Social Media Web Analytics

The Social Media Metrics That Truly Matter

Posted by Kent Lewis on February 22nd, 2012 at 12:31 pm

What is a Facebook Like worth? How about a Twitter follower? Industry researchers and even lawyers are happy to give us numbers like $3.60 or $2.50 respectively. My answer? I believe it depends on your objective, audience and offering. Unfortunately, too many marketers are focusing on the wrong metrics, and making poor strategic decisions as a result. In this article, I will outline a few key metrics to consider incorporating into your key performance indicators (KPIs) if you’re interested in getting that bonus, or just keeping your job.

Before we dive in, let me take a moment to explain the concept of ratios at KPIs. For starters, the standard model for social media measurement is to track one or more of the following:

  • Awareness: total number (or percentage growth) of Likes, Fans, Followers, Subscribers or Views
  • Engagement: total quantity or quality of Shares, Comments, Retweets, Replies, Ratings or Conversations

While these metrics can certainly help set a baseline and provide trending for general reach and frequency, they can be misleading or misinterpreted as absolute values. One way to minimize the limitations of these metrics is to track them as ratios instead. The benefit of a ratio is that it focuses on relationships and relativity. For example, marketers shouldn’t care as much about the total number of Likes on Facebook; rather, they should care about the level of quality and engagement with those individuals. One way to do that is by looking at relationships like the average number of comments or shares-per-post. In that scenario, the focus is on the relative quality of engagement over time. The absolute numbers in this scenario may look to be increasing, but when compared relative to each other, total engagement may be decreasing. Here’s a specific example:

Month 1 #s Month 2 #s Metrics Chng
Likes 2,000 Likes 4,000 Like Growth 100%
Posts 100 Posts 125 Post Growth 25%
Comments 200 Comments 300 Comment Growth 50%
Comments-per-Post 2 Comments-per-Post 2.4 CPP Growth 20%
Comments-per-Like 0.1 Comments-per-Like 0.075 CPL Growth -25%

In the above Facebook example, the “Old School” Social Media Marketing Manager would claim success, based on month-to-month Like, Post and Comment Growth. However, if we dig deeper, you’ll notice the comment-per-like ratios is actually down as other areas grow. As CMO, I would call out the discrepancy, as it implies overall social media engagement is in fact down, not up. Keep in mind, this is an overly-simplified example meant to illustrate the power of ratios.

The Matrix

As you can see from the example above, I’m compelled to create a matrix at any opportunity. In the following case, I felt a matrix was the easiest way to communicate a sampling of ratio-based metrics for social media platforms, based on objective. I also included sample goals and alternative metrics. These are not meant to be de facto metrics for all social media marketing efforts. Rather, they are meant to foster conversation and inspire you to create your own meaningful metrics. Let’s take a look:

Platform Objective Metric Goal Alternate Metric
Facebook Customer Engagement Av. #Comments/Post 10 Av. # Shares/Week
Twitter General Awareness Av. New Followers/Post 5 Av. #RTs/Post
LinkedIn Thought Leadership # Best Answers 20 # InRecommendations
YouTube Sales/Lead Generation # Leads or Sales/View 1% Likes/Views
Google+ Customer Service # Hangouts/Week 3 NetPromoter Score
Pinterest General Awareness # Likes/Pin 10% # Repins
SlideShare Sales/Lead Generation # Leads or Sales/View 2% # Downloads
iTunes Thought Leadership # Downloads/Month 500 Ratings
Quora Thought Leadership # Best Answers 10 Referring Traffic
Blog General Awareness # Unique Visitors/Month 1000 Comments/Post

I encourage you to review and discuss this matrix with your executive and marketing team. Ask the following questions:

  • Which platforms are most relevant to our target audience? (Yes, you need to know enough about your customers, prospects and social platforms to answer this question)
  • Which objective is a priority for each of those platforms? (See above. Map your objective to the strengths of each platform, based on user behavior and your communications or business goals)
  • Does the sample metric make sense for your business? (Run sample data through and see what insights it provides. I suggest 1-3 months for a test, depending on volume of data)
  • What goal is most realistic based on your current objectives, audience, resources and timelines? (consider setting a baseline and a stretch goal – which may be 10-50% higher)
  • Are there any secondary metrics you should consider? (consider testing before finalizing, or create an entirely separate KPI for the alternative metrics)

Once you’ve answered the questions above to your satisfaction and complete an initial test, you should discover entirely new insights in regards to how to best allocate your social media resources to maximize return-on-investment (ROI) on your overall marketing program. Feel free to drop me a line to let me know how it goes and know we’re always here to help you through the process, if you get stuck.

Additional social media marketing resources:

Why You Should Fire Your Social Media Marketing Manager

How to be a Rock Star on 8 Social Media Platforms

Death by Discount: How Brands Fuel Unrealistic Consumer Expectations

9 ways to Lose Friends and Alienate People in Social Media

How to Become a Social Media Guru in 3 Easy Steps

5 Reasons for Brands not to Outsource Social Media Marketing

5 Responses to “The Social Media Metrics That Truly Matter”

  1. Ron Barrett says:

    Kent,
    Great post, very well thought out, and valuable table listing the various platforms with objectives and quantifiable goals. Just a really well done article.
    Thank you for your leadership,
    Ron

  2. Emmanuelle says:

    wow. That is all we need to know and tell our customers. I'm still struggling with the "I want more fans". When I talk about FB EdgeRank, everyone "knows" about it. I've even heard: when my stats go down I re-post.
    Thanks for the insight.

  3. Ray King says:

    I like how you go from the raw #'s to engagement ratios which tell a much better story and the Matrix is a great way to think about the different which platform can be used to achieve what objective, thanks!

  4. akshat Sethi says:

    It is really true that now a day social media help a lot in making publicity of the business. You can also outsource your social media to any relevant company in the market.

  5. Frank says:

    Great article, has highlighted what I should be looking at.

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