Picking the right social media metrics
Measuring the success of your social media campaign is about defining the metrics and KPIs that show how your efforts are resulting in more leads, increased web traffic, and higher ROI. But the social media landscape is populated by dozens of platforms and sites, each with their own set of analytics tools and metrics.
The trend is towards more data, as evidenced by Pinterest introducing its own analytics tool earlier this month, but more data doesn't always mean more insight. And that's what marketing professionals are really after -- actionable, relevant insights that can be used to increase ROI.
Some social media campaigns tend to get preoccupied with metrics that may not actually matter in the grand scheme of things. A perfect example of this is with a site like YouTube. The number of people subscribing to your channel may not correlate to the number of views a video/channel actually gets, much less the number of people that visit your website and convert after viewing a video. So putting too much emphasis on getting subscribers may not result in higher ROI -- instead, you may want to focus your content strategy on driving people to your website (unless you are trying to monetize your channel).
Defining your social media objectives
To get insight into your social media performance, you need to know what your objectives are. To paraphrase Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin, you need to define success before you can know if you've achieved it. This philosophy applies to your social media efforts, and will help you understand what metrics to use to measure your progress.
Why am I creating a page/profile on this social media site?
The answer to this question will allow you to immediately start asking questions about your performance and tell you want type of data you need. For example, if you create a Facebook page to increase traffic to your website, then you know to measure referral traffic in Google Analytics and use Facebook Insights to learn which posts get the most likes, furthest reach, and highest engagement. If you're considering advertising on Facebook, then this type of data will provide invaluable in crafting content for a target audience.
What is the value of an interaction?
This is an important question, and one that is not easily answered. Social media marketing is about generating buzz around your brand by interacting with customers. But not all interactions are created equal. Your goal as a social media marketer is to know the value of each type of interaction in your social circle. What's more important to your Pinterest marketing -- an image that gets a like or a repin? With the plethora of options for people to share content via social media sites, defining what types of interactions are valuable is important for your analytics' efforts.
What's the end-game for your social media campaign?
Every marketer has to be able to justify the money they spend on a campaign whether it's SEO or television advertisements. With social media, it's fair to say things aren't always black and white. Your presence on Twitter or LinkedIn may influence a purchase decision that takes weeks to play out -- maybe someone sees you tweet about a product, then weeks later Googles you and makes the purchase. The end-game for your social media campaign has to be seen within the larger context of your marketing performance -- nothing exists in a vacuum.
Examples of valuable social media metrics
Assembling a relevant and actionable social media dashboard is about defining the right metrics and KPIs for your organization. As I've been discussing, these metrics can be fairly subjective depending on how you answer the questions in the previous section. That said, let's take a look at what I think are some examples of useful metrics/visualizations using Twitter as our testing ground.
Twitter metrics - For marketers
My objective with this visualization is to see how mentions influence referral traffic and site conversions. I chose a bar/line chart because it helps me focus on the trend over time and see the correlation between similar metrics.
Twitter metrics - Summarizing key points
If your audience is front-line marketers, then the above visualization may do the trick; if your audience is managers or executives, this chart may not give them the information they are looking for. Keep in mind that decision makers want tangible numbers when it comes to your social media performance, just like they want numbers for ads, SEO keyword ranking, or any other type of campaign.
It's not what you measure, but how you measure it
In the examples above, I used multiple data sources to connect the dots and paint a clear picture of how your social media campaigns impact your marketing efforts. I think that getting more "Likes" or "Retweets" is a worthy marketing goal, but I think that to be a successful marketer, you need to be able to see how (and if) those interactions add value to your brand. With so much data out there, creating a social media dashboard requires careful consideration of what metrics are actually meaningful. It's easy to get caught up in the hype and excitement of a social media campaign -- but you need to be able to show how all those "Likes" and mentions influence your brand's position and incremental sales.