Measuring the results of social media marketing efforts has been challenging to say the least.

Five or six years ago, when I was helping start-ups put blogging campaigns together to kindle the development of user communities, I didn’t really have a clear idea how to measure ROI. About the only things we measured were visits and sales … which wasn’t too bad, but was only a very small part of the story. And based on our unsophisticated set-up (plus lack of Google Analytics) we really had no clue what the connection between visits and sales exactly was.

Today there are plenty of other ways to measure social media marketing results. Here are just a few, starting with quantitative measures:

  1. YouTube views & subscribers
    If you’re doing anything on YouTube, the obvious measures are:

    1. How many times your videos have been viewed
    2. How many people have subscribed to your channel (you did create a channel, right?)

    A less obvious measure is the number of comments on your videos. While you’re checking that, be sure to get a sense of the overall tenor of the comments: are they positive, negative, or lukewarm?

  2. Del.icio.us bookmarks of your page
    If you’re creating valuable content – and you’re sharing it properly with the world, and have sprinkled some magic pixie dust on it – you’re going to get some attention. A good measure of how valuable the content is is whether people care enough about it to bookmark it and share it on Delicious or other social bookmarking sites. If the answer is zero … reconsider your content, approach, or both.

  3. Number of references on Digg
    Along the same lines as Delicious … if people care about your content, they’ll save it and promote it on Digg, StumbleUpon, and other similar sites.

  4. Search engine rank
    This is probably the most obvious ranking measure, period, and it correlates strongly with your ability to do something interesting enough and remarkable enough for people to actually want to link to it. But it’s not just the obvious search on your name … while you’re checking your search engine rank, you want to look at …

    1. Name – how you rank for your company name and brand names
    2. Good keywords – how you rank for keywords that you think people will use to find services like yours … for example … hawaii flights for Hawaiian Airlines
    3. Bad keywords – how you rank for bad keywords, ones you don’t want to be associated with your company … such as worst airline ever, or lemon, if you’re a car manufacturer
  5. Website metrics
    Is traffic to your website going up? And/or, are you getting higher quality traffic that stays longer, looks at more, and converts better? You can use Google Analytics for free, or other stats packages. Some of the metrics you want to be tracking are:

    1. Unique visits
    2. Return visits
    3. Frequency of visits per user
    4. Time spent on site
    5. Number of pages visited per visitor
    6. Leads generated (total, and per visitor)
    7. Sales (total, and per visitor)
      Note: if you’re not actually selling something, substitute whatever it is you want users to do … your conversion goals … for “sales.”
  6. RSS subscribers
    How many people think your material is good enough to want more, on a regular basis. These people will subscribe to your RSS feed, or your email list to be updated when a new post comes out. Note: Feedburner is a good service for this.

  7. Engagement
    When you post on your blog, or on whatever service you use, how many comments are you getting?

  8. Followers on Twitter
    You are on Twitter, right? Does anybody care? Find out by starting to track:

    1. Number of RTs – how many are re-tweeting your posts?
    2. Number of DMs – how many are interested enough to direct message you?
    3. Followers – as mentioned above, how many followers you have
  9. Facebook, MySpace, FriendFeed, etc.
    How many people have friended you on social networks? If you’ve started groups, how many people have joined? Of the people that have friended you or joined your group, how many are actively engaged – listening and talking?

More qualitative ….
That’s a fairly quantitative list, but there are some qualitative questions to ask as well.

  • Are we seen as experts in our industry?
  • Do we get mentioned/cited when people are talking about our industry?
  • What is the quality of interaction we’re seeing in all the above places?

In the final analysis …
… there is no final analysis. Social media marketing, is, after all, marketing. As such, there is very rarely a one-to-one correlation between input and output.

The reality, however, is that your ability to connect with clients depends on your online footprint, and the quality of your online presence. Are you findable online? Are you where your clients are, online? And if they search for you, do you have both a big enough and targeted enough Google footprint that they can easily find you?

Your online success, and increasingly your business success, relies on the answers to those questions.