Social media platform strategies must be a little more than producing a few “likes” on product pages and attracting a bunch of retweets. You need to know the true value behind your organization’s activity in the social media sphere, and have data that really means something for your brand health and ROI. 

Social Media Convergence in Boston

Google knows this. It jumped into the fray last year with its social media analytics capabilities into Google Analytics by offering organizations the ability to measure the full value of traffic coming from social sites, how they lead to direct conversions or assist in future conversions, and the social activities happening both on and off company sites which help them optimize user engagement and increase social key performance indicators (KPIs).

This is just the kind of fodder we expect to hear as we close out the rest of the week starting today at the Social Media & Web Analytics Innovation conference in Boston put on by the Innovation Enterprise. No irony intended here, but we’ll be tweeting from @cmswire #SMWA while at the conference as key industry players deliver hot tips and strategies.   

Who’s Here?

Well, us, of course.

But there’s a pretty dynamic group of speakers here in Boston as well -- Google, Sony Music, Yahoo!, AOL, Dell, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and UHaul, among others. We caught up with one of those speakers prior to the event, Toni Jones, director of social media for UHaul International. Jones runs sites for the moving and storage company such as its blog, Moving Insider, and its Facebook page; the latter’s got 7,561 likes after we liked it Tuesday night.    

What should organizations be measuring when it comes to social media? That depends -- on your company’s social media goals.

“At minimum when it comes to web analytics,” Jones tells us, “they should be looking at referral traffic, page views and conversions from social media. Although that data alone does not help you, because social media is different than web traffic driven by search. This information really only becomes useful social media referrals are tied to post goals and campaigns.”

So next time you're showing the board those nice social media analytics, put a little something behind them -- actionable items that relate back to company strategies. 

Getting to Know Your Data

Jones led a team whose social media initiatives, including content development, customer support, marketing and analytics, helped quadruple social media referral traffic to UHaul’s website in less than a year. Its social media campaigns are also producing tangible results for its brand, and sometimes that means just sitting back and taking praise:

How did they grow so fast?

They put a “method to our madness," Jones says. They organized content calendars based on goals. “Through tracking links and site goals metrics,” Jones adds, “we are able to track our referrals and measure the success of each post and campaign.” 

Learning Opportunities

Jones encourages social media strategists and analysts at organizations to take the time to learn what their data means, where it came from and how it relates to their team’s social media efforts.  

"Don't rely on canned reports and ‘insights’ alone to measure your success,” Jones says. “I mean, you wouldn't expect your cell phone to provide reports on the success of your phone conversation, would you? Social media is the same. While some data can be measured the entire social experience cannot be measured through web analytics.”

Attachment to Numbers = Not Good

One industry analysts agrees with that: too many organizations are getting buried in numbers without much value to show for it.

Andrea Goldberg, president of Digital Culture Consulting, says sometimes businesses get lost in the quantitative analysis and don’t focus on the qualitative side.

“At some point you’ve got to go back to people and ask them,” Goldberg says. “Don’t get too in love with web analytics. Do a gut-check and find out what’s behind the data.

Just because you’ve got access to all these numbers doesn’t mean it’s insightful. Do not just touch on a data point and make a business decision. A multi-faceted approach is always the best approach.”  

More to Come at #SMWA

Except to hear more about this topic and others as we tweet and blog about the insights gained. Stay tuned!