The Dirty Little Secret of Social Media Metrics

By: Allen Plummer, Vanguard

June 12, 2017

One of the things I love about social media marketing is the data it offers. My team and I like to talk about the immediate feedback we get as soon as something is posted. Within hours, we know if a piece of content is a hit or miss.

We’ve trained ourselves to watch engagement, track reach, respond to comments and keep an eye out for influencers. And at a time when metrics are becoming more important, savvy social media marketers often lead the pack in terms of analysis and an understanding of KPIs.

However, there’s a dirty little secret when it comes to tracking all of those real-time numbers: No one cares about your social media metrics.

I know, you may not want to hear it but it’s true. Hear me out…

The KPIs Marketing Cares About

Metrics are absolutely important to marketers, but the metrics you and your team care about on a daily basis are not the same metrics your senior leaders and CMO care about.

For example, my team and I oversee both social media and content marketing, so we’re interested in not just how content performs, but the quality of that content as well. I look at clicks on links as one indicator of how well a story’s headline was written (in addition to the social post itself).

Social shares, in my opinion, are the greatest indicator of quality because it means that not only did your audience consume your content, but they liked it enough to share with others. Average engagement per post gives me a general benchmark to assess the overall quality of our content.

Vanguard, Allen Plummer, content marketing & social media strategist

Allen Plummer, content marketing & social media strategist, Vanguard

While these KPIs are important to my team as we develop slam-dunk content, these aren’t necessarily metrics I’m going to share up the executive ladder. What our leaders care about is behaviors, or how our social media accounts influence activity and impact revenue.

That’s a tough nut to crack, especially if you work in the B2B space like we do.

The KPI Senior Leaders Care About

Essentially, the question that senior leaders want you to answer is: What is the ROI of your social media efforts? If you want more budget, headcount or respect within your organization, then you better have an answer to that question.

For us, social media ROI is about getting content in front of our audience outside of the workplace. Like most B2B companies, it’s hard to get calls returned, emails opened and meetings scheduled with clients.

But, let’s say that it’s Sunday morning. One of our clients is home, sitting on her couch with a cup of coffee and iPad. She’s catching up on personal emails and checking LinkedIn. If she sees one of our infographics or blog posts in her feed, she’s much more likely to consume that content Sunday morning, rather than trying to compete for her attention during business hours.

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I can measure that engagement, tie it to back to behavior on our website and maybe get her to consume more content or follow up with her relationship manager. If I tie those behaviors to a specific call to action that my sales and relationship team wants, then we can prove that social media is adding value to other efforts.

While I’d love to show a direct revenue impact, it’s more realistic to illustrate that social media activity leads to clients who are more engaged and have a more positive opinion of us in the marketplace.

Your version of ROI will likely be different, and it should be. Social ROI should reflect the priorities of your leaders and their desired outcomes. Maybe it’s lead generation or repeat visitors to your website. Maybe it’s calls or touchpoints with your sales force, or incoming calls to an 800 number. Maybe it’s attributes like brand awareness and recall.

Whatever the goal, I encourage you to take a hard look at your social media metrics and see how you can convert them into a few KPIs that matter to your leaders. It’s a great first step toward true ROI.


Allen Plummer has spent more than 15 years strategically developing marketing and media for the financial services industry with an eye to the future. He’s spent the past decade at Vanguard, where he serves as a content marketing & social media strategist.

Follow Allen Plummer: @MktrAllen

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