Thursday, May 14, 2009

4 Different ways to track social media reactions for your blog or site

I used to own a web domain a few year ago, and every month I would dutifully download and analyse my server logs using Analog. Recently, I started blogging again and I began using Google analytics. But I noticed that there is now a new class of tracking analytics that claim to track social media reactions (delicious bookmarks, Diggs, Tweets etc). They will show you for each page, how many people bookmarked it on delicious, linked to it on Friendfeed etc.

At first, I was a bit confused how this differed from
Google analytics. Until I realized that these services will automatically search services for backlinks and will track them even if no-one clicks on the link. In comparison, Google analytics or analyzing your server logs will only notify you of a link if someone clicks on it.

The services I found that did this include Backtype connect, Postrank, Disqus and a greasemonkey script for Google analytics.

Backtype Connect

Search engine :
Bookmarklet :
WordPress plugin :
Blogger and other Websites :

Backtype connect allows you to view backlinks to any webpage. You can manually enter the url in the search form and it will display comments from Twitter, FriendFeed, Digg, Reddit, other blogs which mention the webpage. There is also a bookmarklet version as well as a WordPress Plugin.

You can use ConvoTrack (which uses Backtype connect) to incorporate a similar feature to any other blog platform or website (see below).

In my blog, I have embedded the Javascript code from here as a blogspot gadget and it results in a hovering/moving Convotrack button that appears at the extreme left of each page (above).

Click on it and it will open a sidebar showing comments from blogs, Twitter etc.

My subjective experience is that it is very fast to add Twitter and FriendFeed comments. But while it does Digg, it doesn't yet track Social bookmarking sites like Diigo or Delicious?


Postrank like Backtype connect it tries to keep track of backlinks to a page, including social bookmarking/news sites (Diigo, Delicious, Digg etc), blog comments, Backtracks from other Blogs, Microblogging sites (e.g. Twitter), FriendFeed etc. See full list of sources here.

Unlike Backtype connect it's goes beyond just listing of sources but also includes number of clicks, number of views and then it uses a algothrim to combine all these information to generate a postrank score.

But if you are just interested in looking at links, you can hover over the post and it will show the backlinks found. You need to set it up first by importing your RSS feed into Postrank, my experience is that it will take time for the data to appear, sometimes a couple of days, but when done you will see your posts being scored.

In the example above, hovering over one of my posts, you can see Postrank thinks it has being bookmarked on Delicious, 6 times, mentioned on Twitter 4 times, viewed 45 times, clicked twice and there is one comment.

Clicking on either the number next to the Delicious icon will bring you to the appropriate pages to find out more on who is bookmarking that page, but oddly enough you can't do the same for Twitter, FriendFeed or Diigo etc. This is a huge disadvantage if you want more than just the number of backlinks.

You can also embed a very popular widget showing the top posts of that blog. I have also embeded this widget which you can see on the left.

I personally find that it is probably the most comprehensive of the services I've tried, particularly in the listing of social bookmarking sites. It's not perfect though and it does seem to miss Twitter and FriendFeed likes/comments compared to Backtype.


Disqus is a third party blog comments system and aggregator, and allows you to keep track of comments across blogs. They compete with Intensedebate and to some extent backtype. Basically you install Disqus which will replace your blog comments system with Disqus. Recently
they added "social media reactions", which tracks links to blog posts from Digg, Flickr, Twitter , FriendFeed , Picasa, YouTube and more.

Once you have replaced your blog's commenting system with Disqus, you can then turn on the option by going to "Admin" then "settings" then check the sources you want to track (see below)

The main problem with this however is that I find that this feature doesn't work properly. In post after post, I find zero mentions, even though other services mentioned in this post find links! Below is one of the few examples, where it seems to work (and even then it shows only one).

Social Media Metrics plugins for Google analytics

It occurs to me that the services mentioned above have predecessors in the form of analytical services and web log analysis software such as Google analytics and Analog.

Are there any essential differences between such software and the services already mentioned? Yes. As far as I can tell, services like Google analytics and Analog only analyse referrer links. That is if someone posts something on say Delicious or Twitter and someone clicks on it, it will be registered.

On the other hand, if I twit a link to your blog and no-one clicks on it, it will not register on Google analytics and Analog. The services already mentioned on the other hand, actively search various services for the url and will show such mentions/ links even if no-one clicks on them.

Can you combine the two?

I found this greasemonkey script here that does this very thing with Google analytics.

You need to have a Google analytics account first of course. Then install Firefox and the greasemonkey addon, then add the script here (click on install).

Once this is all done, go to your Google analytics accounts. Select the report for the website you are tracking (assuming you are tracking more than one website), click on "content" on the left sidebar, then click on any of the listed pages.

Currently it doesn't do Twitter or Delicious. The backlinks from Yahoo is a bit odd also, though it does catch some Twitter links.

Other services?

Recently there has being a rise in so called social media search engines that search social media sites only, including microblogging sites (e.g. Twitter), social bookmarking (e.g. Delicious) and social news sites (e.g. Digg) forums and blogs.

These include oneriot , Scoopler , Social Mention, Samepoint, WhosTalkin?, Yauba, Spy, tuSavvy, blogcatalogue , and lots more

With the right API they might be adapted for use.
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