Harry Sanger is a Digital Consultant – Social Media Specialist at Archetype. In this opinion piece, he gives advice on how to cut through the noise when it comes to social media metrics.
We’ve all seen agencies and brands alike, bragging about huge numbers on social media. 2m+ video views on TikTok in the first week! 1m+ clicks on an Instagram campaign promoting top of the line cleaning products or a mattress. Social media is rife with transparency issues, so when it comes to “experts”, are we trusting them too much? Let’s set the record straight, show you what vanity metrics actually mean, and what to look out for when assessing a campaign’s performance.-
We’re not here to social-splain, but simply put, social media metrics are the data you gather and use to measure the performance of your social media campaigns and what that means for your company’s bottom line. Metrics help you determine whether the time you’re spending on social media marketing is paying off as far as your company’s ROI, or if you’re just pissing in the wind hoping to be carried along by the algorithm.
If you want an idea of how others view your company and content, there’s no better place to look than social media metrics. The purpose of social media marketing is to expose your brand to consumers, create a narrative so people understand what you do and project a unique brand personality that your customers come to love. You want people to see your tweets, Instagram uploads and Facebook posts and engage with your brand, either through visiting your website or other meaningful interactions. The “bottom line”, then, is your profit & loss: Is your strategy converting to actual sales, and if not..why?
Marketers are increasingly accountable for what they do, they have to create value for both customers and clients, and need to improve, guide and amend the efficiency of their social media marketing activities. Those who are familiar with social media marketing understand this point, but there is a more important message in all this. Companies today simply cannot survive without metrics, objectives, analytics data and actionable information. If a company is so heavily reliant on this information, it’s essential that they are fully educated on what that information means and that agencies are held fully accountable on the accuracy and transparency of what they are providing.
So let’s dig a little deeper here, what metrics are we actually talking about? Let’s go through a few based on different social objectives, and then look at some of the most common ways this information can be interpreted.
Are my ads having an impact? Look how many people are viewing them!
Impressions are how many times a post shows up in someone’s timeline, whereas reach is the potential unique viewers a post could have. If your ads are averaging a frequency of five plus (shown to the same user five times or more), then your impressions are going to be five times higher than your reach, meaning that you have paid to show an ad up to five times to someone who is potentially uninterested in your product. Reach however, is a more accurate metric that predicts unique views on an ad in a users timeline.
Why is this important? Because using impressions to show the success of awareness campaigns is a common tactic across agencies and brands alike. The word Impression outside of social media means an idea, opinion or feeling about something, indicating an “impression” has been made. This however differs to its social media definition, where an impression can mean next to nothing when it comes to awareness and engagement. A user can scroll right past your ad and it still counts as an” impression” providing you and your business no value at all.
I’ve got 10,000 clicks on my ad, but zero sales…
This is probably the most commonly misled metric that needs to be addressed. Too often clicks are considered a key objective for marketing campaigns from awareness through to lead generation. Clicks are another form of engagement measured by the number of times someone clicks on your post or ad. If you’ve posted a link to your website or profile shop and someone clicks on it, that’s valuable. But a click can also be counted for ANY interaction on that post. That includes click to play a video, click on your company page, click to zoom into an image, or click to see more text. Any interaction on an ad that requires a click to action is considered a click.
Why is that bad? Because you only want to pay for clicks that directly benefit your objective. If you’re running a lead generation campaign using an integrated form, a click to enhance your ad image is not a valuable interaction, and should not be considered an engagement as it serves no purpose or benefit to your business. Below is an explainer of what each click means and an example of how much each click variant can swing when it comes to reporting.
Clicks: Any interaction on a post that requires a click to action
Link clicks: An action where a user has clicked an external link
Outbound clicks: A click that has taken a user off Facebook
Landing page views: Where someone has left facebook and viewed your unique landing page.
If you are spending money to get users to head to a website to download assets, enquire about a product or directly purchase an item, all these actions require more intent, therefore are harder and more expensive to achieve. Using clicks as a metric when reporting on the success of these actions is misleading, and is often exposed by huge sales drop offs, a high bounce rate or an unexplainable lack of follow through from prospects.
Someone viewed my video, but for how long?
Another important metric to understand is how social media advertising platforms class views of a video. Everyone knows it, video content is king. If you aren’t integrating video into your social media strategy, then you probably should start, which is why it’s important to understand all the variations of results you can achieve using this format. Facebook officially classes a view if a user watches two seconds or more of a video. Two seconds? Surely that means the user didn’t care about the video at all, so why am I being told I received a view?
Luckily, you can request more information around views when analysing your video campaigns. Facebook offers a breakdown from 25% all the way to 100% of your video watched. If your campaigns are being reported on using “views” then it’s always good to clarify views at what %. Take a look below at the typical swing of views across all the different % watched.
Why is transparency important?
Thanks to the growth of social media marketing, brands and consumers have unprecedented access to each other. While this intimate connection fuels amazing experiences, it also puts additional responsibility on everyone involved. More transparency from the social media platforms on explaining what their metrics are measuring and how is important, along with the education of clients on understanding the different metrics and identifying which ones are suitable for them based on their business objectives. Both these points in regards to metrics is key to keeping the sector competitive, in a growing age of skepticism and mistrust on the platforms. You wouldn’t mislead someone in a business meeting, so why has it become acceptable when talking about results?
Are we saying all these metrics are redundant? Of course not, nor are we implying every agency or brand is out to mislead you, but education is more important now than ever and knowing what the data means for your company is a good start.
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