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Evaluating the ROI of Your Online Friends

September 5th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

measuring_backI read an article today that quoted Avinash Kaushik, author of the blog Occam’s Razor, who quipped, “Social media is like teen sex.  Everyone wants to do it. No one actually knows how. When finally done, there is surprise it’s not better.”  According to MarketingProfs, slightly more than half (55%) of all businesses are trying to do it, and most (79%) aren’t yet trying to evaluate the ROI of their efforts, with 41% not knowing if it even CAN be done. Having read many articles lately on the topic of evaluating the ROI of social media efforts, I want to distill the information down to a list of metrics that can be used.

One good way of arriving at social media metrics is postulated by Heidi Sullivan of Cision Blog: “There are two basic types of ways to measure your impact on the Web: passive and active.” Furthermore, she attempts to break it down into the five senses: sight (where are you seen), sound (who’s talking about you), scent (do they stick around to “smell what you’re cooking”), taste (can they taste what you’re offering through search engines) and touch (are they taking the next step to touch others with your information).

Going back to the passive vs. active concept, here are metrics she suggests as well as from other sources (numbers refer to sources at bottom):


  • Number of unique visitors to your blog.1
  • Monthly site views aka page views.1 – Definition: Request to load a single HTML page.  Page views are only important to the degree they play a part in a site’s revenue model. If a site earns much of its revenue from advertising, then page views are important because of their contribution to ad inventory. If a site only earns revenue on sales, then page views are not a key statistic.
  • Number of page views per visit.6 – Try landing people on an engaging page that funnels them through a messaging sequence that builds your brand and escalates sales. Measure the results and optimize the path that gets people to the end of the sequence. Also, measure the lift in total page views of your site’s high-value product pages.
  • Monthly unique sessions.1 – Definition: In tabulating statistics for Web site usage, a user session (sometime referred to as a visit) is the presence of a user with a specific IP  address who has not visited the site recently (typically, anytime within the past 30 minutes). The number of user sessions per day is one measure of how much traffic a Web site has. A user who visits a site at noon and then again at 3:30 pm would count as two user visits.
  • Number of return visits.6
  • Search trends.7


  • Number of influencers (track who they are for targeting) that share your content through inbound links, citations, tweets, viral videos or other forwarding of information that result in transactions.1,4,6 – put a call to action in your campaign that will lift this metric.
  • Number of company/brand mentions in blogs, on Facebook, MySpace or Twitter, as gauged by a social media monitoring solution, especially when supplemented with sophisticated sentiment analysis that discerns positive brand mentions from the negative. 1,7
  • Number of people clicking on your images, watching your videos, using your widgets, and spending significant amounts of time on your site.1 – by tagging videos and applications, companies can track each occurrence of sharing and estimates frequency of exposure to particular media.6
  • Number of and which keywords/other sites referring visitors to your content.1
  • How much money social media has saved or created for your brand: How many issues that you solved, questions that you answered, leads that you created, products that you sold, call volume that you decreased, etc., through social media engagement versus traditional resources.2
  • Time spent across an entire campaign.3
  • Click rate [on an ad].3 – not the best metric to use.  People can accidentally click and then drop off, or they can click and see it’s not for them and drop off.
  • Interaction rates [with an ad].3 – may be influenced by the creative and not a true representation of their interest.
  • Conversion rates – doesn’t take into account return conversions or other offline results, e.g. visit to a store for further research.
  • Time spent throughout cross channel engagement with the brand – forecast the number of touches a customer can have with a brand and the resultant amount of time spent with the brand, e.g. total number of exposures, visits you’ll drive to the site, increase in total mentions that can be measured with social media monitoring tools.3
    • Once you understand the total touches, you can either measure directly or assume through general patterns what the time spent is across each of these vehicles, and then create a cumulative time spent for the campaign. When you break down the individual media vehicles, time spent is actually quite easy to report on.3
  • Lifetime value of customers based on their purchasing activity, which could be higher depending on their level of social media influence, e.g. if a customer is worth $9 dollars alone, but that person has 500 Facebook friends, and is able to drive even 1% of them (5) to make a purchase, that individual’s value could be as high as $54 dollars.4
  • Number of people who you capture data from – Eyeblaster has found that the ability to capture data within a banner is nearly eight times more effective at addressing conversions than click-through rates (CTR), revealing that consumers are more likely to fill in a banner than click on it.5
  • Number of people who opt into your e-newsletter/email updates (e-newsletter metrics to be discussed under separate, future posting).6
  • Number of people who download materials from your site.6
  • Number of phone calls you receive and source.6
  • Number of people that share comments and opinions.6
  • The impact individuals exert on wider audiences – a combination of data obtained from buzz-tracking with data from surveying (see below), to determine the probability of viewing buzz by taking into account the volume of relevant posts and amount of time spent by panelists on a website.7

And there are also metrics that can only be obtained via surveying, which is what the company work with, C.A. Walker, does:

  • Awareness.
  • Interest.
  • Desire.
  • Lifts in brand awareness and attitudes attributable to a social media campaign.
  • Various actions taken throughout engagement with the brand.
  • Usage – may be of a particular website or of a product.
  • Consideration – may also be inferred from measuring the things that drive people into your (or your client’s) stores.  Actions like store locator queries and rep searches should always be measured and are clear indicators that a future purchase may be imminent.6
  • Intent to purchase – may also be inferred from Time spent throughout engagement with the brand. If consumers spend more time than the average, they must be interested in your product or service — and if they are interested, that is a measure of intent.3

If I’ve missed any applicable metrics, please let me know so I can grow this list.


1Cision Blog: Five Senses of Online Measurement

2Mashable: Twitter Brand Best Practices

3MediaPost: Time Spent Is The Right Metric To Measure Engagement

4MediaPost: Marketers Search For Social Media Metric

5Eyeblaster: Conversions Remain Important Metric

6ClickZ: 11 Things to Measure Besides Clicks and Conversions

7MediaPost: Media Metrics: Let’s Get This Party Started


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