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5 Social Media Metrics That Matter Now

As your business gets more social-savvy, strengthen your metrics strategy. Here's how.

As businesses get more sophisticated in their use of social networking, so too are the metrics by which they measure social business ROI.

Back in the dawn of the social networking age, organizations relied almost solely on simple, standard metrics, such as the number of Facebook fans and likes or the number of Twitter followers and tweets/retweets, to determine their success. Those metrics are still important, but organizations today are developing more sophisticated metrics to measure their progress in meeting increasingly granular social objectives.

That makes it difficult to prescribe the social metrics that matter most, because what matters will differ depending on your organization's size, industry, products, current goals for social, and so on. But some increasingly important social media metrics can be applied widely. Here are five that you should consider now.

1. Quality of fans/followers. You may have hundreds, thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of fans on Facebook or followers on Twitter. These numbers still matter, of course, but it's critical to look beyond the numbers to the quality of those fans and followers. "More important than the quantity of followers on the major social media channels is the quality of followers," said Tassoula E. Kokkoris, who manages a team of social ambassadors for Guidant Financial. "There are companies out there now that will allow you to purchase followers, but I don’t allow my team to do so because it will not be an effective return on investment. Sure, it may look impressive to see thousands of followers on a company profile, but other than the wow factor for visitors, what purpose does that large number serve?"

[ Which social sites are worth your time and attention? See 6 Social Sites Sitting On The Cutting Edge. ]

It's important to look at what your audience is doing and saying and to what they respond negatively and positively to, and to cultivate that engaged core. "Maintaining a smaller core audience of interested, engaged followers will ultimately lead to more meaningful conversations and stronger sales," added Kokkoris. "By knowing your business audience and organically targeting connections that will truly be interested in your services, you’ll earn an authentic online reputation and position your company as an industry thought leader."

2. Social demographics. Related to the quality of fans and followers is knowing exactly who those fans and followers are. This will help to ensure that any social initiatives are hitting your core audience and achieving current business goals, but it will also help to uncover potential new customers and guide future marketing, advertising, customer service, product development, and other goals. "Fan demographics--countries, language, age, etc.--is a great way to see if there are market segments that your current marketing efforts, not just social, could tap into," said Jennifer E. Dunphy, VP of sales and marketing, Vayu Media. "If you see that you have a high concentration of Spanish speakers, for example, you may want to think about Spanish language-targeted campaigns for social media and all other forms of marketing. This can help to open up an entirely new revenue opportunity that you may be missing out on."

3. Most popular pages, posts and tweets. By now, most organizations realize that to succeed at social they need to maintain a consistent presence and dedicate resources to updating content and engaging with the audience. It's easy to measure in pure numbers which pages, posts and tweets are most popular, but organizations need to go beyond the numbers to determine why they were popular. Was it a question that prompted a barrage of comments? Was it a link to a how-to video on Twitter that resulted in a high number of retweets? Was it a how-to whitepaper that accompanied the announcement of a new product launch? "The most valuable metrics are those indicating the most popular pages, posts, or tweets, because they serve as templates to help you broaden your prospecting net and deepen customer relationships," said Cindy Balon Harder, principal of Visual Data Group, which is releasing a new social media evaluation tool this spring.

4. Page views and click-throughs. Content marketing is making everyone a publisher these days. Companies are developing white papers, how-to videos, podcasts, infographics, and other forms of content to engage existing and new customers, as well as to generate leads or sales (see No. 5). It's important to know what content gets seen and, more importantly, shared.

5. Conversion. Conversion is a long-vaunted goal, but as companies become more savvy about their use of social media, it's increasingly critical to measure what the social audience is doing as a result of the time they spend on your Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and other social sites. Did they buy something, sign up for something, or consume something as a result of a Facebook update, Twitter post, or Pinterest pin? If so--and this is the harder question to answer--why? These are just a few in a growing list of emerging social media metrics. What are the most important social metrics for your organization? Please respond by commenting below or sending me an email at [email protected]

Follow Deb Donston-Miller at @debdonston.

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User Rank: Apprentice
4/20/2012 | 7:27:12 PM
re: 5 Social Media Metrics That Matter Now
Great points Deb,

Thanks for referencing me in your post. I think that the most important thing for businesses to realize is that social media is all about creating engagement and is designed to build community and conversation. Social media analytic data will constantly be improving, It's up to the businesses to remain flexible with their social strategy and to choose to use the data to better engage their community.

Jennifer Dunphy
Deb Donston-Miller
Deb Donston-Miller,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/17/2012 | 2:12:45 AM
re: 5 Social Media Metrics That Matter Now
Thanks for your response, Ben. I agree with what you are saying about flexibility. I think that is especially true with social, where so much is still untested. I believe that one of the marks of an organization that is successful at social is the ability to plan as well as they can, carefully analyze data, and use that analysis to drive decisions moving forward.

Deb Donston-Miller
Contributing Editor, The BrainYard
User Rank: Apprentice
4/12/2012 | 6:32:03 PM
re: 5 Social Media Metrics That Matter Now
These five make a lot of sense.

The only thing I would add...?

I think much of the stress about measurement stems from the idea that measurement needs to be bulletproof.

It doesn't.

The exercise of measuring something forces you to define the things that you value and expect from that thing. It forces your team to reach an understanding of the metrics that are expected from each piece of campaign or from each tactic you produce.

So, be prepared to pivot, adapt or change your metrics if your first five don't work.

Ben Bradley
User Rank: Apprentice
4/4/2012 | 5:31:02 PM
re: 5 Social Media Metrics That Matter Now
I do agree that the quality of fans/followers is important, however, numbers are what get you seen! I used to spend hours on end trying to find "quality" followers but now i have found it is much more efficient to use a supplier and get followers in bulk. If only a small percentage end up being "quality" i have still saved myself lots and lots of time and frustration doing it myself and it is still very cost effective. I have been using twitterflex.com and have been very impressed with their work, but if anyone knows of a better supplier please let me know.
User Rank: Apprentice
4/4/2012 | 5:05:00 PM
re: 5 Social Media Metrics That Matter Now
It's interesting you point out, number one, the idea about the quality of fans/followers. Every day, consumers are bombarded to "like" or "follow" a brand, but what does that really mean? Does it mean people are more willing to buy a certain product/service? Or are the followerships more to do with the crowding affect where some people will do it just because their friends did? Great point.
Eric Bardun
Eric Bardun,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/4/2012 | 4:53:24 PM
re: 5 Social Media Metrics That Matter Now
I currently track quality of fans/followers with Klout, I call it reach. I also utilize sentiment and combine it with reach. What are your thoughts on sentiment? He is a brief outline of my efforts: http://goo.gl/U9v0B I would love to hear your thoughts.
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