- 68% of high school students use social media to research college choices (U.S.News).
- 45% say they have been influenced by a school’s engagement on social media networks (U.S.News).
- 38% say social media was a resource that influenced them on where they enrolled (U.S.News).
Social media is clearly an important factor in college selection, often used to provide an unfiltered look at what college life is like at a particular school. So how do marketers in higher education measure it? What tools do they use?
Here are the top 14 social media metrics and the tools to track them.
- Keywords: Smart keywords choices and placement on social networks give your brand a better chance of being found. Consumers who are exposed to a brand on social media are 180% more likely to search for that brand on search engines, according to a Group M study. Google Trends and the Google Keyword Planner are two tools to use; the former identifies keywords that people are searching with increasing search interest and the latter provides their monthly keyword volume.
- Inbound links: Social media links from blogs and social posts are another primary means of raising social and search presence. Track the number of links pointing to your website and/or blog, and examine the source of new links. Open Site Explorer from Moz and bit.ly are great inbound tracking services—and they’re also free.
- SERP (search engine results page): Social network pages are webpages too. If search interest is increasing, social networks show up in search results, doubling or tripling your chances of being found. The more entries there are the better, especially in high-ranking positions. What’s My SERP has a SERP Checker that’s easy to use. Tracking SERP is an important way to see progress.
- Reach: Reach is the potential audience for a message based on total follower count (Twitter, Pinterest, and LinkedIn followers; total “likes” on your Facebook page; etc.). If your Pinterest boards have 1,000 followers, then each of your pins could potentially reach 1,000 people. Facebook considers a post as having reached someone when it’s shown in that person’s News Feed. Through Facebook Insights, Facebook provides “total reach,” which includes the number of unique people who saw any activity from a page, as well as paid vs. organic reach.
- Engagement: Actions such as like, share, comment, Retweet, and favorite measure how much and how often others interact with you and your content in social media. Radian6 and SimplyMeasured are tools that show the percentage of people reached who engage with your content, how they respond, and the differences by social network.
- Share of voice: Reach and engagement are important to know not only about your brand but your competitors. Quite often, a smaller brand with less reach can distinguish itself by displaying a higher level of engagement to the benefit of their business.
- Sentiment: A “Sentiment Analysis” tells you if the people who comment are saying positive, negative, or neutral things. It’s done by computer for each social network and expressed as a ratio of positive/negative. The “Sentiment Analysis” also provides direction for your communications strategy. Social-Searcher has excellent social analytics, including “Sentiment Analysis” anyone can use.
- Cost per click (CPC): If you’re paying for ads, the measurement that makes them equivalent is cost per click (CPC). It helps to have a value in mind. CPC also lets you know what others are willing to pay. CPC helps determine what the cost of a conversion is and the return on investment (ROI).
- Click-through rate (CTR): The relevance of your ad is determined by its click-through rate, i.e., the number of clicks divided by impression or screens it is seen on each time the ad is served. An ad buy on any social network shows the CPC as well as CTR.
- Visits/unique visitors: According to Shareaholic, Facebook now drives 23% of referral traffic to any given website. It’s important to know just how much traffic is coming to your website from people who have gotten to know you on social networks. This is easy to see from Google Analytics, perhaps the best social media measurement tool of them all. Use Google Analytics to measure the remaining top metrics (#11–#14) on this list.
- Bounce rate: The percentage of people who go to your website, view one page, and leave is the bounce rate. It’s considered one of the best metrics to gauge a website’s relevance. It’s a key metric to know in general and to compare to the bounce rate of those who come from social networks.
- Traffic sources: The percent of people who come to your website from social networks can be easily found in Google Analytics. People like to do business with people they know. Traffic sources are a primary indicator if social media efforts are succeeding in sending people to your website.
- Key content: Once consumers are on your website, you’ll want to know where they go. Look at key content to find out their areas of interest and to get ideas for what content to share on social networks.
- Conversions: The metric that has the highest business value and relates most directly to ROI is conversions. This is defined as the desired outcome (buy, download, view, subscribe, etc.) divided by the number of visits. Because conversions are so important, you may want to track more than one kind. The one that is closest to direct revenue is the macro conversion; others that lead to macro conversions are called micro conversions. Together, they define buying behaviors for your brand.
Did this article show you what metrics matter in social media and how to measure them? Does your institution need a measurement strategy and plan to help manage social media success? Let us know—we’re a higher ed marketing agency, and we’d love to hear about it.
Follow Rob on Twitter: @robpetersen