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9 Questions to Help Select the Right Social Media Success Metrics

Despite the fact that marketers continue to struggle to measure and communicate their social successes, they’re investing more time and resources into social media marketing efforts. According to the August 2014 findings from The CMO Survey, a nationwide poll of top U.S. marketers conducted twice annually by Duke University in partnership with the American Marketing Association, only 15% of respondents report being able to show the impact of their social media efforts on their business, and yet B-to-C and B-to-B marketers alike report planned increases in their social media spending.

Matching success metrics to a social media effort’s objectives—or to any marketing effort’s objectives—is one of the biggest challenges for many modern-day marketing teams. A small and meaningful combination of qualitative and quantitative metrics is generally the best route—many experts recommend no more than a dozen for a robust campaign—and the metrics must have meaning when taken together: They should reflect a 360-degree view of a well-defined effort, not a nebulous collection of unrelated data.

While each social media effort will require a unique measurement solution, this list of questions pulled from the AMA’s new special report on social media success metrics can guide a marketing team’s efforts to select the best fit:

1. What is my goal with this social media effort (sales, leads, advocacy, buzz, increased site traffic, etc.) and how does it tie back to my business objective(s)?

2. Which metrics reflect the behavior that we’re trying to drive with this effort? A good exercise here is to examine the path to purchase—or whatever the end goal—and consider metrics that tie in with each step of that path.

3. Which tools are available to our group that will allow us to measure our effort? Explore the software solutions available to your brand and take some time to learn the differences in how they define and measure metrics that you’re considering.

4. What’s the source of this data? Data collected by third-party platforms reflect the business objectives of those platforms—which might not align with a brand’s objectives. This data might still be valuable to the marketing team, but it’s important to evaluate the source and have a basic understanding of the algorithms used to compute it.

5. Which metric(s) would be the most telling for executives outside of the marketing department? Which can be mapped back to business outcomes? For example, by embedding a short link into content, a brand can track the source of its conversions (to sales, leads or whatever the desired outcome). This measure allows a marketing team to measure its ROI, but the metric also gives clarity to the channels and content most likely to drive the desired outcome.

6. Are the metrics comparative? To be helpful, a metric needs to provide context—or needs to be combined with another metric to tell a story.

7. Do my colleagues have experience with this metric? Are there red flags to consider as I use it to guide decisions?

8. Am I using this metric simply because it’s easy to measure, easy to promote or already a part of my dashboard? Have I recently examined which metrics I’m using to ensure that they’re still meaningful and helpful?

9. Do I know what to do when I see a change in the resulting data? If a brand tracks reach and that reach decreases significantly, does the marketing team know how to respond?

Above all, focus only on the key metrics that will help you demonstrate that your social media efforts are worth the investment, says Jay Baer, president of Convince & Convert, and author of Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is About Help Not Hype. “Keep all metrics on one piece of paper. If you need more than one piece of paper to showcase your metrics, you are tracking too many things.”

This article was excerpted from the AMA’s new special report on social media success metrics, available for download (and free to AMA members) today.