In the complex and varied world of social media, opinions are easily divided. When it comes to numbers and statistics, even more so. How can you enclose a communication activity within cold Excel sheets?, many people wonder. Why not rely on the correct metrics to assess this activity?, others will say.
Well, the high measurability component offered by social platforms is one of the many success factors of the social strategies that companies deploy in these channels. Therefore, yes, a communication strategy can be measured and analysed in numbers. The important thing is to correctly choose the metrics to be taken into account.
Identifying the most suitable metrics: one of the first steps of a social media strategy
During the creation phase of a social media strategy, it’s very important for brands to elect the metrics to use to evaluate the success of the strategy. Without a careful and precise measurement and monitoring, important insights may be overlooked, losing information that could be crucial to correct ongoing tactics.
First of all, it should be repeated that measurement metrics must be linked to the overall objectives of the strategy. Actions aimed at strengthening brand awareness can be measured according to certain parameters. On the other hand, if the objective is to convert (from subscribing to a newsletter to purchasing a product), the criteria for assessing the success of the actions undertaken will change considerably.
Not by chance, Facebook (and therefore Instagram) and the main social channels allow you to activate advertising campaigns with precise objectives, which correspond to more suitable metrics than others to make a final judgment. By choosing to sponsor a content to increase visibility, the metrics to be considered will be reach (number of people reached) or impressions (number of individual views of the content), together with the CPM (Cost per Mille), i.e. the cost to reach 1,000 people. These values, together with the indication of the frequency with which the content is submitted to the users, allow to evaluate the ease of penetration of the content with the identified audience. If instead the content aims to bring people to visit the website of the leading brand, the focus is all for the number of clicks (and the CPC, cost per click) and the CTR (Click-through-rate), which indicates the propensity of people to click on the link; all other metrics, however important and interesting, will have little relevance for the final evaluation.
When building a social strategy, it is therefore advisable to select precisely the objectives that you want to pursue, and the related metrics that the selected channels allow you to know. Choosing to vary the evaluation criteria from one report to another is not only time-consuming: it also risks resulting in an erroneous approach, which in turn will lead to inaccurate, impartial or inexact considerations.
When it comes to social media and metrics, it is good not to over-reliance on so-called vanity metrics. They are those metrics that return a merely ephemeral appreciation of the user, but that are unlikely to have interesting development potential. Or that, in the best case, do not allow to clarify it with certainty.
One of the metrics whose importance should be calibrated with greater awareness is that of fans or followers. At the dawn of the commercial use of social media, the number of fans was the main data able to represent a virtual version of market share for a brand. And, for this reason, many companies have invested huge budgets for years just to increase the fan (or follower) base. The more fans had a company page, the higher the organic reach of a content on that page, i.e. the higher the number of people reached even without direct advertising investments. A tactic that allowed Facebook (first mover in this sense) to grow exponentially from 2007 (year of launch of the “fan pages”). But within a few years it was beginning to reduce its fruits: on average, only 16% of fans of a Facebook page saw content organically on it in 2012. If we do a fast forward, at the end of 2019 this average dropped to 5.5%.
Therefore, the follower base can be considered only marginally an indicator of the growth of a company page (on Facebook and other social media): having many fans no longer automatically translates into ensuring a certain amount of visibility to your content, for a precise choice of social algorithms. This is why all the main social platforms are “punishing” brands that over time have resorted to unorthodox practices (euphemism) to increase the number of fans or followers.
Likewise, interaction metrics should not be read as the first timid signs of users’ buying intentions. The entertainment component plays a significant role in the way social channels are used, so likes (or reactions) should not be given an incorrect or inflated meaning. Comments and shares (or retweets) are metrics that already represent a more in-depth interaction by the user, but even in this case to attribute a business nuance to these values would be a useless (and dangerous) forcing.
Each metric has its own precise relevance within a social strategy and in the evaluation of a single content, but this relevance must be measured and adapted on the basis of the general objectives (the strategy) and the particular ones (the individual advertising campaigns that companies intend to launch on social channels).