More than Metrics: Measuring Social Media Results
Written by Guest Blogger October 1, 2013
One thing we discuss with our clients before beginning a marketing plan is what their goals are for marketing. We do the same thing before starting a social media marketing plan. Though the results are different from a standard marketing plan to a strictly social media marketing plan, two things are often mentioned: increase sales and increase awareness.
Once goals have been determined, we turn our heads to how we will actually track the results. How will we know if we actually meet our goals? Usually, the books at the end of the quarter are a fairly good indicator of whether or not we increased sales, but tracking awareness can often be a bit more difficult.
With regards to social media, there is often a debate over whether likes, comments, shares, etc. (all of those terms that vary from site to site that we like to lump together and call “engagement”) actually count for anything. I personally have been on both sides of that debate, but the truth is, sometimes they do count, and sometimes, they just do not.
For instance, let’s say that you are a retail store and your goal is to raise sales 10% in the 4th quarter over last year, and you increase your social media activities with this goal in mind. You do a great job at increasing awareness and engagement, which are important, but if no one buys, you have not met your goal.
So how do you do a better job of making sure that your goals and your social media marketing activities are more in line with one another?
First, start with realistic expectations. We have been working with a customer recently on several social media campaigns. However, while she has had a Facebook page for a couple of years, she has not been actively participating on it. Based on the fact that her very last form of engagement on the page was from December of last year, I told her she would need to place ads and promote posts just to get people to SEE her posts again. One of my absolute favorite quotes about social media is, “it takes a defined budget to generate leads and sales on Social Media. It’s not free, only the real estate is.” If her only goal was to increase sales, she would not meet it. But knowing that she needed to invest time and money to increase her fan and engagement levels before she could even consider increasing her sales helped her set more realistic goals.
Second, develop your own set of metrics and measuring systems. A lot of people will question why I advise this, when most of the social media platforms offer their own set of “analytics” for you to use.
The reality is, while I find most of those reports to be a good starting point, if you are serious about social media marketing – serious enough to pay for professional plan development and consulting – you need to get serious about what you want to track. Generally that is the result of ads. It is website traffic. It is online purchases. It is how often people leave your shopping cart with products.
Also, I do not always trust these reporting tools. I have seen numbers fluctuate from day to day: one day it will tell me 1,600 people “saw a post.” The next, that number is down to 1,200. How people can ‘unsee’ a post is beyond me. And the icing on the cake for my distrust of Facebook’s metrics reporting (though my distrust is of all networks, not just Facebook) would be this screenshot we took of a customer’s page (identifying information has been blocked out) a few weeks ago:
Five likes, but only 1 person saw the post? Most kindergarteners know there is something fishy about that math, Facebook. (I like to call this one “Facebook Metrics Fail”. I think I might frame it for my office.)
Finally, understand that what you do today may result in sales tomorrow. While I certainly do not advocate that you not worry about meeting goals, I do think it is important to recognize that what you do for your business today will affect it long term. We push networking a lot around Red Sage, and there is a reason for that: it works. It doesn’t always result in sales today – we rarely walk out of a speaking engagement with two or three jobs – but we frequently hear from customers “We saw Ellen speak at XYZ,” “I met Kelli at the State of ABC luncheon” when they DO contact us to purchase something, be it a week, month, or even year later.
Social media networks work much the same way as traditional networking does. You put yourself out there, let others see what products and services you have to offer, and when someone is in the mood to buy – THEN they will remember you.
If you are new in business, or you have neglected your social media networks, set realistic goals for your company, knowing that you probably will not drive sales immediately. Focus on providing quality content, increasing engagement, developing a good metrics report you feel captures everything you want to track, and keep your eyes on future sales.
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