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Traversing the labyrinth of social marketing metrics

Matt Kapko | May 22, 2014
Businesses still struggle to hone in on the most appropriate social metrics. Far too many firms emphasize vanity metrics when there remains little agreement over the true value of a follower, friend, retweet, reblog, pin or like.

Social media may have flipped the switch for marketing, but it also has a knack for making things awfully more complex. Because the first wave of social marketing focused on brand-building mechanics, many businesses have been lulled into following a less-than-ideal framework for measuring their success.

This limited mindset persists today among marketers who place too much faith in shares or engagement — when the real prize could and should be cold, hard cash.

"At the end of the day, all marketing is about revenue," says HubSpot CMO Mike Volpe. "It may be 17 steps before [a prospect] becomes a customer, and that's what you're working on& but a brand is only valuable inasmuch as it actually delivers revenue."

Businesses are inundated with metrics that fail to connect these dots. That should come as no surprise to the advertising industry, which has a habit of squeezing new channels into older and more traditional ways of measurement and thinking.

In Social Marketing, Old Rules Don't Apply

In her almost two-year-old report, " The Social Media ROI Cookbook," Altimeter Group analyst Susan Etlinger concludes: "The volatility of social data and the pace of change mean that tried-and-true measurement methods are no longer enough. Social data is different. The old rules don't apply."

During her research at the time, Etlinger and her colleagues found that as many as 75 percent of organizations lack a holistic measurement strategy. "Web analytics; social media monitoring; social platforms; and tool, application and ecommerce providers have rushed to fill the gaps, while analysts at brands and agencies have borrowed accepted methodologies from adjacent disciplines to address the unique challenges and pitfalls of social data," she writes.

Although these problems have been on the surface for years, there remains little agreement over the true value of a follower, friend, retweet, reblog, pin or like. Marketers traverse a labyrinth of metrics with each campaign — which often results in data that has more to do with vanity than actual business objectives.

Many of the vanity metrics applied to social media are simply a carryover from earlier digital formats. Marketers can hang their hat on various statistics, including share of voice, interactions, impressions, amplification rates, audience growth, social reach, engagement by channel, average interactions per post and many others.

Good Analytics Begins at Home

With metrics like these, it's no wonder so many companies fail to think about social engagement in terms of revenue building. Part of the blame for this misguided measurement rests with the purveyors of social media itself.

"There's a difference between the metrics that those platforms provide and the things you can measure yourself through your own analytics and on your own website," Volpe says. "The metrics that those platforms provide are good — but in nearly all cases, they don't give you any tracking down to the customer level or how many of those people became customers, because that's tracked within your own systems, not those platforms.

 

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