Social Media: Metrics that Matter

Many marketers and advertisers decry the use of ‘vanity’ metrics in tracking campaign success or failure. The argument comes from the world of web marketing – where metrics like site visitors are (rightly) seen to be a bad measure of success. Instead, the argument goes, you should focus ‘actionable’ metrics like number of leads and conversion rates.
So far, I agree. But then they apply the same standard to social media – where the waters are significantly murkier. As with web marketing, they claim the use of vanity metrics is misleading (and possibly even deceptive) and should be discarded for more useful actionable metrics. But social media is a different game – with its own unique rules and standards.

Vanity Metrics and Social Media

I get the distrust of vanity metrics, but the world of social media isn’t nearly as black and white as more traditional web marketing. The common refrain is that vanity metrics are just there to make you feel or look better (hence the name), but they don’t really prove any return on investment or true value from your effort. Instead of focusing on metrics like followers, likes, shares, and views; we should be spending our attention on new leads, signups, and A/B testing.
Again, I get the point. But I think the case is overstated. A large part of social media marketing is building brand awareness and engagement – and that can’t be dismissed as just ‘vanity.’ While they don’t tell the whole story, likes and shares are a huge part of any social media strategy and I’m not ready to throw them out. Instead, I want to reframe the debate: let’s call vanity metrics surface metrics and change actionable metrics to objective-based metrics. Maybe not as pithy – so I’m not expecting it to catch on; but I think it gives a better picture of the social media landscape.

Surface Metrics

So, let’s drop the talk of vanity metrics on social media. From now on I will be calling them surface metrics – and I’d love for others to join me in this. Vanity is a bad word – but there’s nothing bad about increasing your likes, shares, and followers on social media. It shouldn’t be your end-game – but building a brand reputation and loyal following is a key element in any successful social media campaign.
I’m suggesting the name surface metrics because it is the most visible and easy to understand data available, and they apply equally to every social media campaign. The only problem with surface metrics comes if you stop there (and even that might be ok, depending on your strategy) and never dig down into deeper-level data tracking.

Objective-Based Metrics

Below the surface of likes, shares, and followers; there are deeper metrics to track. At this level, your social media campaign will be much more personalized; which is why I’m suggesting we call them objective-based metrics. Each brand will have their own unique goals and objectives and it is important to track their success across social media platforms and campaigns.
Objective-based metrics will look at extensive A/B testing, new leads generated, sales figures, email signups, downloads, or any other business goal. But if you’ve ignored the surface level of your social media campaign, there’s no one to reach with your advanced level data tracking. The two metrics should be followed together – answering a two-fold questions: are you growing your customer base and are you reaching that base? When taken together, you have the recipe for understand that reach, success, and ROI of your social media campaign. Ignore one or the other and you’re only getting half the picture.

Social Media Management

The key to successfully managing a social media presence is understanding your goals – both on the surface and below. Don’t get too bound up in getting more likes (even if it feels good) – but don’t ignore their value either. Don’t forget to be likeable in an attempt to focus on generating leads – but don’t think that getting likes always equates to getting more business.
Social media management is a balancing act. And striking the perfect balance will look different for every business – just don’t let some marketing expert scare you away from tracking what matters to you.

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