Here are three clear measurable benefits of your Social Media efforts. Despite the best efforts of boffins everywhere, there is no way to measure the overall impact of your social media activity. However your SM effort can result in more visits to your web site as measured by:
1. Direct Referrals: You can be sure that visitors have read and reacted to a post if they click a link in it. There are many ( too many ?) link shortners which allow you to track how many have clicked on a link in your post. Twitter`s proprietary shortner, t.co, is now fully operational and automatically works on any links that are included in a Tweet. Bit.ly remains the most popular choice as it can be used to log how many people clicked on links to sites and pages other than your own. You can see visits that have come to your site via shortners in your Google Analytics account. GA >Traffic Sources> Sources > Referrals
2. Better search engine rankings: Social media activity is now clearly affecting search engine rankings. Postings and reaction to them are becoming a more important part of the collection of `signals` that search engines use to determine what content to display for a given search query.Ian Laurie has noticed that Google is now putting more emphasis on Twitter and Facebook account activity. So a Google search for a brand or charity plus a top social media site such as Twitter or Facebook eg `rnib Twitter`, or `breast cancer care Facebook` now produces results which include sitelinks. Normally Google only shows site links for Organic and/or AdWords results for highly regarded sites. Ian`s view is that sitelinks are shown only for those SM accounts that have some unique content. A quick check that I did on a number of charity accounts seems to bear that out. Over at SEOMoz they did some tests to check if social signals drive search engine traffic and they found that they did. However they do suggest that Google +1, which has yet to be widely used by visitors to charity sites, is a big part of it.
3. More Backlinks to your content from authority sites is still the most powerful signal to Google that your content is worth showing. Without backlinks it is almost impossible to rank in Google. To date charities, who normally have well written content, could rely on media and government site to mention and link to their content. But the web is daily becoming a more competitive place so social media is a great way to identify key influencers and get them to link permanently to your content. If you can use SM to build a relationship that leads to a link from an important site or blogger then you will get visits and kudos with Google. So, long after your Tweet or FB post has been forgotten the backlink will still be sending visitors and convincing Google that your content deserves to be shown.Backlinks: the gift that keeps on giving.