Social media has become a thorn in the side of marketers, with almost half unsure whether their campaigns are even working.
According to the 2015 Social Media Marketing Report, 92 per cent of marketers said social media was important to their business. But of the 3700 people surveyed, only 45 per cent felt their efforts on Facebook – the most-used platform by marketers – were effective. Meanwhile, a staggering 88 per cent wanted to know how to measure their return on investment (ROI) for social media.
Clearly, traditional attention metrics in isolation aren’t working for marketers. Social media engagement has generally been measured in four key ways: applause rate (likes, hearts, etc.); conversation rate (comments); amplification rate (shares); and engagement rates per (combined volume of likes, comments and shares in proportion to the number of followers you have). Naturally, size matters – namely, how big are you and how fast are you growing.
But one of the key challenges for marketers is that none of the actions they’re measuring are necessarily direct drivers of sales. A brilliant social media campaign that delivers cracking results for your business may not sell a single thing, making it impossible to close the loop with a neat ROI figure.
So the million-dollar question is how can you measure the impact of likes, shares and follows in a commercially meaningful way?
The answer boils down to one simple question: What’s your objective? For example:
- Strategy: Use social media as a net to capture potential customers (with follow-up strategies to convert them to database).
- Key metrics: The rate at which you’re acquiring new followers as well as how frequently your audience is sharing your content and exposing your brand to more potential followers.
- Strategy: Introduce followers to the personality of your brand, build your tribe and nurture their sense of belonging.
- Key metrics: Applause rates – which rate the quality of your content; conversation rates – which show how engaged your audience is with what you’re posting; and amplification rates – which (when shares are positive) demonstrate a level of pride in being associated with your brand.
- Strategy: Build excitement and desire for your product.
- Key metrics: Especially conversation and amplification rates, which show a higher level of engagement than ‘likes’; as well as new followers being converted to your platform by the hype.
- Strategy: Use insights gained from your audience reactions to content to inform marketing activity or product development.
- Key metrics: You will monitor the response of your audience to ‘research’ posts and benchmark them against both other content and each other to gain meaningful data.
The final piece of the puzzle is data. The insights on your social platform enable you to track your own posts but don’t allow you to monitor what others are saying about you. Neither do they track sentiment, so your most-shared content of the year could be an angry backlash by customers rather than a great viral post. You won’t know from looking at your insights.
Of course, you could spend hours digging manually through all your content each month to find and collate that information into a usable report. Or you could use a social media monitoring service like BuzzNumbers to manage it automatically. Without strong data you won’t have a complete picture.
Ultimately, when it comes to measuring social media outcomes, the primary variable isn’t which metrics you use but, more so, how you apply them to your strategy. This is why the most important part of social media measurement is developing your strategy at the outset. Without clear objectives, you won’t know what your audience behaviour is telling you and, like 88 per cent of marketers, you’ll be left wondering what it all means.
 Social Media Examiner, 2015