The number one social media challenge for marketers according to Mary Meeker’s 2017 report is measuring ROI (61%). Why are so many marketers finding social ROI challenging?
As marketers have leapt into social media they’ve been keen to embrace new metrics, but haven’t probably correlated them to figure out what they indicate.
Currently, the number one metric used to measure success is engagement (56%). Engagement considers the number of people taking an ‘action’ on your content. ‘Actions’ are broadly considered ‘clicks’, ‘likes’, ‘shares’, and ‘comments’.
Many look at engagement as the holy grail believing high engagement means great content and an active community. Marketers are fixated on this number, often looping in industry benchmarks to try to show how much better they’re doing than competitors.
Engagement can be misleading. In a recent Edelman donor generation campaign for a charity One post received a very high engagement ratio of 30%, but returned only $1 for every dollar spend on media. While another had an engagement ratio significantly lower at only 1%, but returned substantially more, $4 for every dollar spend on media.
In other words, for this business goal. Engagement doesn’t correlate. An increased engagement rate doesn’t indicate you’ll drive more donations. So engagement shouldn’t be relied upon as the sole measure of success.
Across all digital media, clicks are another metric used to show ‘success’. As a metric these too are very misleading. An APAC Nielsen study looking at hundreds of campaigns found that click rates had virtually no correlation to generating ROI. Global studies by Millward Brown have also described click rates as: “meaningless and potentially damaging to brand campaigns”.
Marketers gloat over fan metrics too. They’ve falsely seen them through a CRM lens as ‘acquired customers’. At best, fan growth can indicate potential advocacy – but it needs to be overlaid with observations of online audience behavior. Certain markets, demographics and interest groups are much more likely to grab likes than others.
So how should you measure the success of social media?
Marketers need to go back to basics, and treat social media as media. Below is a list of leading indicators you may want to start with. The ‘Delivery’ and ‘Action’ column is where most marketers are focused.