Social Data Tracking: Bitly and Datasift

On 7 February, at a Bitly/Datasift webinar entitled “Turning Social Data Into a Strategic Advantage: What Marketers Need to Know,” Bitly CEO Peter Stern made himself clear:

Bitly doesn’t just shorten links–it encodes them, meaning they can consistently track how messages travel across the Internet.

So why is this important in social media analysis?

There are a number of reasons, including that companies use information gleaned from social networks as a vital source of marketing information. Rob Bailey, CEO of Datasift, demonstrated this when he pointed out how his company’s platform aggregates information from over 50 social network sources to generate useful data. This allows clients to analyze demand, identify influencers, and monitor engagement over time. In other words, a good analysis of social data can help shape decisions on what kind of content to post, where and when to post it, and who to direct it to.

Stern described some particularly useful types of social data analysis. By tracking links, clients can learn more about the half-life of their content – the rate at which interest in a post decays – and use that to plan how regularly they should post. They can also keep an eye on how traffic differs between social networks in order to target ones that best cater to their audience. Fission Strategy has written about how Google Analytics also has a number of tools to help complement the information provided by Bitly to help your organization.

In order to conduct a truly useful analysis of social media, what is needed is a clear picture of how users interact with content. The success of a Facebook page is, after all, more than just the sum of its Likes and shares.

It would be a mistake to assume that virality – the measure of how often content is actively shared on the Internet – is the only important indicator for the success of a campaign. The impact of an organization’s social media profiles – the number of people it drives to take action and instigate change – is less easily measured, but understanding where and how people are sharing information helps in creating a clear picture.

That’s where Bitly comes in. By encoding links, Bitly is able to track clicks on content as it passes organically from platform to platform. Despite what might be commonly thought, Stern said that less than 40% of Bitly’s links originate on either Facebook or Twitter combined. It would be a shame to ignore how the other 60% of links travel beyond new media and through some of our oldest social networks, including email and instant messaging. Bitly, which alone tracks roughly 1% of new Internet content on a daily basis, helps us to get a clearer view of how social media is really moving.

Datasift’s White Paper, “From Monitoring to Measurable Results: Preparing for the Needs of Today’s Social Media Marketer,” is available here.