Social Media Metrics that Matter and Outcomes Analysis

by on November 23, 2011

Facebook 800MillionStop talking about aggregate data that doesn’t matter. There, I said it! I’ve been to three conferences in the last three months and nearly every presentation on social media starts with aggregate numbers on people surfing social networks and the rate of growth over the last three to five years? Yea? So what? How does this impact me? I ask that question (in my mind) every time I see that slide and am usually left waiting for the answer when the speaker finishes to a rousing applause from the all too easily swooned audience of newbies. Do I sound crass? I don’t mean to but unfortunately we see the same thing in people calling themselves professionals in this industry.

Fans and Followers are like website visits.

Fans, Followers, Reach, blah, blah, blah have been all the rage over the past couple of years. Ye with the most followers wins right? Lets go backwards a bit to say, 2006 when website ‘visits’ were all the rage (they still are in some circles). I often ask new web analysts if their site gets 5,000 visits a day and mine gets 100 a day which site is better? Eight times out of ten they tell me that their site is better based on that single data point. Then I tell them they sell tires and so do I. Has anything changed? They say no. Ok, probably true but what if 80 people bought tires from me at a 100% markup and only 5 people bought tires from them at 100% markup? Is their website traffic a good indicator of the success of the website? Obviously not. A huge percent of traffic is leaving without buying a thing! Whats the problem? Wrong traffic? Prices too high? What is it? Well, that’s where real web analytics helps. It takes you past the surface metrics to…..

Metrics that Matter

Metrics that matter are SO often overlooked. Talk to many social media agencies out there and they are going to tell you that what matters is whether they have met the needs of their clients and their clients unfortunately are looking for more surface metrics. Fans, followers, likes and traffic. Those things will save us! I’m sorry but I flat out disagree. Just a few scoops of dirt and you’l;l uncover the real gold! What is it that the client really wants? They want to sell more widgets, get more downloads of their eBook, sign up more email newsletter subscribers? Yea! that’s what I thought. See, those are the metrics that matter. The fans, the followers, the mentions, the visits are all supporting metrics not the end goal!

Flow Chart your way to success.

Remember 8th grade when you did those really cool flow charts and visualizations? Yea, me either. I’m getting to the ripe old age in my life where its tough to remember those things. However, I do remember flow charts because they were easily one of my favorite ways to learn. I’m a visual person. Flowcharts can help you today but in web and social analytics I like to do them backwards.

1. Define the Outcomes

These are the metrics that matter, to your boss anyway.

2. Define Supporting metrics (KPI’s)

These are the metrics that influence the outcomes.

3. Segment Traffic

Investing time on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or others? Be sure to segment that traffic. This allows you to apply more specific analysis on the traffic coming in from these sites versus other means. We’ll get into the segmentation end in my next blog post.

4. Gather Data

This is in most cases the easy part. Tools like Google Analytics, Omniture, Webtrends and others can automate that process with proper implementation and set up.

5. Analyze

What does this traffic do differently than say that of paid search?
Are these people ripe for purchase or do they tend to browse and consume lots of data?
Is this traffic bouncing right away because you’ve sold them one thing and they’re getting another?

There is a litany of questions that can be answered once traffic is properly segmented and tied to objectives. Let me say it here and let me say it now just in case I was not clear the first time.

“Fans, Followers, Likes and surface metrics like these ARE NOT THE END GAME.
Take the time to properly chart back to the metrics that matter and you’ll find much more meaningful and empowered analysis.”

Is this article the end all be all? certainly not. We haven’t discussed the use of text data coming from social media sites captured with monitoring tools. We havent taked about the massive amount of insights that could be produced with a properly maintained CRM but its a good darn place to start! If you’re having issues mapping back to the outcomes or even having a hard time figuring out exactly what those outcomes should be, PLEASE contact me! Heck, I’ll give you 30 minutes free, lets get this right and don’t hesitate to ask!

Over and out…….

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About Keith
Keith is Director, Marketing & Communications for Carbonview Research. Carbonview is a full service market research company working with ad agencies, brand managers and interactive professionals. Keith's passions include marketing, measurement, social media and his family.


  1. Robert Madison on November 23, 2011 at 1:58 am

    You’re in good company with the “”Stop talking about aggregate data that doesn’t matter!” sentiment, Keith! Avinash Kaushik says the same thing on his blog “Occam’s Razor”, and actually had a recent post in which he said, “all data in aggregate is essentially crap”

    Solid post! I dig it!

    PS – Regarding the usage of flowcharts, I want to point you towards a book that I think you might enjoy: <= "Blah, Blah, Blah: What To Do When Words Don't Work", by Dan Roam. (Actually, I think anybody involved in presenting data to somebody else should read it, it's really good!)

  2. Measure Mob | Charting a Path to Objectives on November 23, 2011 at 1:58 am

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  3. Keith on November 23, 2011 at 1:58 am

    Thanks for the comment Robert and looking forward to getting that book!

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  5. Nancy on November 23, 2011 at 1:58 am

    Nice post, Keith! Yes, the emergence of social metrics today reminds me of the emergence of web data (and what people were immediately attracted to) back in the mid to late 90′s, which was essentially page views. I think one of the reasons people applaud these numbers is that the number, in aggregrate is always huge. It’s the biggest number you have- and every other number, which is truly more useful is smaller. People, by nature, want to report BIG numbers. :) I also think general marketers struggled with defining outcomes and tying social metrics back to their sites, or their business, and default back to the # of fans or followers- because they are not sure what to do. It’s fun and exciting to see so many thought leaders offering up tips and best practices for “digging into the dirt”. Thanks for posting!

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