In this post I outline the ten barriers that stop many businesses from measuring our social media return on investment effectively. I then propose a simple four step solution. This is a summary of a talk on how to measure social media success given at Spring Fair and at Jewellery & Watch (slides).
Social media is a potential bottomless time pit – we can spend countless hours tweeting, posting and snapping with no return. In an ideal world we’d know what worked and do more of that: that’s the promise of effective social media measurement and tracking.
Before most businesses achieve a self-tracking culture that lets them see their social media ROI there are 10 barriers they must overcome.
None of the barriers are insurmountable but each presents difficulties.
The barriers are:
No link from digital to physical events
For many bricks and mortar businesses, the transaction is completed in the physical world – someone comes into your shop for example. In this environment it’s really hard to attribute transactions back to their digital roots on social media or elsewhere.
Not tracking as a team
Evaluating the analytics and planning optimization strategies as a result requires the mindshare of more than one person in a team. Trying to do analytics on your own, while possible, is hard to maintain momentum. Without the key team bought in, to looking at the metrics, it’s very hard to justify the necessary iterations you will need to make.
Trying to track success in multiple channels simultaneously
In my experience I’m only really able to concentrate on one metric at a time. Trying to evaluate the results from multiple channels reduces the focus you need to be successful at optimization. It’s all too easy to flick flack between channels and getting nowhere as a result.
Trying to track metrics for multiple stages of maturity simultaneously
Social media channels evolve through 4 stages of maturity. It is only worth tracking the metrics of one stage at a time – the stage your channel is currently at. To do otherwise again will blur the focus of your optimization efforts. The four stages of maturity are covered in the GERM model – metrics for really busy folk. They are Getting Going, Engagement, Reliable Reach and Monetisation.
Most social media channels have a plethora of analytics and metrics they output for you – far too many to be useful all at once. Looking at too many metrics will dull your focus and reduce your ability to optimize effectively. Don’t forget, our objective is to know what works – by focusing on one metric at a time we know whether changes we make to our channel are effecting that metric positively or negatively.
Being seduced by vanity metrics
Vanity metrics are the easy metrics that make us feel good – total followers, total fans for example. But vanity metrics don’t tell enough of the story – we have a 1000 followers but do they care about our content? There’s no point in having 100s of fans if we never post anything.
Undisciplined analytics processes
Looking at the stats every few months or so doesn’t create an internal culture that can use metrics to improve your social media channel. Without a consistent analytics discipline in place (weekly metrics meeting for example) you’re unlikely to make those kaizen optimisations that are needed for real success.
Fuzzy marketing strategy
If your marketing strategy lacks clarity – your audience, your message, your channels, your pipeline is fuzzy then your social media channel will be fuzzy. Metrics need specificity to be useful – what exactly are you trying to achieve with your social media channel?
Hazy audience development plan
This is all too often the case, where the target audience definition is hazy and the way in which we’ll reach them is not thought out. While you don’t necessarily need to worry about this until you’re worrying about growing a reliable reach – your audience development plan needs to state how and why your audience will grow.
Not valuing our own time
The number one barrier I see when trying to achieve social media success is not valuing our own time – if you don’t know how much you’ve invested, it’s hard to make a call as to whether what comes out is worth it. It may be that after all those hours creating your own media channel you’d have been better off paying to advertise on someone else’s!
So how do you set about overcoming these barriers in your own social media measurement efforts?
The Four Step Approach
There are four steps, and the great news is that they are refreshingly easy to do and will actual reduce the amount of work you do today rather than increase it!
Start with a single channel
Your metrics journey starts with just one channel – focus on getting that right first before worrying about your other channels. Metrics is a discipline. Habit forming and focus is more important than covering all the bases.
Focus on the metrics appropriate to your channel’s stage of maturity
Take an honest look at your channel (or better still ask one of your audience members) and ask yourself what stage you are at – getting going, engagement, reliable reach or monetization. Then choose one metric to focus on, appropriate to that stage.
Only analyse what you plan to optimize
There’s no point looking at metrics if you don’t do anything about them. There’s no point doing anything unless you look at the metrics to see if it worked. Optimisation is not about making multiple sweeping changes – one change at a time (weekly for example) is enough for you to learn what works best with your audience.
Form a metrics tracking habit
Evaluate your metrics regularly and consistently as this will allow you to make the multiple small improvements which will eventually bring you social media success.
Am I eating my own dog food?
In the software industry the phrase “are you eating your own dog food?” or more positively “are you sipping your own champagne?” asks tech executives to use their own tools and prove their efficacy themselves.
Over the past few weeks I’ve applied this approach to my own personal twitter account @tobyberesford. I identified that the channel was stuck at the “getting going” stage – I simply wasn’t posting consistently every day.
To form a metrics habit I created a “Twitter Activity Club” on rise.global. Each week the board emails me with my average tweets per day, and the week to week change.
Taking a look at my stats, I soon saw my own, rather choppy, performance. Some weeks I tweeted plenty, others not so much. I am yo-yoing up and down in terms of activity and consequently rank on the leaderboard.
I’m now working on some more consistent habits. I’m using Buffer to make sure I’ve scheduled at least 4 tweets going out every day. Now its up to me to make sure I stick to that discipline and once confident that I’ve achieved that I’ll move (finally) past the getting going stage and then I’ll start working on improving my audience’s level of engagement with my tweets.