Are You Really Measuring What Matters in Social Media?

Measuring social media’s impact on your business is critical. Yet, identifying the right metrics and tracking and analyzing social media’s impact can be challenging.

In the early days of social media, when measurement was new and available data was sparse, most businesses relied exclusively on so-called “vanity metrics” to quantify success. Classical engagement — the number of “followers” or “likes” that social media channels collected — was the primary metric considered. Fast-forward a few years, and strategists had quickly realized they needed more informative metrics connected to meaningful key performance indicators (KPIs) that reflected their business objectives. They needed to determine social media’s impact on the bottom line to demonstrate social ROI.

Today, vanity metrics have a bad rap because they do not have a direct tie to revenue. Traditional vanity metrics include Facebook “likes,” Twitter “followers,” and “page views” or “unique visitors” for blog posts. While obsessing over the number of Facebook likes you collect won’t necessarily win over a buying customer, vanity metrics do have their place when used alongside other metrics.

Following are some thoughts regarding the role of vanity metrics and how aligning traditional engagement metrics with more strategic business metrics can provide the insight you need to make informed decisions about your social media strategy.

Aligning Social Media Vanity Metrics with Business Metrics — and Achieving Results
Successful social media measurement focuses on the KPIs that are linked to business objectives, with vanity metrics playing a role in rounding out the big picture. Is Facebook growing at the same rate as Twitter? How is the community responding to different strategies and different types of content? Insights from vanity metrics can help identify whether organic strategy is working or it’s time to implement a larger paid strategy across channels. Bottom line? Understand how to use them to complement KPIs, and you’ll know what’s moving the needle for you.

How to Make Vanity Metrics Work for You
Let’s look at a few metrics and the insights they can provide.

1. Focusing on Followers
You spend a lot of time and money building up your following across the multitude of channels and networks. If you monitor your follower growth over time, it will be invaluable in helping you understand what is working when it comes to community growth.

Is your organic growth picking up or slowing down? Many factors influence growth rates, but by tracking follower growth, you can pick up on revealing patterns in your data. Does certain content cause sudden drops in your number of followers? Are you reaching the right people? Digging deeper into the demographics of your followers (on platforms through which that data is available) will allow you to determine whether your followers really represent your target demographic.

Does your brand have too many accounts? Comparing growth rates on multiple accounts may allow you to assess less-active or compelling accounts and make decisions about whether account consolidations or additional paid strategies would be beneficial. It’s also important to look at other metrics to evaluate whether stagnant accounts are still performing well in other aspects such as engagement or click-through rates, traffic, and conversions.

2. Evaluating “Likes”
Analyzing customer engagement can be one of the most important ways to gain insights into your content strategy as well as your followers. Of course, all those shares, video views, and comments should yield a positive ROI for your business; however, if you know what type of content works best for your audience on each channel, it will help determine your investment strategy.

Do people “like” your content but not share it? Not all interactions are created equal, and some are definitely more valuable than others. Categorizing your content by media type, subject matter, or objective will allow you to look at which category drives the most bang for your buck.

Do your videos receive a lot of views but low completion rates? Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn now auto-play videos by default. This makes it rather challenging to analyze video performance. One way to look at it is through completion rates rather than total video views. Which videos compel your followers to stop scrolling and watch long enough to reach that all-important call to action and link?

Is there a correlation between the drop in followers and the content you published that day? Sudden follower drop can be as insightful as follower growth. Understanding the correlation between your followers who are bailing out and the particular types of content you are showing or your posting frequency can help to ensure you keep those fans you worked so hard to attract.

3. Analyzing Page Views
On the surface, page views — counting the number of “hits” your webpage or blog gets — is another vanity metric. No, by itself, it will not reveal how your content on the page is moving the needle for your business. For insight like that, you will need to explore not only what happens further down the conversion path, but also the contribution of the page view to the desirable user behavior on the site. However, using page views alongside smart segmentation and a few additional metrics will help you assess the quality of the page’s content.

Does some of your blog content attract ongoing traffic while traffic to other pages tapers off quickly? This could either indicate that some pages are better optimized for search engines (look at your persistent traffic sources!), or that some content is compelling enough for people to continue sharing (check out your social shares on various platforms). It could also indicate that some content types are more relevant to your audience, so grouping your pages by content type or topic, and then assessing average lifespan for each, may give you insight into what you should focus on in the future.

How many of your page views were “bounces?” If a visitor landed on the page but did not interact with any content or visit a different page, he or she may have found the page content irrelevant or not known how to navigate to content that may be of interest. Segmenting your bouncers according to devices used may shed some light on whether your pages perform well on mobile devices or have loading issues on some browsers.

What is the best referring channel? Do people who are visiting from different sources behave differently? Perhaps one source yields more bounces than average, and a different source drives more conversions down the line. Segmenting traffic can help you fine-tune content that is targeted toward different customer segments and identify where your target customers roam free.

A Multi-Tiered Approach to Measurement
We know there’s value in social media marketing, but being equipped with the right tools to demonstrate how and why has never been easy. With only 15 percent of today’s marketers able to demonstrate the quantitative impact social media has on their businesses, it’s clear that measuring what matters is tough. Business metrics tied to objectives may be seen as more strategic, and they are certainly instrumental in showing how social media is creating value overall. But, let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater just yet — vanity metrics are useful for uncovering the reasons behind trends. And, when used in conjunction with business-oriented metrics, they can offer powerful insights into the details necessary for fine-tuning larger strategies at a tactical level.

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