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The 3 Types of Social Media Metrics that Matter to You

Marketing is often referred to as a combination of art and science, a balance of creativity and analysis. This combination is what routinely draws marketers to the field, and it is no different when applied to social media marketing.

Well-defined metrics allow marketers to defend their efforts, push for greater budgets, track progress, and optimize for continued success. However, it can seem difficult to wrangle the right metrics through the sea of available options and then drive true meaning out of them.

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Despite the challenges, a defined social media strategy combined with proper measurement can lead to real business and marketing wins — and set the structure to find the return on investment (ROI) of your social media marketing efforts. Whether you’re an experienced social media marketer or just starting out, here is a framework to organize the metrics (which can also be applied to any digital channel from email to search), and examples of the metrics that fall into each layer.

Business Metrics

Business metrics are the overarching goals for social media that align with your brand’s business objectives.

socaila metrics mapThese metrics provide the structure by which marketing is going to be defined. By identifying and understanding what drives the bottom line of your brand, you can begin to tie your marketing efforts to it. In doing so, you will also be able to make the case for your marketing efforts in quantifiable and real terms, showing how they are providing value to the brand.

Moreover, these business metrics are the larger concepts that set your channel-specific goals, from which the rest of the metrics structure branches. Social media certainly can’t address all business goals, but it can serve as a means to address specified business needs.

In most instances, business metrics will come down to elements that represent healthy business operations that directly or indirectly lead to making more money, saving money, or both.

Examples: Market share, revenue, brand equity, net promoter score, brand awareness, share of voice, customer lifetime value, and brand affinity

Performance Metrics

The layer beneath the business metrics are the performance metrics, or your key performance indicators (KPIs). These numbers signal how your marketing is performing by tracking progress against the goals established through the business metrics. These performance metrics are typically defined by absolutes or hard numbers, and they are the building blocks that set the foundation for your larger business metrics.

With the performance metrics, you’re essentially trying to answer the question: Are we reaching our goals?

One popular framework for setting goals to define performance metrics is the SMART method, meaning that goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. Another is the OKR method, which establishes an objective and then the key results that feed that objective.

For performance metrics, I prefer a combination of the two aforementioned methods, because performance metrics should feed business objectives with measurable key results over defined periods of time. Regardless of the method applied, these metrics need to be clear, defined, measurable, and have set time frames.

For instance, a business could establish a business goal of raising brand awareness, which then translates into key results of a certain social media reach over a specific range of time, such as a year. That specified reach then can be broken down into quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily goals to support the larger objective. This metric would then be one piece of the overall collection of performance metrics that create reporting dashboards.

I also prefer a combination of brand-specific metrics that represent the marketing funnel and competitive metrics. At this level you can understand how your funnel is operating, track progress against past performance, and determine how you’re performing within the larger market — all to provide context for the numbers.

Examples: Sales, reach, engagement, engaged users, clicks, traffic, quality traffic, audience growth, marketing qualified leads (MQLs), mentions, earned impressions, and conversions

Optimization Metrics

The last set of metrics needed for an effective measurement system are optimization metrics. Optimization metrics are those that provide insights into how to improve your social media marketing, or indicate what needs to change.

Arguably, these metrics are the most important and valuable — at least I believe them to be, since they provide the catalyst for actionable insights.

Optimization metrics take the form of rates or ratios and help answer the question: How can we reach our goals better?

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The rates and ratios can isolate under-performing (or over-performing) parts of your funnel, along with the micro-elements that signal the reasons behind any changes to the macro-level metrics. By optimizing these parts, you’ll drive the marketing effectiveness and efficiencies needed to improve the bottom-line business metrics.

Another reason why optimization metrics are some of my favorites is that they are the freest from manipulation. For example, if a brand wants to increase reach, its social media team could just post more frequently. However, there may be diminishing returns or a negative impact from this method that wouldn’t be picked up by performance metrics, but would be identified by optimization metrics.

Additionally, tests can be folded into the optimization metrics to help determine how they are having an impact on marketing efforts, and therefore whether they should be doubled down on or scrapped, which extends an agile methodology to social media marketing (something I am a huge advocate for).

Examples: Clickthrough rate (CTR), cost per click (CPC), cost per interaction (CPI), cost per acquisition (CPA), conversion rate, engagement rate, active audience percentage, engagement per post, reach per post, retention rate, and growth rate

Need more help planning for 2017 and prioritizing metrics for your own brand? Download the 2017 Social Marketing Planning Guide below.

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2017 Social Marketing Planning Guide


Jay Shemenski

Jay Shemenski is a Senior Digital Strategist at Hill Holliday. He is a digital strategist with 6+ years of experience at brands like AARP and Harvard Medical School. His expertise is in developing comprehensive brand experiences and digital marketing strategies to successfully engage audiences and establish long-term growth.

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