5 Rules for Successful Social Media Measurement

By Jenna Lebel One of the biggest transformations I’ve seen in social media is the shift from the how to the why. When I was first getting started in social, it was all about the how. Knowing how it all worked and how to leverage for businesses were critical areas of expertise. Sure, the why was important too, but it was more of the why do we need to use this—which was usually answered in the how it works. The how quickly became less complex as more people became educated and knowledgeable and more companies started utilizing the medium to its maximum capabilities. Now I think we’re in a spot in time where a different why has become the most important question around social media. The new why lies in the pressure for companies to justify social media programs through stronger metrics. Because of this shift, measurement matters now more than ever. Before we get into which numbers should matter to you (that is an entirely different blog post), let’s first start with the 5 basic rules of social media measurement. 

Identify Success

Before you can measure anything, you need to identify the ideal outcomes so you can measure against them. What does success look like? What are you trying to accomplish? What is the return you’re after? Adding clarity to the term success will help show progress. Without it, you’ll just be showing results without any reference point.

You Can’t (and shouldn’t) Measure Everything

It’s so easy to over-quantify in the space as there are easily as many social media measurement tools as there are tactics. With terms like sentiment analysis and net promoter score being tossed around everywhere, it’s easy to get persuaded into thinking you need to measure everything. The reality is that you really only need to measure what matters to you and what will help craft a strategy moving forward. So one of the most basic rules of measurement is to identify what you want to measure.

Different Metrics Matter to Different People

When you are identifying key metrics for success keep in mind that the audience that you will be reporting to can affect the areas you are measuring. Different people within an organization care about different numbers. Social Strategists and Community Managers arguably care more about sheer numbers—fans, followers, visitors, interactions, and sentiment. Marketing Executives are likely more concerned about their brand and actions associated with the efforts. So they are likely to want to measure awareness, purchase intent, lead generation and redemption. C-level Executives have a much more financial perspective and want to focus on measuring sales—coversions, revenues and lifetime values. Knowing the audience will help you know which metrics need to be on your radar.

You Can’t Rely on Tools to Provide Analysis

You cannot rely on social media measurement tools to generate analysis—your social media strategy is far too complex for software. You can, however, rely on these tools to provide data, trends and themes. The analysis, or how you interpret that, is up to you and is contingent upon your definition of success.

Stop Worrying About ROI (for now)

It’s no secret that everyone is looking to define the ROI of social media. As with every other marketing initiative, the ability to justify the investment and link it to the bottom line is critical. The reality is that you can’t measure ROI without determining value and determining value is a difficult process. Another reality is that companies are continuing to invest in social without a clearly defined and demonstrated return on investment. I’m not going to create a new acronym for this key area of measurement (i.e. Return on Engagement) because ROI is important and should be identified, but it should be an area of focus after you put in place the practices for the other 4 rules above. While ROI continues to be debated, you can start measuring the right things for your organization.

What rules do you have for measuring social media success? Share them in the comments section below!

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