social media researchHow much time are you spending on social media? Can you tell if it’s helping sales?

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a framework for measuring the impact of your social media efforts?

That’s where Susan Etlinger’s new research for the Altimeter Group comes into play. Susan did qualitative research with 60 social media marketers and vendors to understand how businesses currently measure their social media performance.

Her goal: to develop a framework for tying social media performance to business goals.

NOTE: Because Susan’s original research targeted enterprise-level companies, I interviewed her to add some small business insights. The following comments combine results of the research and that interview.

Start with your strategic goals

Business owners who see great social media success tie their technology choices to their strategic goals. The following graphic shows the importance of a thoughtful process when designing your social media plan.

measurement framework

Make sure to start with your business goals when choosing your tools and measures.

Etlinger advises all businesses follow this process, but particularly small businesses that have limited resources and less tolerance for missteps.

Spend ample time thinking through your vision of success so you can select the right metrics. This means getting specific about your business objectives and strategies before thinking through social objectives. Then you can organize your staff (or your personal time if you’re a solopreneur) around those metrics. Only then are you ready to select the best technologies (including which social platforms and measurement tools to use).

Once you’ve established your goals, then you’re ready to consider Altimeter’s Social Media Measurement Compass. The points of this compass identify six major business goals that social media can help influence.

Your challenge: determine your goal and then think deeply about how you will measure whether you’re achieving that goal.

measurement compass

These six categories will help you think through the business objectives of your measurements.

The Six Points of the Compass

#1: Brand Health

Do you know how people are talking about your service, your products or customer experience? Big brands spend lots of money managing their brand image, but small businesses also need to be aware of customers’ perceptions.

How are people talking about your service, products and selections?

Etlinger noted that people have no problem complaining directly to big brands, but might feel more reserved about criticizing a small business owner to his or her face.

Social media monitoring can help you hear what people are telling their friends, but might not be willing to tell you directly.

Beware that you can never hear the whole social media conversation about your brand. There are at least two reasons: 1) Twitter is capturing such large volumes that you can only hear about 5% of the conversation; 2) Privacy settings on Facebook prohibit non-friends from hearing many conversations.

These two factors make it critical to find ways to validate what people are saying. Small business owners may find it challenging to hear critiques, but put on your tough skin and ask some customers (in person and online).

To unveil how social media listening can help you understand your brand health, Etlinger’s research discovered the following themes (in the graphic below) as critical for your social media listening.

Notice the insights to be gained and how to measure your listening results to find these indicators of health. (I will not reproduce each matrix for the following measures, but you can see them in her article here.)

brand health matrix

Allow these questions and thoughts to force you deeper into your measurement practices.

#2: Marketing Optimization

Social media listening can help you fine-tune your marketing efforts to better find your target audience. For many businesses, Google Analytics might be the best tool.

Your goal is to determine what terms people are searching and from what sites they are coming to your site. Some of the things to optimize are campaigns, content, channels, timing and influencers.

It’s important to realize that people share differently on different social channels. While not strictly a social media platform, Yelp provides a good example. People wanting to position themselves as food critics are likely to be far more critical on Yelp than they might be on Twitter or Facebook.

#3: Revenue Generation

This measure may be less relevant if you don’t have an online store; however, all businesses want to know if social media is driving sales.

Generally, social media shouldn’t be expected to directly lead to increased sales. Instead, it can generate leads and conversions. If you think about revenue as a relationship and not just a transaction, as suggested by Richard Binhammer of Dell, then you’ll see that social media can have a tremendous influence on the long-term relationship.

Some important things to understand are the impact of social media on: 1) purchase behavior, 2) search results and 3) customer loyalty.

If you have a physical store, make sure you have tracking systems in place for each channel.

You might try campaigns on Facebook, Twitter and Groupon and see what drives repeat business the best. Groupon is likely to attract deal-seekers who might become new customers, whereas your fans on Facebook and Twitter might find themselves more deeply connected after experiencing one of your “Facebook only” deals.

Test the hypothesis and run your own numbers. Results will vary widely based on your business type and fan base.

#4: Operational Savings

Social media can provide opportunities for hard and soft savings to your business. As customers become brand advocates, your brand reach will extend without significant expenses.

Additionally, social platforms can become far less expensive places for handling customer service. That depends on whether you have someone who can be dedicated to listening to online conversations in real time.

One smart practice is to forge relationships with fans who have strong social media influence. These people can become your advocates and even help with customer service. If they’ve already shown a willingness to speak on your behalf, find ways to feed them information.

#5: Customer Experience

Etlinger’s research discovered a direct correlation between social media and customer experience that translated into improved brand health, increased revenue and cost savings.

An example not cited in the report comes from Kraft Foods. The social media listening team discovered a trend on words like “cut,” “blood” and “salad dressing.” Those aren’t words you want associated with food, so the team dug deeper to discover that customers were cutting themselves when opening a newly designed salad dressing bottle.

The problem was easily solved, but wouldn’t have been discovered without social media. The injuries weren’t serious enough to require emergency room treatment. It was merely an inconvenience, so customers didn’t call the 1-800 number. Instead they told their friends on social media and forgot about it. Because you don’t usually buy salad dressing very often, this problem could’ve gone undetected for months.

#6: Innovation

As highlighted by Etlinger, Starbucks and Proctor & Gamble have found ways to crowdsource ideas through their innovative sites and Not everyone can resource their own social media innovation site, but all businesses can find ways to listen to their customers for insights into product and service improvements.

For example, Twitter can give you insights into what people want. Follow statements such as, “I like,” “I wish” or “I hate.” If you heard, “I wish Charlie’s hadn’t discontinued the chicken cordon bleu,” you would have some great intelligence.

Alternatively, you could even start a conversation on Facebook asking your customers for ideas on new products, services or promotions. Maybe you could even host an “Idea Wednesday” where you spend an hour on your Facebook page looking for creative ideas.

Finding the Right Tools

There are many measurement tools available, and quite a few are free or very inexpensive. In addition to Google Analytics, here are some worth checking out:

Simply Measured has created two tools that work well together.

  • helps you analyze your Facebook fan page, Twitter audience and more through downloading customizable Excel spreadsheets.

With, you can export data from Twitter, Facebook and email into an Excel spreadsheet or CSV file.

  • RowFeeder is an inexpensive way to monitor what people are saying about your brand.

With RowFeeder, you can track your brand name; Twitter handle; the hashtag for a specific campaign, event or promotion; or general topics of interest.

If you want to figure out how often your tweets are being shared and by whom, check out TweetReach.


TweetReach analyzes the tweets that match your search.

Edelman has developed two tools called TweetLevel and BlogLevel that measure the level of influence, popularity, engagement and trust on your Twitter account and blog. These can be good indicators of the health of your social media efforts. Edelman also provides helpful tips on how to improve in each of these areas.


You can use TweetLevel to find "important" people within a specific context and start conversations with them.



BlogLevel is a purpose-built tool for PR and marketing to help ensure brands use blogs effectively.

To Learn More

Susan Etlinger has shared more detailed information about the report in the following webinar created for CoreMetrics.

Key takeaways:

  1. Tie your measurement program to key business objectives.
  2. Understand the key terms to follow for your business.
  3. Find tools that will give you the results you seek without breaking your budget.
  4. Understand that revenue is not a transaction, but a relationship. Treat your customers like people and understand how your online actions are affecting those relationships.
  5. Find ways to get your customers involved through customer service, brand advocacy and idea generation.

What are your thoughts? How do you measure your social media efforts? How do these ideas help you align your business goals with your social measures? Leave your comments and questions in the box below.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Get Social Media Examiner’s Future Articles in Your Inbox!

Join 480,000+ of your peers! Get our latest articles delivered to your email inbox and get the FREE Social Media Marketing Industry Report (56 pages, 90 charts)!

More info...
  • It’s all too easy to forget why we are using Social Media Marketing. Never forget about the end user, the customer, they’re real people. Remind them that you are too!

  • It’s all too easy to forget why we are using Social Media Marketing. Never forget about the end user, the customer, they’re real people. Remind them that you are too!

  • Ray

    Tweetlevel looks kind of interesting. It’s hard to keep up with all of these tweeter tracker and social media things. I mostly hear about klout talked about a lot. Good to know there are plenty more of them. But, keeping up with them all is another story.

  • Ray

    Tweetlevel looks kind of interesting. It’s hard to keep up with all of these tweeter tracker and social media things. I mostly hear about klout talked about a lot. Good to know there are plenty more of them. But, keeping up with them all is another story.

  • PhilMershon

    I agree, Ben. Social media is after all “social.” Real people connecting with real people. The larger you get, the easier to forget that. Measurement can easily lead you to be disconnected from that, but its still quite important. 

  • PhilMershon

    That’s true, Ray. That’s why it’s important to ask yourself what you need to keep track of and find the best tool(s) to help with that. Thanks for responding.

  • PhilMershon

    That’s true, Ray. That’s why it’s important to ask yourself what you need to keep track of and find the best tool(s) to help with that. Thanks for responding.

  • The first questions I ask my clients are, “What do you do best?” and “What are your business goals?”. The rest flows from the answers to these basic questions. Great article!

  • The first questions I ask my clients are, “What do you do best?” and “What are your business goals?”. The rest flows from the answers to these basic questions. Great article!

  • PhilMershon

    Thanks, Mike. Those are great first questions.

  • PhilMershon

    Thanks, Mike. Those are great first questions.

  • Susan Etlinger

    Thanks, Mike!  That’s the absolute best way to ensure that you stay on track. Thanks for reading!

  • Susan Etlinger

    It is really hard to keep up, and it’s my job, so I feel your pain. At the same time, there are a few great and inexpensive tools out there, so if you have some tolerance to experiment, it will definitely be worth your while–at least from a learning POV.

  • A good read for CEO of organisations and for B2B brands embracing social media. Its all about ROI for most and using the above mentioned ways goes along way in achieving the laid down goals, “It is the business in the technology that keeps the technology in business”. – Asoto Adeola

  • PhilMershon

    Thanks for the reply! Good point!

  • Diane Updyke

    We’ve seen many customers look at the above steps as a journey — they start by tracking their current social traffic; then add social outreach to their current campaigns; review and optimize for better conversions. It doesn’t have to be daunting — it can start with free tools or trials or use a platform to measure across channels. The best received metrics we’ve seen from our customers are Social Reach, Social Lift, and Conversions.

  • PhilMershon

    That’s good feedback. I know this article could make it sound like you have to get it all figured out before you start, but it’s also good to take “baby steps”, like you’ve mentioned. Thanks for reading!

  • I am sorry guys, but first, this post rather looks like a paid promotion for the tools you are describing. Second, this impression gets even more strong when you see that none of the tools is really useful (at least in the free version). Ok, anyway. We got so much free stuff from you before. Maybe we shouldn’t complain. But anyway this tastes a little bitter…

  • excellent article and tools and will use this for my social media class at NYU tomorrow.  However,I have found that the measurement breakthrough will come when you integrate social media with digital and even TV into a comprehensive picture of how people are engaging with your brand.  Here is an example

  • dannyrohrdanz

    Great read. It always goes back to the same thing… The ROI of Social Media depends on what your overall business objectives (not just social) are. 

  • Very useful road map for social web marketing. The successful deployment of various tactics always needs to start with sound strategy, even if it is not fleshed out in its last detail but fine tuned based on results gained from early trial and error. One key question to be asked even before the what you want to do is WHY? Without an answer to that fundamental question social initiatives often fail to produce expected results.

  • This is a useful article for social and web marketing. I still am seeing this disconnect in every single article about tools to measure ROI though. It seems that it is a long drawn out process that gives you a really good GUESS on your ROI and you have to test and measure constantly. 
    My company tracks in store customers from the actual Facebook business page to the in store purchase. Better yet with one of our strategic partnerships we can track from a click on a banner ad all the way to the in store purchase. Identified by the EXACT individual. Then viewing our new analytics section you can see all of this information on the demographics, the ROI and use that to target more directly on the web and social spaces. It is all fraudproof, real time redemption and trackable.
    I am not trying to sell here. I am just saying there are tools out there that can pin-point these social media ROI’s in a more useful manner.Side note: REVENUE = REVENUE and RELATIONSHIP = RELATIONSHIP and there maybe some value placed on each ‘Like’ but when you get down to the end all be all result is has to equal more money in your pockets at the end of the day.

  • PhilMershon

    I can assure you that this was not paid for in any sense and I’m sorry if it comes across that way. I freely chose the research to review and interviewed Susan Etlinger out of my desire to bring valuable insights to our readers. The focus of this article is on the framework for selecting tools. The recommended tools were merely ones that Susan Etlinger suggested from her research.

    I hope that helps clarify and thanks for being a reader!

  • PhilMershon

    Thanks, Joel. The point is well taken that social must be measured in its broader marketing context. The goal of this article, however, was to look specifically at social media measurement.

  • PhilMershon

    Thanks, Danny!

  • PhilMershon

    And I would say the WHY question should be followed up with several more WHYs until you drill down to your real reasons (the 5 Why method). This forces disciplined thinking about what you’re doing.

  • PhilMershon

    Thanks, Erica. As this was a research article, the goal was to unpack the 6 types of measurement that businesses should consider. The original article has more detailed evaluations of tools. My goal was not to provide the perfect tools as it would be easy to latch onto the tool without thinking carefully about the goals.

    Glad to hear what tools you have found to be helpful.

  • my point is that you will reach the wrong conclusions if you restrict your scope in that way and the data I have looked at confirms this possibility

  • Hi Phil – 

    Thanks. I can appreciate there are multiple aspects to unfold the mystery of ROI but my point was there are more exact ways to measure. A lot of these tools are kind of leading me down a long path to have me draw my own conclusion in the end, which any CFO would not be happy to hear. 🙂

    I hope to read more from you soon. The events side of social media I try to follow regularly. 

  • thanks phil

    youve outlined some great examples and some of the resources at the end will keep me up that little bit longer tonight.

    ill see how i can take some of these points and apply them to SME’s

    dEx @gossipism:twitter

  • Best take away for me!

    “Additionally, social platforms can become far less expensive places for handling customer service. That depends on whether you have someone who can be dedicated to listening to online conversations in real time.”

    Thank you!


  • PhilMershon

    Thanks, Erica. I can appreciate the need for more exacting measurements. I think the industry is reaching a level of maturity where that can be increasingly found (without having to create it internally). 


  • PhilMershon

    thanks Dexter. Enjoy your research! 🙂

  • PhilMershon

    I would add something Scott Gulbransen from H&R Block said yesterday at Facebook Success Summit 2011. He mentioned how Applebees was able to reduce their investment in focus groups because now they have an active fan base where they were able to get 45,000 responses to a question that helped shape their advertising and get new fans.

  • Yes, Now that is something I would LOVE to read an article on. 

    CoupSmart makes a point to keep up to date with others in this field tracking like we do and we can’t find them. Come out, come out wherever you are 😉 (Chuckle) 

  • This is a great article, thanks Phil!

  • Al-Zuraiqi

    I’d like to say it’s really great artical, and no words to describe. Thanks Phil.

  • Thien Hung Tran

    This is one of the greatest articles I think. Social Media is quite a new term for Vietnamese marketers and Vietnam market hence  this brings me great chance to explore further. Thanks Phil!

  • nicola stockmann-tannerfors

    Would have loved to have been able to +1 this article. 😉

  • Pingback: Recommended Reading – 10.20.11()

  • PhilMershon

    Thanks, April!

  • PhilMershon

    Thank you!

  • PhilMershon

    Thank you. Glad to see social media is taking off in Vietnam. Certainly encourage you to read many of the great articles on this site. The Getting Started section is a good reference when you talk to beginners.

  • PhilMershon

    You can! On the Wibiya bar at the bottom there is a +1 button.

  • Well done Phil. The idea that clients can become brand advocates at little or no cost to the business certainly generates huge savings, and allows your brand marketing budget to go so much farther.

  • Good post. Only thing is, I’m not so sure that we should call Google Analytics a “social media listening” tool. It doesn’t actually help anyone listen to actual conversations. However, that’s a minor detail and Google Analytics is still an amazing tool. 

    I’m glad you put the most important takeaway first “Tie your measurement programs to key business objectives”.. However, this is easier said than done, especially if you are using a social media monitoring tool (you have to do all the impact correlation yourself). 
    Social media business intelligence tools will replace social media monitoring tools because not only do they help companies listen to their customers, but they can also correlate all the data back to those key business metrics. This is what’s currently lacking in the 200+ social monitoring tools on the market. 

    Thanks for the post!

    – Sergei Dolukhanov
    @sdolukhanov:twitter  (twitter)
    Director of Marketing for EvoApp

  • dasji

    Realy a great help to know how much impact social media create for a business it is really an eye opener for me.

  • Goitom bachaa

    i want to your website but we have organization channels is  block pleas send to your web site use or send hacker web .

  • Ellen Violette

    I”ve been measure sales by using different affiliate links for each social media site and then comparing them to my list and I find that the best way to use social media is for leads, get them onto your list and then sell to them. Direct sales from social media have not worked anywhere near as well for me.

  • P3ConsultingLLC

    Phil, after reading your article which was very good, I would love to know what your thoughts about the use of twitter in the following situation:

    I have a client that wants to jump into social marketing.  While I know there are business as well as strategic considerations that should be discussed before moving forward, I would like you to comment based on the organization and its work if you think twitter makes any sense.

    Ok, it is a program which is tied to a local office of homeland security.  They train local residents to be available to support the community in the case of an emergency.  I believe there a limited resources as well as limited information that would need to be shared unless it was a time of emergency.  I am struggling as I am not an expert on social marketing yet, if there will be value if you are not tweeting regularly (not enough to say or someone to say it).  What are your thoughts?

  • Pingback: Saturday JAM Session (10/22) | James Attorney Marketing()

  • I have given this lots of thought in the last few weeks, as I had to present on Social Media Moniyoring tools in New York this week ( Although you talk about GA for part of the compass, IBM research suggests that ROI is the only element that CMOs care about and expect that to be measurable by 1215. That (to my mind) means that we need to start measuring the whole Social Media quagmire in our Analytics. Even tweets and likes need to get attribution in the sales funnel. If you are not an e commerce site, then the tracking needs to get into your Salesforce or Sage eventually, so that it CAN be attributed to Life Rume Value. I think the key to doing that is technically achievable, but not yet commercially available.

  • Pingback: To Post or Not to Post…That is the Question « Generousmarketing's Weblog()

  • Robert Gilmour

    The one thing this article ignores is the cost of social media. You can’t measure the ‘result’ without measuring the cost. Perhaps worth an article ‘how to measure the COST of your social media activity?

    I was alarmed to read a recent Centre for Media Research survey which concluded that 34% of companies fund their social media activity from their search budgets, and only 38% actually have a separate, identifiable social media budget. If social media is at the expense of e.g. paid search, then no true assessment is complete without taking into account the opportunity lost on paid search as a cost of the social media activity in any finite budget situation.

  • Hi Phil,

    Besides Google Analytics, any other tool for smaller companies?

    I started a blog-directory about Mortgage Calculators in Canada.

  • Hi Mershon! The way that you have explained about measuring the social media results is very interesting. Good informative post.

  • Pingback: Making Blog Content More Shareable | Search Engine People | Toronto()

  • Pingback: 6 Ways to Measure Your Social Media Results - Digital Home InfoDHI1()

  • Pingback: Weekly Roundup of Interesting Articles and Blogsites « Books: Publishing, Reading, Writing()

  • Pingback: Measure Social Media Alberta Website Marketing()

  • Pingback: Selecting the Metrics that Fit With Your Business Goal | Bailey Bounds()

  • Hi! My name is Jeanine Stanislaus, I am studying Social Media Theory & Practice with @dr4ward:twitter  at @NewhouseSU:twitter and I subscribe to this blog. I found this article very interesting. It’s cool to know that businesses new to narrow down their goals and objectives in order to utilize social media at its fullest, very good to know, thank you for the insight! #NewhouseSM4

  • Hi! My name is Jeanine Stanislaus, I am studying Social Media Theory & Practice with @dr4ward:twitter at @NewhouseSU:twitter and I subscribe to this blog. I found this article very interesting.
    It’s cool to know that businesses new to narrow down their goals and
    objectives in order to utilize social media at its fullest, very good to
    know, thank you for the insight! #NewhouseSM4

  • When you said social media monitors only capture about 5% of the conversations on Twitter, did you mean free social media monitoring tools? That would make more sense because a free tool wouldn’t have access to the full Twitter firehose, but a more expensive tool would have far more than 5% access–more closer to 100%.

  • ndawkins

    Many monitoring tools DON’T actually have the firehose and even if your tool has it, that does not mean
    that you as the end-user/subscriber will get even close to 100% of the
    mentions. 2 reasons for this:  1.) Most monitoring companies get access to the firehose through a third party provider, like GNIP or DataSift.  The monitoring company pays the provider for how many records they get, and often you, as the end-user pay the monitoring company based on how many records your searches are bringing back. So…the “pipe” often gets filtered at two levels. This isn’t the case for every monitoring company out there, but if I had to guess I would say it is more than half.  Could be wrong — Nathan Gilliat would be better able to make that guess.  If you are a big company using monitoring tools for crisis aversion, or you have a need to see things building in real time on Twitter, then you probably need as much as you can get from the firehose and can afford both the cost of the data and the time/infrastructure required to analyze it properly.  If not, careful what you wish for.  Hope this helps.

  • ndawkins

    Hi Phil, nice article.  I would just add that while ROI is certainly feasible at the campaign level and for distinct efforts, a completely accurate ROI number for social media OVERALL is tough to get (at least in a smoking-gun proof, “you can’t argue with this” kind of way) and will continue to be even as we gain more experience with attribution tracking and modeling.  Also, I hope you will take a look at our product, Social Snap.  It provides many of the marketing optimization features you mention (top content, campaign performance and ROI, many unique metrics for assessing results in social channels, influencer identification, and web analytics integration). And it is very affordable!

  • Pingback: 5 Simple Metrics to Track Your Social Media Efforts | Jo Shaer Social Media Solutions()

  • Pingback: 5 Simple Metrics to Track Your Social Media Efforts()

  • Pingback: 6 Tips for Your Social Media Campaign « Merchant Cash Advance Industry | Small Business Loans()

  • Pingback: Social Media Trends |

  • Pingback: Measuring Social Media Results | In Context MultiMedia()

  • Pingback: Solving the Social Media ROI Puzzle | she means business()

  • Pingback: Saturday JAM Session (10/22) « James Publishing Attorney Marketing()

  • Pingback: I thought you’d find this interesting… | Wailor's Blog()

  • Pingback: The Use of Social Media for Financial Services Companies()

  • Pingback: The Use of Social Media for Financial Services Companies |

  • Pingback: Friday Top 5 | Spark Consulting()

  • Pingback: The Case for Social Media | Student Journey()

  • Pingback: How to Improve Your Social Media Calls to Action | Social Media Examiner()

  • Pingback: Saturday JAM Session (10/22) - James Attorney Marketing()