Beyond Vanity Metrics: Measuring Social Media Success

Last updated: 05-30-2020

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Beyond Vanity Metrics: Measuring Social Media Success

Brands continue to invest more in social media marketing each year. In fact, HubSpot found that 74% of global marketers currently invest in social media marketing. And with this adoption, there’s been enormous amounts of data collected in an effort to measure the success of social media campaigns.

But for many marketing teams, it’s becoming a challenge to sift through the wide range of metrics to understand if their social media campaigns are effective. That’s why we’ve asked social media experts how they determine success and what metrics you should track that actually matter. 

Polly Kay, senior marketing manager at English Blinds, believes success should by setting sub-goals that feed into an overall goal or purpose for the social media campaign. “You need to take a big-picture approach to measuring the impact and value of your social media efforts,” she explained, “as concentrating on just one metric will always provide a misleading impression of the real state of play.” Success, therefore, will depend on the end-goal and brands will need to set individual metrics to measure progress along the way.

For Sam Maley, marketing director at Bailey & Associates, the primary goal should always be conversions. “You want your social media efforts to do a number of things, from raising brand awareness to promoting engagement,” he explained, “but at the end of the day, these need to convert to sales.” That said, he understands that constantly pushing products could put potential customers off and also sees value in goals to drive sales at a later date as crucial.

The experts all believe in setting individual metrics based on the goal of a particular social media campaign, but what data should marketers analyze? Here’s a breakdown of some common metrics brands track.

Social page or feed traffic is a common metric for brands to track because audience interactions need to start somewhere, but it’s not a good indicator on its own. “For instance, you could be getting a huge volume of traffic to your page or feed,” Kay explained, “but if they simply look and leave without engaging, reading, sharing, liking, or joining or starting a conversation with or about you, that traffic is worth nothing.”

“Engagement is a vital metric to tell you how well you understand your audience,” suggested Kay, “and how well you can meet their needs and get them to relate to you.” But just like traffic, it’s not as valuable unless it’s considered with other metrics as well. “If any given metric appears to be wholly meaningless and useless,” continued Kay, “a more likely explanation for this and something you should explore further is if you’re failing to understand, apply, or combine it effectively with the rest of the information at your disposal.”

“I call page likes and followers vanity stats,” said Chris Morris, founder of Shoo Social Media, “as they don't often indicate success for a campaign.” He said it’s great to see people engaging with content, but most of the time it’s not a direct indicator of financial results. “Focus less on quantity and more on quality of your following,” Morris continued, “and think carefully about the customer journey and what you want them to do at each point.”

Maley believes reach is often overemphasized by brands. While it’s important to consider as an indicator of the potential size of an audience, beyond that there needs to be additional metrics used. “Without comparing this to the number of people who do actually engage — through liking, commenting, and so forth — as well as eventual conversions,” he said, “it can be misleading.”

“A good way to measure your longer-term success is through Assisted Social Conversions,” Maley said, “an analytics metric that tracks interactions from specific users over a period of time.” He believes this metric is crucial for understanding if non-sales or top of the funnel social media activity leads to more conversions later on.

“There are loads of different metrics across the plethora of social media platforms you could choose to engage with,” Morris said, “the key, I find, is to identify which metrics are key to your campaign's goal.” That means finding individual metrics on each social media platform that is the best indicator of progress towards your overall campaign’s purpose.

“Different social networks make different types of data available to you and often, measure them in different ways and package them up in different formats,” added Kay. Each platform has unique use cases, demographics, and more that make seemingly similar metrics have different interpretations. “This makes it virtually impossible,” she explained, “to compare different social platforms and their performance for you against each other on a true like-for-like basis.”

In the end, marketers will need to set goals and metrics that fit their specific brand, social media platforms and audience to effectively measure the success of their campaign. “The key takeaway,” Maley concluded, “is to look at your social media strategy holistically, and use metrics that facilitate this.”


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