The most powerful feature in the tracking and reporting features of Social Magnet is the ability to measure channel attribution in all new ways. At the very top level, you can send a message out through email, Twitter and Facebook simultaneously, and then see which channel drives the most clicks. Over time, you’ll learn which content types are best suited for each channel, but even before that learning takes place it’s immediately apparent how much each channel is contributing to the objectives of the message.

In addition to measuring attribution at the message level, Social Magnet allows marketers to measure monthly reach, monthly productivity and clicks per person. Today I’ll look at Monthly Reach, with subsequent posts focusing on the rest.

Monthly Reach

Reach isn’t a term normally associated with email, used instead in advertising to measure the number of people (at least theoretically) exposed to an ad. In online advertising, reach may be the number of times your ad is served (even if it’s served below the fold and the “viewer” never actually views it). In print, it could be the circulation of the magazine, though the assumption that every subscriber looks at every page is similarly flawed. What’s important about any metric though is that its errors are standardized. With email, we could say that the number of opens is equal to reach, though there are many of our subscribers who do read a message without registering as opens because they turn off images. On the social side, we have no idea how many people on Twitter see our tweets. Facebook does probably the best job with reach by actually counting the number of times a post appears on somebody’s news feed, or is viewed on a brand’s wall.

But the least common denominator across email, Facebook and Twitter is simply the size of the audience. If you have 10,000 email subscribers, your reach is 10,000. 500 Facebook fans and 500 Twitter followers makes your reach in those channels 500. None is completely accurate but at least their inaccuracies are shared. In this case, reach is the number of times your message may be seen by a member of your audience.

When comparing email to social, reach is most valuable when measured over a period of time. The reason is that most brands send social messages far more frequently than email, and measuring over time normalizes the channels against this frequency. I like to use a month, but you can choose any period that fully represents 1 or more cycles in your marketing. (eg If you send out a monthly newsletter, don’t calculate weekly reach only for the week you send it, as that discounts all the activity from your other channels when your email is inactive.)

Let’s create a fictitious scenario to demonstrate why normalizing reach across time is so important to channel attribution. Here’s what Company M’s marketing balance sheet looks like:

Email: 10,000 subscribers, mail a 1x weekly newsletter (4.3x / month)
Facebook: 500 fans, post 1x daily on weekdays only (21.5 / month)
Twitter: 500 followers, tweet 4x daily on weekdays only (86 / month)

The email audience is significantly larger than social – 20 times as large, in fact. But because the messaging frequency is so much higher in social channels (a function of message ease, message length and market expectations), the monthly reach tells a very different story. To calculate, simply multiply the number of messages per month by the size of the audience, thusly:

Email: 43,000 monthly reach
Facebook: 10,750 monthly reach
Twitter: 43,000 monthly reach

Even though Company M’s email list is 20x the size of its Twitter audience, it messages on Twitter 20x more frequently, making the monthly reach of each channel the same. Now there are nuances here, to be sure. For example, is a tweet as powerful a brand message as an email? And what about frequency? Email frequency is only 4.3 per month, while Twitter audiences are exposed to 86 messages per month. Which is ideal?

The answer, as usual, is “it depends.” And part of what it depends on is how well these numbers translate into response. That’s what I’ll look at next time – Monthly Productivity.