The Coming Renaissance of Social Network Analytics

Yelp analytics.

For small business owners (or those single entrepreneurs trying to sell a product), a golden age of do-it-yourself analytics could be upon us, at least when it comes to social-media presence: Yelp recent launched a “Revenue Estimate” tool that lets business owners track revenue from Yelp customers, weeks after Pinterest offered up a Web analytics dashboard that allows users to see how others interact with their content.

In a post on Yelp’s official blog, Matt Halprin, the company’s vice president of revenue and analytics, wrote that the new tool would help retailers in two ways. “First, it helps quantify the revenue opportunity Yelp is already sending to each business,” he wrote. “Second, it establishes a revenue baseline for prospective advertisers, from which they can later evaluate the impact of their investment in Yelp Ads.”

Twitter, Facebook and Google already boast their own analytics dashboards tailored to their particular platforms: with Facebook, for example, a built-in control panel displays engagement metrics for business-related Pages. Google Analytics is even more comprehensive, with various ad-tracking features—and the search-engine giant has added even more functionality this week.

Social media advertising is an increasingly big business: eMarketer believes that Twitter will earn $582.8 million in global ad revenue this year, before skyrocketing to $1 billion in 2014. As Ryan Tate pointed out in a March 27 article for Wired, advertising analytics “have grown more important as social networks proliferate and as social marketing gains prestige inside large companies.” Those advertisers’ needs are complex and diverse, and they all want to know how their social-media spend is translating into actual sales.

But for some of these social networks, it’s difficult to determine whether the metrics used to measure engagement actually translate into real revenue. With Yelp or Google, the units are dollars and thus easy to measure; but how does a Facebook “Like” or Pinterest “Pin” affect the bottom line? Over on the KISSmetrics blog, marketing executive Sarah Wise suggests that Pinterest’s metrics really do give insight into whether a retailer posting on the social network really translates into increased sales. But one could make an argument that such determinations are more of an art than a science—or even that the whole idea of social-network “marketing” is an elaborate sham.

In any case, trust that social networks will offer even more analytics packages as they attempt to demonstrate their usefulness to advertisers.

 

Image: Yelp

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