Vanity Metrics and the Social Sphere

When it comes to social media, racking up those “likes” is a heady feeling. But are those so-called vanity metrics moving the dial on the bottom line? Turns out, most marketers couldn’t really say.

“By far the biggest challenge for social media marketers is measuring ROI,” explains this post in Marketing Charts. “Faced with an inability to quantify revenues driven by social, few are using revenue and conversion metrics as their standards.”

The article refers to the latest report from Simply Measured that found more than half of the marketers surveyed use engagement metrics (likes, comments and so forth) as their KPIs. But is that a true measure of success?

Few of the people surveyed measured metrics that actually track bottom line results, like lead generation, goal conversion and sales.

It’s not surprising, according to Inbound Junction’s Sagi Solomon.

“Measuring the right social media metrics can be tricky,” Solomon writes in “Ask a roomful of marketing experts which metrics are most important, and you will get at least as many different responses.”

The key, Solomon believes, is to focus on the data that moves your prospects through the sales funnel, by looking at those points where prospects turn into leads, and leads turn into customers. Yet most marketers surveyed by a CMO survey found they aren’t able to do that effectively. And that leads to the situation where only 20% of brand marketers can quantitatively prove the impact of their social spend.

It’s possible to fix this, with the kind of closed-loop analytics that Solomon advocates.

“[Y]ou can tie social media posts to landing pages and measure indirect lead-gen value by seeing what pages your social referrals originally landed on before eventually converting,” he advises. “You can also use the secondary dimensions in your Google Analytics, to check if a specific piece of content drives disproportionate traffic to a landing page.”

The problem is that too many marketers don’t want to go this deep, or face rigid silos between marketing and sales. And about two-thirds report that they aren’t pressed about it proving the value of their social media participation.

“Slightly more than one-third (36%) said they frequently have conversations about social ROI with their boss, while for the remainder those conversations occur either seldomly (45%) or never (19%),” the MarketingCharts article continues.

It’s ironic. One of the great promises of social media was being able to track ROI – measurable clicks, laser targeting, etc., were going to give marketers the kind of insight and access that moved the dials. That hasn’t quite happened the way we were told it might.

Meanwhile, social media seems a bit adrift these days…brands are pushing back against sketchy metrics and risky programmatic ads. And even with the current political climate creating endless fodder for Twitter, that social network added a net gain of zero new Tweeters last quarter. Even so, they did report better than expected earnings, with $574 million in revenue. So brands are most definitely using it to buy exposure, even if they might not really have a good grasp on how that exposure translates to revenue.

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Still, social is in its early years, and enough marketers are looking at metrics that do count – leads, conversions, revenue – that we believe attitudes may be changing. If you’re tasked with monitoring social KPIs for your organization, consider taking your analysis a few layers deeper. Is it bringing in qualified leads? And is it helping to convert those leads to revenue? Those are the metrics that make sense.