The One Social Media Metric You Need [Data]

10 Social Media Metrics Experts Weigh In

As social media marketing matures, measuring its effectiveness is a high priority for marketers. Every marketer knows that the bottom line for social media marketing, like any other type of marketing investment, is what it will do to grow my business.

The challenge for marketers is getting their social media metrics aligned with their business goals. Based on Chief Marketer’s Social Media Survey, three out of five marketers say they are very or somewhat effective at measuring social media campaigns. While this sounds promising, a closer look at the findings reveals most marketers measure what they can or what’s easy, not necessarily what’s in line with their business objectives.  

What is the one MUST have element that social media metrics and analysis must have and why?

To help social media marketers better understand the results of their social media initiatives, I asked a group of social media marketers and metrics experts what they thought was the most important element of social media metrics. (Read Social Media Marketing Metrics ABCs to get a better understanding of social media marketing metrics.) Here are their answers:

  1. Share of voice.  It’s important to identify what channels are the most important and the ability to chart this as a trend over time. Are the most conversations taking place on microblogging sites or more permanent channels? Connie Benson   
  2. Social media metrics should be tied to your social media marketing goals and related target audience. For most first, this gets down to building brand, acquiring new customers, increasing sales or supporting fans. (Here’s a chart associating social media metrics with marketing goals.) Ideally, these metrics should be set when you develop your strategies to ensure that you have the capabilities to track the relevant information or you’ll be using whatever data is available later, even if it only has a passing association with your marketing strategies. Heidi Cohen – Riverside Marketing Strategies 
  3. Dedicated resources.  The new marketing skill set required to read, analyze and develop actionable social media scorecards is becoming more like database management, web analytics and statistical analysis all in one.  This new skill is becoming a required part of social media management and monitoring.  Reporting skills and the ability to consolidate this complex data into easy to read dashboards, scorecards and other management reports is a must. Perry Drake – Drake DirectAssistant Professor at NYU
  4. KPIs (key performance indicators). If you don’t know what you’re measuring and why you’re measuring it, the rest is moot. It can be sales, how efforts are shortening the sales cycle, qualified leads, search visibility, and engagement (you’d have to define that, too). Hopefully it’s something meaningful and tied to business goals, not something flabby like “likes” or followers or fans.  Rebecca Lieb, author of Content Marketing: Think Like a Publisher – How to Use Content to Market Online and in Social Media (Affiliate link)
  5. A conversion point, i.e something to track. Whether that’s sales, coupon redemption, new subscribers, etc. you must have something you can put a dollar value on and you must have the ability to track it and tie it to your social media efforts. John Marshall – Market Motive  
  6. Tracking through to conversion. We can only know our success on Facebook if we know how many of our friends subscribed to our email list. We can only know our success on LinkedIn if we know how many of our connections bought from us. We can only know our success on Twitter if we know how many closed customer support calls Twitter generated. These are “definitive” social metrics. Engagement, sentiment, number of followers, and number of shares are “predictive” social metrics. Social appending tools like FlowTown don’t give us the whole picture. Which post generated sales? Which link delivered subscribers? Without this, everything else is speculation. Brian Massey – Conversion Scientist  
  7. A brand health score that factors in both sentiment and buzz volume. The brand health score indicates level of relevance among consumers, and what sentiment or feeling they are conveying to each other about your brand. A brand health score also enables us to benchmark performance over time, against competitors and across industries. Kate Paulin – 360i
  8. Business Results. Most companies use metrics to measure ROI and ROI = Actions ($$)/Investments ($). Therefore, the most important metric is the business results the company is expecting from their social media program. (eg. X% increase in sales, X times the sales in half the time, X% more leads, X% more conversion, X% decrease in internal operating costs) This supports the investment they will be making so the more specific, the better. Rob Petersen – Barn Raisers
  9. Clean Data. Social data, because it is largely unstructured (I’m told 90% of social data is unstructured data), has to be “interpreted” either by human or machine, which is very time consuming and usually costly if it’s done well. In addition, in most cases, the sources of data are not vetted. Authoritative source identification is rarely done and often isn’t scalable when it is done. Finally, Social Media Data by the nature of how it is collected, does not represent a truly representative picture. As a result, many types of analysis that are thought of by media consumers as something that can be done well using the current crop of Social Analytics platforms, really can’t be (done well, or accurately). Finally, types of analysis that do not require a representative sample, such as Forum Groups and their mapping into Social Data, are expensive and time consuming to grapple with, and few clients are ready to pay for that kind of work, or what it entails. Marshall Sponder, author of Social Media Analytics: Effective Tools for Building, Interpreting, and Using Metrics. (Affiliate link)
  10. Goals. Without goals, metrics are just measurements. With goals, metrics are a tremendously useful tool for guiding the organization in the right direction. “Goals” means having specific outcomes, clearly defined and commonly consented. It means having specific time frames for those outcomes and a clear set of responses for when those goals are underachieved, met or exceeded. Knowing the business actions to be taken in advance of the results is the key to success. Jim Sterne – eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit and author of Social Media Metrics: How to Measure and Optimize Your Marketing. (Affiliate link)

In the evolving world of social media marketing, it’s critical to determine elements you need to measure to prove your program’s effectiveness when you set your social media marketing goals. Otherwise, you’ll spend a lot of time retrofiting the metrics you have available, not necessarily the data you need.

What is the one social media metric that you think marketers must track and why is it important?

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen


Here are some other articles of interest.

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pyxopotamus/3711320805/

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  • http://barnraisersllc.com Rob Petersen

    Thank you for the inclusion, Heidi, but, more important thanks for a great article about the social media topic that’s at the root of it all. Your post is really well organized and it’s great to get all these insights.

    Rob