“Social media is changing the way businesses can, and must, engage with their consumers” (Powell, Dimos, Groves, 2011, p. 39). The audience is the most important aspect of developing a social media program and they can be categorized into three levels: influencers, individuals and consumers. Objectives must be set to attract these audiences by understanding what appeals to them, when and where. They should be SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely) such as “Shift brand perceptions to a more youthful image to drive product consideration and lead generation on the brand website 5% by the end of the program”.
Once social media program objectives are set, key performance indicators should be attached to each one to monitor level of success. Measurement is essential to the overall marketing effort and determines what is worth the investment. Metrics such as overall sentiment, impressions, reach, likes, shares, video clicks, retention rate, engagement rate, website traffic, @mentions, hashtag use and even attendance rates at events or stores should be tracked. Online vendors such as Radian6, Adobe Social, Hootsuite, Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, etc. can assist in monitoring and tracking total engagement. Davis (2012) indicates that different campaign metrics should be used to match objectives:
- If you want to measure awareness, use metrics such as volume and reach.
- If you want to measure engagement, use metrics such as retweets and comments.
- If you want to drive website traffic, use metrics such as clicks and conversations.
For monitoring of an ongoing campaign, there needs to be constant checkpoints. I’d recommend tracking activity weekly and comparing it week-over-week. Davis (2012) states, “Depending on your schedule, monthly or quarterly reporting may work best, but weekly reporting may work well for others. No matter the schedule, make sure you’re checking in regularly on your metrics”. Weekly frequency will easily allow the company to modify posts accordingly so as to have a better impact moving forward increasing the likelihood of campaign success. For example, if your campaign is a concert series with messaging driving ticket sales, and the tickets sell out sooner than expected, the messaging strategy must now change to drive awareness and excitement. When reporting, it’s important to compare the numbers to what you expected to achieve by this point in the campaign and how they relate to competitors or benchmarks. The top line question should ask how the campaign is moving the needle for the company.
Some longer-term metrics that can impact major shifts in future strategy include amplification rate (number of times a piece of content is shared) and conversion rate. The amplification rate long-term will tell a company what content works best. With the right demographic data collected it can also indicate which groups are most likely to share to better utilize virality for the future. Conversion metrics categorized by lead generation or sales is a long-term signifier if the social strategy is gaining enough ROI for future investment. Warren (2015) states, “Metrics are not just a tool for observing what is, but for exploring what could be”. What could be is that social media campaigns drive more sales than any other media spend. The trick is to figure out how based on tracked and monitors online behavior over time.
Social media metrics is a dream come true for marketers and managers because it allows the customer to tell you exactly what like want and what they like. No more money wasted on guess work. A key rule of thumb to note is the “90-9-1” ratio which indicates that 90% of visitors will consumer content, 9% will engage periodically and only 1% will drive the conversation. The challenge will be in converting more of the 90% to that 1% as brand advocates. As Powell et al. (2011) states, “the ability to get their [audience] attention of a particular brand is only going to get harder and harder” (p. 36).