Let’s not pretend Google is a winner in social media. Sure, Google+ is doing alright these days, but remember all those other times it tried to start a social network? Google knows what you’re doing when you’re online, no matter how many times you clear your history. (Don’t worry; Google’s not naming names.) Real-time behavior has been Google’s forte for quite a while. That’s why your standard Analytics report comes with a bounce rate, number of pages per visit and average time spent on the site. It’s also why Google keeps trying to socialize. It knows exactly how important social networks are to people.
If you stay up-to-date on the social front, you’ve most likely heard lots of chatter about digital marketing going real-time. I’m not talking about a tweet to let followers know about a sale or creating a Facebook event for Black Friday. I’m talking about throwing a Twitter party, when hundreds of users hop online to talk about your area of expertise, or live-streaming an event onto a Facebook page. Pretty neat, huh. Well, sure, it’s awesome, but how do you justify that kind of time and financial investment?
Chances are your boss isn’t going to be satisfied with, “We had a whole buncha people participate.” What good is that to your brand? The intentions are surely there. The value is that a whole buncha people came into contact with the brand’s messages and personality. It brought life to your brand. We know this.
But for the sake of keeping your job, you better have some numbers ready. And you’re in luck. Google’s latest Analytics update allows a user to monitor the number of visitors active on a website at any point in time. This means real-time results for social events.
Social networks are unreliable. You never know when they’re going to change layouts, time out or malfunction. So naturally, your website is going to be a valuable meeting place for social events. You can direct users there before an event for details, during the event for supplementary info and after the event for any follow-up steps.
Of course, these are considerations that should be sorted out before ever even attempting a real-time social event. Once you have your content, layout, site map and any microsites squared away, all you have left to worry about is execution and results. The good news is that you most likely have Google Analytics on your website, so you’ll get some pretty great info from this procedure.
For the sake of using an example, let’s talk Twitter parties. Hundreds of people will be tweeting about a subject within your brand’s expertise; so naturally, you’ve got all the resources they need on your website. As new questions and topics pop up, you direct users to different pages on your website for answers, supplements and talking points.
Now, with Google’s update, you can monitor how many of these users are actually visiting your website at any point during the conversation and where they’re going.
Let’s say the subject is healthcare reform options (ain’t no party like a healthcare reform Twitter party), and your website or blog has multiple plans for reform as well as reference materials for current statistics and operations. When users inevitably misunderstand the facts, you’ve got somewhere to direct them for answers. Once you respond, you can immediately monitor how many people followed your link and how long before they all X out of the page.
In marketing, that’s what we call pretty freaking awesome. And in terms of reporting, it’s gold. This information can help shape the content of your website, highlight the areas where your brand is considered an expert and pinpoint the key messages that actually reached a very specific number of people during an event.
Even now, Google is rolling out these new real-time features along with a new interface, dashboards, goals and reports, so if you’ve got an account, you should be seeing some major changes soon. Here’s a short preview with some awesome piano music: