Some ideas on measuring social network impact

Everyone is talking about the value of online social networks for business, but how on earth do you measure how well it’s working? Gary Stein has just written a terrific piece for the Clickz Network outlining three ways you can, as he describes it, measure the value of friends. Those ways are:

Volume: Perceived Value of Your Page – the number of friends generated and the rate at which they have joined up. As Stein writes, “Part of the value that each friend gives you is not only the actual connection, but — because the connection is made public (that is, the number of friends you’ve made is put right on your page for all to see) — that connection also communicates to other visitors. It’s the difference of walking by an empty café versus walking by a café with a line out the door.”

Conversion: Take up of Your Offers – The key thing, Stein writes, is to keep track of how well your unique content or offers is taken up. “Have a very clear single call to action on the page and make sure it is communicated via e-mails, alerts, or RSS feeds.”

Advocates: The Best of the Best Friends – 10% of your traffic will only visit once or twice, while your top 10% will come back constantly. “The key task is to be able to isolate this top group and have a plan for bringing them more closely into a relationship. A big part of the reason you’ll be on a social network is to have your messages passed along by others. The top 10 percent are probably your best chance of catalyzing that spread.”

Stein predicts that next wave of analytics will be centred around social networks, with measurement tools similar to those produced by the search engines. In the meantime, companies could do much worse than following Stein’s advice and work on maximising activities that boost those three measures.