So you’ve committed to investing in social media and quickly you realise that you are jumping into a brand new world of marketing. You’re convinced that the investment is going to be worth it – every consultant has been signing from the same song book on that point – but you’re still wondering how to track the success or failure of a campaign based on social media platforms you aren’t entirely familiar with.
The sorts of metrics that you’ve been used to in print, television, radio, and even online advertising don’t seem to apply anymore. Instead you’ve been inundated with terms that sound happy, fun, but less than serious: fans, followers, pins, retweets, and share. How can these be connected to what you’re really concerned about, things like brand awareness, brand engagement, converting leads, and making sales?
The answer can be found in your social media key performance indicators, or KPIs. By tracking less than a dozen KPIs across your social media platforms you are able to determine the success your campaign is enjoying in reaching new customers, raising brand awareness, and converting that awareness into website visitors and, hopefully, sales.
Here then are the 10 social media KPIs that you or your social media team should be tracking to make sure you aren’t wasting your time, money, and talent on social media.
The first area where you want to make sure you are succeeding is in reaching your target audience. Here there are two things to track: fans and followers, and demographics.
Fans and Followers
Fans and followers are your raw audience, the number of people who might see your posts on Facebook, on Twitter, or on another social network. generally you are looking for this number to be as large as possible – the more people that you reach, the more likely that you’ll be able to convert some into brand ambassadors or customers.
A successful campaign should see your total number of fans and followers increase over time but whatever else you do, don’t get sucked into the idea that more fans and more followers alone dictates success. To do so is equivalent to thinking that advertising at the Super Bowl makes sense for your mom-and-pop business because there is an audience of 130 million people – a big audience, sure, but not one that necessarily will be interested in buying your product.
The demographics of the fans and followers you attract will be a key to understanding the success of your social media campaign.
If fans and followers is about a number (quantity) then demographics help you to figure out how well these fans and followers fit your target audience (quality).
Whine comes to demographics you’ll want to find out the age, gender, interests, socio-economic status, and perhaps most importantly location of your fans and followers. Social media platforms offer a fantastic amount of information that you can access to learn more about the people you reach online. Make sure you are reaching the right people and you’ll back up an increase in quantity with an increase in quality, too.
Once you know how many fans you have and have gathered the essential demographic information about them to compare to your target customer profile, the next thing you want to look for is engagement.
Again, it is one thing to reach your target audience and another thing to get that audience engaged with your message. Do you have the skills and campaign to cut through the noise? Here’s how to tell.
The first level of engagement is where someone reads your social media post or tweet and clicks ‘like’. It’s positive engagement and others in the reader’s social network will be able to see that they’ve ‘liked’ your post.
However, it is also a pretty low level of engagement. A ‘like’ does not mean that the reader has necessarily read the entire post, will become a customer, or even talk about you to their friends.
Likes should be considered good signs of a campaign gaining some traction, but by themselves they are not proof of anything more than perhaps a well-chosen photo illustration or well-timed tweet.
Liking a post is for Facebook and the rough equivalent on Twitter is the favourite.
The equivalence is only rough because the act of favouriting a tweet is a public act and the favourites are stored in an easily accessible public list on a Twitter user’s profile. Clicking on any profile allows anyone to see what tweets a user has favourited which puts this sort of engagement just a half step ahead of the Facebook like (also visible to a person’s friends, but not entirely public).
As with ‘likes’, favourites should be taken as a sign that a campaign is getting traction but should not be the be-all and end-all of the campaign. If you’re achieving plenty of favourites but sales are stagnant, there is more work to be done.
Clicking like takes a fraction of a second.
Typing a comment? That takes a little longer and demonstrates a deeper level of engagement with your post or tweet.
When readers leave comments on your page and begin or engage in conversation with other readers or (hopefully) with you, they are engaging with you, your brand, and your product.
More than this, comments provide immediate and valuable feedback from customers and potential customers. Fold this back into your business and you’ll be able to tweak your social media campaign even as you are rolling it out.
If comments are people talking to you, then mentions are people talking about you. These are worth tracking because, as your campaign expands, more people will hear about you and begin engaging with you as a brand leader.
Track the tweets that mention your company name. Track the tweets and posts that deliver you a ‘hat tip’ or ‘cc’. This sort of engagement amplifies your message by sharing it with a larger group of people than your own social campaign might be able to meet.
Also be aware that, on platforms such as Twitter, these mentions can be customers or potential customers reaching out to you with questions or seeking advice. If people are taking time to reach out, make sure your social media strategy includes time and resources to engage with those people. Track your mentions, but react to them, too.
Your social media consultant is over the moon: comments about your Facebook posts have exploded and your are being mentioned all over Twitter. A good thing? Probably – but you need to ask about the sentiment that those comments and mentions express.
In broad terms, sentiment can be either positive, negative, or neutral. You’ll want to be shooting for the former.
To gauge sentiment look at the feedback you’re receiving, the words that people use when interacting with your brand, the tone of the comments that appear on your Facebook wall or social media streams, or use one of the paid tools available online to help judge how your campaign is faring.
If reach is about knowing who and how many people receive your messages, and if engagement is about how your audience engages with that message, amplification is about how your audience uses their own social media channels and networks to pass on your message all on their own.
Social sharing, as it is known, allows you to extend your reach and potentially your engagement as your target audience shares your content and message with their friends, family, and professional networks.Think of it as a step up from simple engagement: instead of caring enough about your message to read and reply, your audience is now reading and sharing your message with others.
How can measure this amplification? Two simple ways are shares and retweets.
Your audience can share your social media message almost anywhere. The integration of social media services, the modern web browser, and the native sharing capabilities built into most smartphones means taking a blog post, article, tweet, or Facebook post and sharing it on another social network is the work of just a couple of clicks, swipes, or taps.
Major social networks allow you to track the sharing of your articles, posts, and tweets within their own networks. Hence, you can see who and how many people have shared your Facebook post on Facebook, or reblogged your Tumblr post on Tumblr.
Keeping track of the number of shared elements as well as who is sharing the posts is a good way to see if your social media campaign is gaining traction, as well as identifying who is becoming important as a brand evangelist for your company.
Retweets are specific to the Twitter platform and are public, easily tracked, and immediately announced.
Retweets allow your message to quickly move from your potentially limited audience to a much larger audience. The mathematics of a retweet work almost exponentially. Imagine, for example, you tweet out to an audience of 100 followers. Without a retweet your message will reach only those 100 people.
But imagine just two of that audience retweet your message. Suddenly you have reached 300 people instead of 100 – tripling your potential audience.
And if just two of those additional 200 people retweet your message, you will expand your audience again, probably to hundreds more people, potentially to thousands.
It’s not always easy to compose a tweet that gets retweeted by dozens or even hundreds of people. But when you do, you’ll see your reach increase as you attract new followers and have new opportunities to engage and have your message amplified.
One criticism of those new to social media marketing campaigns is that they sometimes feel that all the likes, follows, retweets, and comments their receive don’t translate into revenue.
How can you be sure you are getting a return on your social media marketing campaign investment? Track this final KPI.
Sales from Social Referrers
Google Analytics tracks the proportion of the visitors to your website arriving from social platforms. It’s easy to see what social media channels are delivering for your site, and it’s also easy to determine what posts, tweets, and elements re delivering best for you.
Where your social media campaign links directly to a sales or ecommerce page on your site, it’s easy to connect any revenue generated with your social media campaign.
But what about if your business model is not about online sales – how can you determine a link between your social media campaign and sales you are making?
One way would be to simply ask them. When you close a sale, find out how the customer found out about you: a TV commercial, a Facebook interaction, word of mouth, or some other way.
Another way would be to ensure that mentioning your social media campaign is a way of offering a small discount for mentioning the Facebook page, the Twitter feed, or the Pinterest board. Even a small discount can prompt customers to mention your campaign at the point of sale, and doing so gives you the feedback you need to connect a sale with your online efforts.
Speaking of engagement… I’m proud to leave the first comment here 😉
Thank you for this great article! Very clear and easy to read. I’m sharing it on my social networks right away 🙂
Can you please guide me about tools for gauging the Social Media Performance?
I have understood about how important the likes, comments, favorites and shares are to the campaign
and also how paid ads help boost all these.
What if I trying to plan a campaign without paid means.
This is where the Key performance indicators come into play.
And I would want to know more about it.
There are a wealth of tools out there and you may have to use more than one, depending on the social networks that you use.
Twitter and Facebook have their own native analytics. We have written, for example, about how to get started with Twitter Analytics before.
You might consider a tool like Mention (to track discussions and mentions about your brand) or something a little cheaper (but maybe less effective) like a hashtag column on your Twitter or HootSuite desktop app.
Paid advertising will boost your engagement, your impressions, and your reach, but CTR’s are generally pretty low. If you can convert a couple of percent of your impressions into clicks, you are doing exceedingly well.
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