Defining Social Metrics

Written on January 14, 2008 – 3:30 pm | by Tim Nash |

I read a nice little post by Brent Csutoras I had been pointed towards it by Brian who is quoted within. I have been preparing a post on Mixx since before Christmas for Collective Thoughts so was keen to see another perspective, I was pleasantly surprised but also a little concerned.

Sheer Volume of worthless traffic is still worthless

How you define worthless of course is the key. The argument put forward by Brent is that Mixx simply doesn’t have a critical mass (or activity) to produce enough traffic to make it worth while for marketers. He quotes some stats that are pretty close to mine in terms of sheer visitor numbers to his site and their he stops. The problem is that sheer volume is not a useful metric indeed in many respects rather then being a goal the traffic itself should be considered the cost let me try to explain.

The cost of Volume

Every unique visitor costs a small amount of money, they are taking up bandwidth and resources, the more pages they view the more they cost. A well designed site has a set of “Call to actions” be it to buy a product, subscribe to the RSS feed or comment on the post each of these provide a small ROI how much this return is depends on the action. Even if the return has no financial return it still has a cost implication.
Joe has a blog he has two calls to action 1) advertisement (he wants people to click the links) and 2) Subscribe to RSS
His hosting costs and monthly bandwidth mean each visitor per page costs him approx 1c.
Joe gets 100 visitors – the cost of these visitors is $1 and 1 person clicks an advert he recoups $0.30 Joes total cost is $0.70 if he values RSS subscription at a $0.5 and some two people subscribe then Joe has a ROI of $0.30

Lets say Joe gets to the front page of Digg and has 10k visitors a total cost of $100 he picks up 100 subscribers and 20 people click the ads his total cost is $94 financially and a ROI (including subscribers) -$44

Now I made those numbers up, but the point I want to get across is that everything has a ROI which should be included in any metric. If you sell an Ebook which is it better to have 10 visitors of which 1 buys the book or 10k visitors of which 1 buy the book.

Social media in particular can drive vast amount of traffic with little or no effort but why would you want this traffic what was the point?
Is your lack of goals costing you more then just money?

Every Goal has to be measured to have success

Working out success on pure visitor numbers is like working out your crop size based on locust population. If your site never had any set goals then it can not have any measured success, to measure success you need to first define your goals and how much reward such goals bring.
In my above example I used financial costs and rewards simply because it is the one thing most people understand but a cost and reward can be far more wide ranging. A good example of a non fiscal metric for blogs is Avinash Kaushik 6 methods for measuring blog success if your interested in looking at these on your own blog Joost has written a plugin at Collective Thoughts we have been using it for a while though it will take a few months before its data will be really useful.

Traffic is good, conversions are better

I love stats and I love social media I watch with joy when I see thousands of visitors on my site through the likes of StumbleUpon regardless of any goals so it seems hypocritical to suggest that traffic doesn’t matter but ultimately beyond a childish fascination it does not matter. What matters is if that traffic converted and achieved my goals.

Is Mixx ready for marketers peddling their wares probably not, is it ready for Link Builders hoping to get their stories in front of some of the most forward thinking people in social media quite possibly.

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  1. 13 Responses to “Defining Social Metrics”

  2. By Brent Csutoras on Jan 14, 2008 | Reply

    Good post.

    I would mention that in the post i wrote it identifies that traffic is just used as a metric of tracking since you cannot effectively track links and conversion.

    Traffic is not the best gauge for ROI on social media campaigns. Some people work on a UV requirement, so there are exceptions but what you look for in social media is links.

    Links allow you to rank better overall and be more visible to searchers that are looking for what you provide. It also normally sends you more targeted traffic from the site that linked to you where people may be more likely to convert.

    Conversions are also normally not any better with social media traffic as they are less likely to be in the “buy mode” than a regular user coming from search or a related site.

    Digg stands out to webmasters, bloggers, and journalists, probably in part to the large userbase and traffic they have. People RSS and watch Digg’s front page for the tip off on good content and current news that they can then write about.

    So although traffic is bad overall metric for an ROI, without it… you cannot really get the exposure that results in getting the links.

    I agree with most of your article but think that social media should be viewed as a modern day link building and not so much a way to get converting traffic.


  3. By Tim Nash on Jan 14, 2008 | Reply

    What your goal is totally depends on the site, social medium is simply a source.

    I have seen some fantastic marketing campaigns which have been aimed squarely at social media with the goal to get people to subscribe to mailing lists, enter zip submits and even a few successful “Buy campaigns” Its not all about link building except to those who are blinkered into a single way of thinking ­čśë

  4. By Michael Martine on Jan 14, 2008 | Reply

    This is great stuff. If you can bring in the traffic, that’s one thing. If you can convert, that’s another. So yeah, you gotta know why you want that traffic in the first place.

    While not as technical as your scenario, here’s what I went through, recently: StumbleUpon traffic has a very low bounce rate for me compared to many other sources. I have a prominent call to action in the form of the design and in a blog post which was stumbled, linked, and spread around. As a result, I quadrupled my RSS subscribers in a week (the goal was to grow my RSS subscriber base by only half that–I underestimated!). The number is still climbing, albeit now more steadily.

  5. By Gab "SEO ROI" Goldenberg on Jan 15, 2008 | Reply

    It’s late so I’m not digging now, but Ann at SEO Smarty wrote about this recently, suggesting some SMM metrics and asking for more ideas. I’m preparing a followup for release this week or next. Feel free to pester me if you don’t see it.

  6. By Ann Smarty on Jan 15, 2008 | Reply

    Thanks for the mention, Gab.
    And yes, I did write a post about that recently. SMM success can be evaluated in a number of ways: branding, visitors’ engagement (subscriptions), conversions, etc, not everything can be converted into money earned (just think about the long-term value of branding). The main point is to do measuring at all – not just to look at your traffic numbers and become happy about them – but to always try to answer the question if your goal was achieved or not…

  7. By Masked Bandit on Jan 15, 2008 | Reply

    You can’t put all social traffic in one box.

    They say that diggers, for instance, like top ten lists and never click on ads or read comments. Other services send traffic to my sites that get average or above average time-on-site, CTR, CPM, and participation.

    Digg has a definite editorial voice — if it drives you nuts that Ron Paul has 15x as many friends as Mike Huckabee, Digg isn’t for you.

    I think the future of social media will be a proliferation of sites that appeal to different kinds of people with different characteristics. Few will get as big as Digg, but so what?

    As for Mixx, it’s a pretty strange scene. You can get 40 or so page views for something that gets Digged once — on Mixx you can get something voted up 20 times and still get only 5 page views.

  8. By Mhairi on Jan 15, 2008 | Reply

    Whether traditional or new media, it has always been a challenge to accurately pin pont the effect and ROI of marketing efforts but that is not a reason to avoid trying to measure it entirely. You’re right – a corporate site with lots of traffic but no resulting conversions is not an effective marketing tool.

  9. By Tim Nash on Jan 15, 2008 | Reply

    @masked bandit – I don’t think anybody was pidgeon holing social media traffic we all know Digg has a different user base from lets say Reddit but that doesn’t change the fact that you nee some sort of ROI.

    @Mhairi – ROI doesn’t have to be a financial nor is it just limited to a corporate world, even those with personal blogs using social media are looking for some sort of return be it from advert clicks to comments and feedback they all provide a response.

  10. By Guy Rosen on Jan 19, 2008 | Reply

    Tim, a well thought-out analysis! If I understand you correctly, you’re advocating to people to focus on CPA. That has always been good practice for seeing if you are measuring up to your marketing goals.

    How do you think social media metrics should differ from the CPM/CPC/CPA models used in traditional (web) advertising?

  11. By jd on Jan 21, 2008 | Reply

    Great analysis! But i have a question, the social medium is the best way to make money?

  12. By Tim Nash on Jan 21, 2008 | Reply

    @Guy Many of the terms and way of thinking people use in traditional online advertising can be applied to Social Media and social media marketers could learn a lot about from the analytical side of PPC marketing. For example I’m a strong advocate of split testing with social media linkbait. But its important to remember that while I used a financial metric not everyone who submits their content to social media sites are out to make money from them and its up to the individual to define their own goals.

    @jd What do you think? People do make money using social media sites, but people make money selling Ebooks to! Now I certainly wouldn’t advocate the latter to most people.

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