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Getting behind the smoke screen of social media metrics

I ran an anonymous poll on a reputable LinkedIn PR and communications professionals group to explore who how many professionals felt they may have over-sold performance metrics and 35% of 600+ voters are guilty (including me)!

Walking into my first social marketing meeting eight years ago, I remember being so confident in the growth of the social channels, with their likes, followers and engagement figures. The obvious question which I was unprepared to answer, has stuck with me for some time - so what?

Look inside the stats

Most reputable channels and management apps come with expansive analytics features, allowing you to track impressions, likes, comments, shares, link clicks and more.

As a young communications professional it can be easy to get sucked into taking these stats at face value, seeing the growth charts, and of course compliments we get from the channels we use. “Your post has performed 80% better than the last one, you are an all-star LinkedIn poster”

Having spent six years working within leading communications agencies supporting and managing social strategies, whilst sentiment to ‘vanity’ metrics has certainly changed, there is still today some naivety in the industry when measuring social performance.

Each platform is designed to keep you hooked, and to become better professionals, we need to learn to look past the smoke screen and understand the real value of metric measurement.

IMPRESSIONS - the number of times your content is displayed on a person’s screen

The truth is, increasing Impressions alone don’t mean this campaign has been any more successful. Just because something is displayed on a person’s screen, doesn’t mean they have seen it.

What is important is that the increase is within the right areas, for instance, are those extra impressions coming from your key target audience?

Secondly, we must look at the interconnectivity of other metrics, as with higher impressions, you would expect higher likes, shares, comments and link clicks.

A high impressions stat with no inter-connected growth actually suggests that your content is either reaching the wrong audience, or isn’t engaging enough.

LIKES - the number of times an individual has liked your comment or post

I’ve worked with clients that would receive 20-30 likes a post, and 95% of those likes would be from internal employees.

This is why again we must understand that not all ‘likes’ mean that content is performing well.

The good thing about likes is that for most channels, if any individual likes your post, then their wider network may potentially see this and engage further, but again it comes down to who the likes are coming from, and how you look to engage with them individuals.

COMMENTS AND SHARES - interaction with the post be that a comment, or share of your post to their wider network.

The value certainly increases where it comes to comments and shares, as if someone is willing to comment on your post, or share it to their wider network, then there is a clearer interest.

But yet again, we must look at this more so from the perspective of what are these comments and who are they sharing too?

It looks great on the metrics, but the value is minimal. Whereas a single share from someone ‘influential’ could be the difference between a successful and non-successful social media campaign.

PAGE FOLLOW - someone following your company page

Now obviously, an increase to your company page follows does suggest that your presence is growing, but yet again we must be cautious not to over-sell this metric.

After all, have you ever followed a competitor page to see what they are up to?

We all do it, which is why we must not take this metric for its face-value. There are tools to understand exactly who your followers are, and using these we can gain a more accurate interpretation of impact.

With followers we must also recognise that there is an expectation of follower growth, and it should always be an upwards trend.

LINK-CLICK THROUGH - when someone clicks through from a post to a specific link (usually a website, YouTube video)

For me, considering all of the above metrics, this is perhaps the most important if your intention is to sell a product, as you are moving your audience one step closer in their decision to learn more or purchase.

However, they might not find the page relevant (misalignment between the content and the actual company website) or they might be a snooping competitor.

This is where we need to look at our Google Analytics (soon to be GA4) to see whether the click-through was meaningful. How long did they spend on the website? Did they visit multiple pages? Did they fill in an enquiry form? What specific actions did they take?

Ask yourself, so what?

Whilst all of the above metrics certainly serve a purpose in recognising impact led communications, it is not enough to count on a single metric to determine success, but the inter-connectivity metrics with your key target audiences, to discover that ‘so what’.

Article written by Joe Tye, freelance communications consultant at Simply Better Communications

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