Recent changes in Google Analytics (merging webmaster tools into your analytics account), enhanced Facebook Insights, and impending metrics for Twitter mean you’re no longer wandering aimlessly; you have plenty of data to guide effective planning … or do you?  Likely, the result is too much data — leaving you as much in the dark as ever.  Unless you can manage all your social media metrics, success remains elusive.

Managing Your Social Media Metrics for SuccessManaging Your Social Media Metrics

Managing your social media metrics involves 3 steps:

1. Measure what matters

2. Visualize data

3. Make decisions

Social Media Metrics that Matter

Which social media metrics matter? No one can answer that because your goals determine which social media metrics effect marketing success.  So, if your goal is to increase ROI, you use metrics such as conversion rates.  If your goal is to build a community, one metric you’ll likely use is number of returning visitors from your Google Analytics.  If SEO is your goal, the Google Webmaster Tool displays where you rank for each keyword.

Simply collecting huge amounts of data because it’s there doesn’t make any sense.  It takes time away from other important tasks and makes it harder to see problems in time to make corrections.

How do you know which social media metrics matter? You’ll need to list KPI — Key Performance Indicators (also called Key Predictive Indicators).

A Performance Indicator or Key Performance Indicator (KPI) is an industry jargon term for a type of Measure of Performance. KPIs are commonly used by an organization to evaluate its success or the success of a particular activity in which it is engaged. Sometimes success is defined in terms of making progress toward strategic goals.  Accordingly, choosing the right KPIs is reliant upon having a good understanding of what is important to the organization. (Wikipedia)


KPIs are a function of your industry and your goals.  They should reflect controllable elements most likely to effect whether you achieve your goals. Once you’ve identified your KPIs, you need to figure out how to measure them. Then, you systematically collect relevant data.

An example might help.

Let’s say, like many businesses, you’re using social media as a way to engage your target market.  We first need to identify what we mean by engagement.  Commenting and sharing are 2 common elements of engagement and suitable KPIs.  Measurement data on comments and sharing come from various sources, such as your website, your Facebook Fan Page, and other social platforms such as Foursquare or Twitter.

You’ll need a process for systematically collecting this social media metric.  Maybe you set up a spreadsheet where you enter data on commenting and sharing from each social network on a daily basis so it’s all in one place.  It’s a little time-consuming and a number of companies will do it for you using software to integrate insights from various social platforms.

Visualize Your Social Media Metric

People have a really hard time handling lots of numbers — they’re hard to interpret and compare across time.  Transforming numeric data into a visual, such as a pie chart, makes it much easier for us to handle massive amounts of data.  Or, if you graph the data, you’ll more easily see changes over time.

Using a little creativity, you can add qualitative dimensions to your data visualization or add geographic components.  Pretty soon, its easy to see how things are changing over time and pinpoint factors causing the change.

Returning to our example after collecting social media metrics and displaying them, we might find increasing or decreasing engagement over time and identify which platforms are generating increasing engagement.  If we map other changes over time, such as a contest we ran on Facebook or a change they made to the interface, we can determine which actions created the change.

Using Social Media Metrics Strategically

Having all this data and creating pretty pictures with it is useless unless you can use the data to make better decisions.  In our example, let’s say you see a large increase in engagement after certain types of status updates (like announcements of a discount).  You know that’s working for you and should use similar status updates frequently.

Sometimes, even with your social media metrics appropriately visualized, it’s still hard to figure out what’s going on.  For instance, if you’re seeing a steady decline in engagement on Facebook it may not be clear what’s causing it.  But, knowing the decline is there signals the need for more information and may guide a study of the problem.

How do you use social media metrics in your firm? Do you have insights I’ve missed? Share them in the comments below.