Measuring Social Engagement: 3 Ways To Identify High Value Content

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Today’s internet users are bombarded with content.  As a result, they are tuning out the noise and raising the bar on the content they choose to pay attention to.

For social media marketers, this means that it is more important than ever to understand what content will resonate with target groups and which will fall flat.   Without good ways to identify the content preferences of target groups,  the only option is to throw marketing mud against the wall and hope that it sticks — an approach that is costly, more likely to fail, and may damage the credibility of budding social media programs in the eyes of senior management.

Measuring the social engagement elicited by different types of content can help social media marketers pinpoint what is effective — and what isn’t worth precious time and budget.  Here are three ways to do it:

1.) Track Cross-Channel Social Interactions

Some social sites, like Facebook, provide engagement data for each content item posted. This is important information because it helps you determine what content works best within the closed walls of a specific site or community.  But how can you determine which content works best overall, across the multiple social channels in your mix?

First, develop a system for keeping track of content.  You may already have this if you are using a social media management tool (some provide a content ID number), but an Excel spreadsheet will also work.  At a minimum, your spreadsheet should include an ID number for each content item.  You can also include additional data, such as date released, post title, and content type (link, photo, video, blog post, etc.).

Next, create a rubric.  A total count of engagement actions (sharing, commenting , liking, etc.) may be enough for your purposes, but if you want to distinguish between different types of engagement, you’ll need to create a rubric for organizing metrics into consistent categories.  For example, metrics like Facebook comments, Blog comments, and Twitter @replies can be grouped into a category called “communications”.   Metrics that represent different types of sharing activities can be grouped into a “distributions” category.  You can come up with your own categories and assign metrics in way that makes sense for you.

Your spreadsheet will look something like this:

This DIY method of tracking engagement takes time and elbow grease (so you may want to limit the analysis to a specific time frame), but it can go a long way toward helping you determine which content topics and formats to focus on.

One word of caution:  This will work best if the content you are using is highly targeted to the audience you are trying to reach.  If it isn’t, engagement levels may not be a good indicator of what your audience wants.  For example, a funny picture posted to your Facebook page might be widely shared by people who are not interested in your product or services.   Consequently, high engagement numbers for this post would not necessarily indicate that this type of content works well with your targeted groups.

If you question whether engagement is occurring among the right people, web analytics data can provide important clues…

2.) Analyze Traffic And Site Behavior of Visitors To Shared Pages

If engagement and sharing in social channels drive traffic and high levels of interaction with your website, it’s a good sign that the right folks are engaging.

True, not all of the content you share in social communities links back to a page on your site, but if it does, measuring traffic to — and interaction with — shared pages can yield valuable insights into which content is worthwhile.

The new Google Analytics Social Reports makes this much easier by providing data on traffic to shared pages, visit duration, and even the number of times the page was interacted with out in the social world (“Data Hub Activities”):

Two important notes about the new social reports: First, Facebook and Twitter are not included in the Data Hubs tracked by GA, so for many social media marketers, the total number of interactions, or Data Hub activities shown will be under-reported.

Second, don’t focus solely on traffic to shared pages.  Even if traffic numbers to shared pages seems low, remember that quality can trump quantity in the ROI equation.  One well-qualified visitor who is eager to consume your content is worth far more than ten unqualified visitors who leave the site immediately.

Bottom line: content that leads to deeper engagement within the site is successful content, so pay attention to visit duration and pages visited.  (You may also want to set up Advanced Segments in GA to further analyze the behavior patterns of visitors to shared pages.)

3.) Calculate Interactions Per Referred Visit

So far, we have looked at two ways to judge content performance:  engagement activity in social channels and website activity generated by shared content.

These two methods can be combined by calculating “Interactions Per Referred Visit”, a metric that captures social engagement relative to traffic.  Interaction Rate is calculated by dividing total interactions or engagement actions in social channels by visits to the shared page.   You can add this metric to your spreadsheet:

Ultimately, how people respond to your content can’t be fully captured by any single number (or even a set of numbers).  However, as is often the case, analyzing the data is an excellent place to start!

Are you using engagement tracking to identify high value content?  If so, what techniques and tools do you use?


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Nan Dawkins has over 25 years of communications experience touching almost every aspect of marketing, including conventional advertising, public relations, and digital. Her current company, Social Snap, focuses on social media measurement, providing marketers with a powerful social analytics platform that combines data from social channels, web analytics, and social media monitoring tools.

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