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Why You’re Failing at Social Media Metrics

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Written by: Michael Sim

Many companies have taken a very granular and data driven approach to social media analytics, using page likes, follower count, retweets, comments, and other engagements to evaluate their social media performance. Most marketing professionals would start with the average customer lifetime value. Working backwards, they will track conversions from a social source, take note of the average amount of social interactions it took to convert, and then set goals to increase those “interactions” to boost conversions.

Basically, it becomes a game of content volume measured by audience engagement. If they don’t engage, they won’t convert; therefore we’ve done something wrong, and we can improve it with more or even better content. This is why a large amount of marketing professionals have difficulty making meaningful connections through social media. Simply put, they’re just not socialpeople. They’re trained to think in numbers, and they’ve built a memory bank full of catchy headlines and elaborate case studies that support traditional marketing and advertising models. To their credit, no other form of traditional or digital media gives you the ability to reach out directly to your target audience and engage them on a personal level.

Here’s a good way to understand my point:

Scenario 1: This week I’ve gained 100 new followers, received 20 retweets, 10 favorites, and 15 replies (Twitter). Last week I gained 50 new followers, received 15 retweets, 5 favorites, and 7 replies (Twitter). I’ve doubled our numbers, and somewhere in the future I’ll hopefully be able to tie that back to revenue by looking at the Twitter segment in my Google Analytics dashboard.

Scenario 2: This week I’ve gained 50 new followers and received 10 retweets. I thanked the 10 retweeters, asked them a soft question, and made a connection with them by mentioning something from their bio. Of the 10 I engaged, 5 of them showed interest in my company. Of the 5 that showed interest, I was able to get each of them on the phone, get their email, or simply enter them into my CRM for future follow-up.

Do you see the difference? While scenario 2 has half the metric growth as scenario 1, it’s exponentially more valuable than scenario 1. And this effect works in nearly EVERY business application – lead generation and acquisition, customer support, and business development.

From what I’ve observed so far, most companies navigating social for the first time seem to treat their social presence as another channel to distribute their marketing materials. They’re under the broadcast advertising mindset that by showing their audience enough commercials (over time), it will eventually drive consumers to spend with their company. While they’re not 100% incorrect, this path is far more expensive and time consuming to produce any sort of meaningful results than if they were to spend more time growing and connecting with their audience on a personal level.

That’s been the toughest concept that I’ve ever had to explain to companies – turning up the advertising “volume” doesn’t necessarily produce quality customers. Social media is entirely comprised of opt-in networks, where something as simple as a parent joining is enough for some people to abandon them forever. How do you think people feel being bombarded by your advertising all day long? While you may “grow” your audience over time, how active are those people in social, how much of an advocate are they for your brand, and what is the likelihood that they will transact with your company? Without a social customer quality model to reference, it’s a shot in the dark.

When I assess a social media contact, I look at a variety of things before I engage them personally. First, how active are they on social? When was their last tweet or update? Do they retweet brands they like, or do they largely talk about themselves? What are they interested in? Do they have the potential to become a brand advocate, or at the very least, a customer? With a 20 second ocular shakedown, you should be able to determine the type of contact and their general value to your company.

If you reach out to and engage your new followers of value, you’ve just created new metrics that mean much more than a simple share or retweet – the means to track personal engagements and tie them to actual conversions. There’s no need to get out your Erlenmeyer flasks and perform some sort of advanced science experiment to document and understand hundreds of different vanity metrics. How many new followers did you get? How many direct engagements did you send out? How many of those engagements resulted in a conversion?

All of the other vanity metrics only help you to understand your overall influence and connection with your audience. You can certainly document and analyze every single engagement in an Excel Spreadsheet until you’re blue in the face, or you can look at your numbers more abstractly and simply make goals to improve your overall influence. You still need a content strategy. You still need to keep a finger on the pulse of your social brand and understand what your audience responds to. However, there’s one metric that will consistently outperform nearly any other metric known to man – the effect of a social “handshake” and its ability to form a real relationship.

My Workflow

I only use a handful of tools in order to better understand my social media data in order to make improvements. Twitter Analytics, Facebook Insights, Buffer Analytics, and Google Analytics. Whenever I see a piece of content that I’ve created hit a certain “peak” threshold, I’ll take note of the content type, the total engagement, and then put that into a list of top performing posts. Unless it’s a contest or a campaign, my goals aren’t to exponentially increase engagements and then compare one post against the another – it’s simply to become more aware of what my audience responds to. And by creating content that my audience responds to, their social activity with my content will attract more relevant followers that I can directly engage. I can then use the engagement metrics listed above to track my progress and tie it to the customer lifetime value. This is how I am able to prove social ROI.

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