The #1 Social Media Measurement Question I Hear
When I meet new higher ed pros at conferences, I’m frequently asked, “What’s the number one thing every social media professional should measure?”
This is an impossible question to answer.
It’s almost as difficult as, “What came first—the chicken, or the egg?” But, these questions are not the same. The social media question is just poorly worded!
If you replace “every social media professional” in that FAQ with I, you’ll wind up with a better question: “What’s the number one thing I should measure?”
It’s hard to answer the first question because what you should measure has nothing to do with what social network you’re using, what industry you’re in, or how large your following is. It has everything to do with what you’re using social media to accomplish—your goals. If you ask me what the number one thing is you should measure on social media, I will respond with a simple question, “What are your goals?”
See, the pecking order (pardon my chicken pun) of metrics and goals in social media—as in all marketing—is simple. What you are seeking to accomplish will determine what you should be measuring. Sure, the nuance of how you measure it may change based on the channel you’re using, but without understanding your objectives, the most over-hyped social media ninja/guru/maven/diva in the world can’t confidently tell you what metrics actually matter. Really. They can’t. Trust me.
The Perfect Metric Does Not Exist
People have a tendency to glom on to specific metrics because they sound good in a particular case study, but then they fail to translate to their use case.
- The bounce rate of a web page is a useless metric when that page is a landing page hosting a single video (provided you haven’t set up event tracking without setting the non-interaction parameter to true)
- How many social media followers you have is meaningless if you’re trying to provide fast, friendly customer service.
- Your engagement rate on Facebook is less important than your click-through rate if you’re using the site to promote your website content.
- Your reach really doesn’t matter if your goal is inquiry form completions or donations.
Metrics only allow you to gauge effectiveness or make business decisions if they are presented within context. And the context that matters most for social media pros is how you’re using social media to achieve your department or campus goal(s).
You Actually Know The Answer To This Question
- Stop. Breathe.
- Reflect on why you’re engaging in that particular marketing activity.
- State that “why” as a clear goal.
- Identify what the tangible outcome of that goal is (maybe it’s an inquiry, donation, registration, or page view).
- Tie your measurement to the desired outcome.
Sure, you might need to learn a bit more about how to measure a particular channel (like social media), but you’ll be *this close* to picking the right metric.All because you know your goal.
Often, the social media measurement students at Higher Ed Experts realize that they don’t need any fancy software to measure their effectiveness. The answer usually lies in Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics, or Google Analytics. Getting the data sorted correctly (within the appropriate context) may require adjusting the way content is published or learning how to finagle the massive Facebook Insights exports, but it’s doable…often with a meager budget.
Back To The Chicken and Egg Thing
This “what should I measure” question follows me everywhere I go – in my day job, when I teach, and even in conversations at home with my spouse (yes, we’re super nerds). More than once, the person I’m trying to help has said, “So this is sort of a chicken or egg thing, right?” This causes me to jump up and stamp my feet, exclaiming “NO!” Measurement for measurement’s sake will never result in the insights that provide value for your school or unit. Only when you start with a goal or objective, and align measurement to provide useful data within that context, will you be measuring what matters.
So, put me on record. We might not know whether the chicken or egg came first, but in marketing strategy, goals come before metrics. Every time.
Meet the Author: Dr. Liz Gross
Dr. Liz Gross is a graduate of the Higher Ed Experts Web Analytics certificate program. Higher Ed Experts is a professional online school for digital professionals working in universities and colleges.
When you take a professional certificate course with us, you get a chance to upgrade your skills by working on your projects, interacting with classmates just like you and getting detailed personalized feedback from your instructor.
Dr. Liz Gross is now the director of Campus Sonar, a social media listening consultancy.
Liz received her Ph.D. in Leadership for the Advancement of Learning and Service in Higher Education from Cardinal Stritch University. Her dissertation research examined the relationship between communication methods and the frequency and content of college student interactions with faculty.
She also taught for 2 years and half Higher Ed Expert’s 4-week online course on Social Media Measurement for Higher Education.