plan?

Time is one of the most critical elements of a social media strategy. You cannot go around posting any time you want and any number of times you want. Any refined social media manager worth their salt would tell you that social media is an art more than a science, and a bigger aspect of this art is knowing when to talk and when to stay silent.

The metric of interest here would be a reach of posts (as discussed in Step 2) split by time of the day and day of the week for different channels. You should be able to figure out what time of day or day of week your post has maximum reach within your audience. One more thing of interest would be to analyze the activity period of your followers (possible in Facebook Insights and Twitter Analytics) and identify overlapping areas or gaps of improvement between you and your audience’s operating time.

An eventual insight from this exercise should arm you better in terms of when to go onto your channels and update the posts. Many social media channels now offer the option to “preset” a post for a specific day and time in advance, which can be wisely programmed as a result of this analysis.

Measure 5: The “How” – How is your audience responding to your efforts?

Looking at CTR (click through rate) or jumping-with-joy (virtually) over follower count is not the only way to measure social media success. The only true way of measuring the eventual success of any social media campaign is if it translates into real-world currency, one way or another. Although it’d be a utopian exercise to tie every single social media activity to the green buck, there still exist alternate measures of monetary success.

The metric of interest here would be the simple overlap (correlation) between the sales at a point in time and the number of posts “around” the same point of time. It need not be strictly sales alone. It could be any metric that captures the essence of all the four points above; it could be new customers, overall customers, new mentions or increased engagement. An overlap of a specific success metric on a time-on-time basis with a post’s timings should help you figure out if your social media karma is beneficial or otherwise.

An eventual insight from this exercise can help you better decide on the promotional budget for each type of post and the length of the promotion. One thing to remember, just like human karma, the efforts should not be estimated on an absolute immediate-time basis but with a practical lag (0-2 days) from the time of posting.

In this interconnected world, where a small social media ripple can have the impact of a tsunami on the eventual sales bottom line, it becomes imperative for analysts to know quick-fix analyses and easy-to-extract metrics from the vast unstructured world of social media. It would be wiser for organizations to analyze data within the security of their own firewalls and derive some of the key metrics that are more useful for their purposes – at no extra cost at all.


Kshira Saagar, a manager with Mu Sigma (www.mu-sigma.com), has considerable experience in analytics consulting with multiple Fortune 500 clients. His experience spans across technology, pharmaceutical and retail industries where he works closely with client teams and business executives in creating, operationalizing and driving consumption of analytics.

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