When asked how social media is performing, many social media teams pull up the screen below and report something like this:
- On Facebook, we gained 1,000 new followers and have 54% more people “talking about us”
- On Twitter, we have 250 more followers and both re-tweets and comments also increased.
- On YouTube, we published 7 new videos leading to 25,000 views and 400 new followers
The trap social media marketers fall into is focusing the majority of reporting on fan growth, false indicators of engagement or social reach.
The ROI formula becomes something like: New Followers Gained – (Content Development Costs + Community Management Time + Social Advertising Spend) = Return on Investment.
Facebook even breaks out the Cost per Like in the advertising platform. As does Twitter, with the CPF (Cost per Follow). We’re trained to identify a target growth rate for social following, as well as a desired fan acquisition cost, and we devise strategies to increase growth and decrease acquisition cost.
Focus on social media growth or reach as the primary KPIs is a trap. John C. Maxwell says “Momentum covers dirt.” When focusing on how much momentum or growth we have in certain metrics, we often overlook other more relevant metrics.
What social media metrics should I pay attention to?
First, you need to ask yourself how social media aligns to support your organizational objectives. Without clear objectives and vision, we will never know which KPIs to focus on. Then, we are prone to look at less valuable data in order to justify our social efforts.
Here are some common misleading metrics social media marketers pay attention to, and a more relevant alternative you should consider:
Less valuable: New followers
More valuable: Growth over previous months. If you are trending up, what factors this month have led to more follower growth? If your growth is declining, what is causing the slowdown? Make sure to be conscious of your social ad spend, as factors such as advertising can skew your metrics on growth trends. Tool tip: SproutSocial is the best social tool suite on a budget, making it easy to track and report across all your social properties.
Less valuable: People Talking about This. Facebook’s “People Talking About This” metric is largely flawed. It is easily influenced by advertising and spikes in fan growth, and it has a two day data lag which makes it tough to evaluate what is actually happening today.
More valuable: Post engagement rate. Invest in a tool suite that portrays an accurate picture of fan engagement. Remember, it’s not about how many followers are engaged — take a look at what proportion on your community is engaged with the content you are posting. It is also helpful to benchmark yourself against other competitors and brands. If you are higher than the benchmark, what is the success attributed to? If you are behind, where can you experiment to create higher engagement? Tool Tip: SocialBakers provides a less biased representation of engagement that will reveal the true engagement in your community, as well as compare your engagement to other social media properties.
Less valuable: Message reach. A message can have enormous reach, but it may lack a clear call to action or even be irrelevant to the campaign you are running. Some teams gauge their most successful posts in terms of reach, but it’s not in the context of how it plays into your greater digital marketing strategy.
More valuable: Message consistency and impact. This goes back to understanding what your goals are and having a vision of the story you want to tell. In my Digital Marketing Rashomon Effect article, I talked about the value of weaving your marketing story across your various digital marketing platforms. What role does social play in relation to email, web, mobile and other platforms? What types of interactions would you expect to see coming off your posts? Does the message drive that behavior, whether it be clicks, video views, shares, comments, etc.? If you can answer these questions, only then you can take a look at optimizing reach.
Measuring Social Media ROI
Those are just a few examples of how to look past the obvious Facebook Insights and identify a metric that better demonstrates how social media supports your organizational objectives and marketing vision. The real metrics will depend heavily both on your business and the campaign you are trying to run.
We then can depart from ROI = Fans/Reach/Engaged Users – Money/Time Spent
and work towards
ROI = Demonstrating with clear metrics how social media supports the marketing vision by driving behaviors that are in line with the business objectives.
Take a look at your organization. What is the role of social media? Does social media support sales? brand awareness? customer support? PR?
Identify the areas where social adds value, and set clear and concise goals what social aims to accomplish. And with those specific goals in mind, we can now identify what metrics really matter.