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How to Ditch Vanity Metrics and Boost Your Social Media Marketing Strategy

Anne Miller

Are you measuring your social media efforts? It’s frustrating when you have to justify your efforts in a social landscape rife with myths and misconceptions such as “it’s fine to post without a strategy, just keep the lights on” or “social media doesn’t assist in reaching company goals”.

To showcase social media’s impact and improve your strategy, you need to know what’s working. Social listening and reporting are foundational elements in any social media program — table stakes in your attempts to demonstrate ROI and generate actionable insights.

But not all social media analytics are useful. Vanity metrics are feel-good numbers with little or no actual value. Here’s what you need to know about vanity metrics, along with tips for overhauling your reporting to target social media metrics that transform insights into actionable business decisions.

3 signs you’re dealing with a vanity metric

Vanity metrics can be difficult to pin down because they vary by industry and organization. When it comes to social media monitoring, focus on engagement metrics that offer insights to help your business achieve specific goals.

Classic characteristics of vanity metrics include:

  1. It’s not actionable. Any data you track should have a clear implication for your business. For example, would you rather track organic page views or downloads of gated content? Probably downloads of gated content because they directly tie to lead generation. The success of your social media program hinges on actionable metrics that will inform future business decisions.
  2. It’s hard to reproduce. Social performance can be hard to predict because algorithms constantly change. But with the right focus, your efforts can be replicated and continue to show the meaning behind the numbers. Vague metrics that are subject to change, such as impressions, can be helpful, but they don’t produce tangible results. Instead, focus on numbers that will tell a story.
  3. It’s difficult to prove. Some metrics don’t accurately reflect overall brand health. Say your reporting demonstrates an increase in total engagements across platforms last quarter. That might suggest surface-level success. But were those engagements vanity clicks, such as photo or profile clicks, or link clicks? Make sure the data you’re reporting can produce both quantitative and qualitative results.

Track this — not that

Some vanity metrics may be difficult to identity. But with the right tweaks to your reporting strategy, you can refocus and strengthen your social media program to produce better, more meaningful results.

  1. Page behaviors, not views: Instead of focusing on maximizing the number of eyes on your webpages, shift your attention to the behaviors behind those views. Better metrics include bounce rate, time on page, sessions, unique users, pages per session and goal completions. These metrics provide more information about how an individual interacted with your website via your social media. For example, bounce rate shows how many individuals leave your site after only viewing one page, which better analyzes the content’s relevance and accessibility.
  2. Interactions, not followers: Every brand wants to be popular, but popularity isn’t everything. Instead, focus on how your fans interact with your brand to gauge impact. A small, but deeply engaged audience will generate more revenue than a large and indifferent one. Some metrics to evaluate include: sentiment analysis, follower growth, mentions/shares from influential followers, the share of voice and engagement rate.
  3. Fixed timelines, not running totals: A running total of sales or leads can be gratifying, but you can’t accurately measure value or growth using that metric. A better approach is to develop a year-over-year or quarter-over-quarter comparison. The ability to compare results to a benchmark can show growth or expose a decline, both informing strategy.

The great social media engagement rate debate

No discussion of metrics is complete without including engagement rate. This is arguably one of the most important metrics when gauging social performance because it shows when your audience took the time to interact with a post rather than simply viewing it and scrolling on. However, inconsistencies in how it is calculated create skepticism about the metric. Marketers often calculate this metric differently depending on their goals.

So, what counts as an engagement? Total engagement involves actions such as likes and comments, but also the click metric which includes link, photo and profile clicks. Most marketers choose to count all actions on a social channel as engagement. However, your brand needs to decide how to calculate total engagement and consistency is key.

The second point up for debate is how and what to divide those engagements by. Some marketers do it by followers, others by impressions and still others by every thousand followers. The most common calculation is to divide total engagements by impressions, since the goal of social content is to reach more than just your followers. If you are comparing your brand’s engagement rate to an industry benchmark, make sure to calculate it using the same formula.

Turning metrics into meaning

By weeding out vanity metrics, you can strengthen your social media strategy and boost your brand’s performance. Vanity metrics can tell a positive story, but not an accurate one.

By focusing on meaningful metrics, you can justify the ROI of your efforts and counter social media myths in your organization. When social efforts support larger organizational goals, the program earns a seat at the executive table and the chance to influence future business decisions.

From building share of voice to figuring out what your audience wants to see, measurement is at the heart of every successful initiative. Reporting is a vital component in a robust B2B social media strategy and Walker Sands is here to help. Connect with our social media strategists today and discover how meaningful metrics and insights can drive your online success.