What metrics should be used to track content in social media?

By | May 19, 2012
+Rob Michael posted the following question:
Are you here (On G+ or in Social Media in general) to collect Likes, Subscribers, Circlers and/ or Followers?Why? What do you do with all of that?

It does raise a rather complex question, one where I believe the answer continues to change regularly as tools, technology, user expectations, and user interactions fluctuate in the digital sphere: what metrics make sense in the realm of social media?

Now, for things which I can personally manage and don't have to report to management about, I can very nicely keep a qualitative guesstimate on where things stand. But not everyone uses social media privately. And a lot of marketing departments are guilty of using certain metrics – one of them being follower counts, another being number of likes – as metrics to measure the success of the content they've posted in a particular network. While I'd argue that these are very contrived values and also very easily gamed, I wonder what, if any, a good metric would be.

So let me pose the following questions:

1. What would you consider to be an effective metric to measure success on <fill in the social media platform>?

2. If you do not wish to stand behind any quantitative metric, what qualitative metrics would you consider to be an effective measure of success on <fill in the social media platform>?

In particular, one aspect that would particularly interest me: how do you measure engagement, quality, and passion?


Rob Michael – Google+ – Are you here (On G+ or in Social Media in general) to…
Are you here (On G+ or in Social Media in general) to collect Likes, Subscribers, Circlers and/ or Followers? Why? What do you do with all of that? cc:…

3 thoughts on “What metrics should be used to track content in social media?

  1. Marie Meservy

    Here is something I've never understood: Why do these discussions always turn out to be about brands and marketing? As an average person, I am not here to interact with Coca-Cola. I don't follow any companies. Why should I? Sure, they pay for ads and fund the whole gig, but it's not about them.

  2. Michael Kelly

    It sounds like the old "eyeballs" argument that was made in the dotcom days. Remember when it did not matter if you made revenue because what you were trying to do was "catch eyeballs"? A lot of firms went under because of that.

    What should matter is gain vs cost, contrasted to other options. Period. Of course, it makes no sense to limit that to just a short term approach though.

    I will share my experience.

    Back when I was starting with just a concept and was looking at building a tool to address it, I thought it might make sense to reach out to the decision-makers we targeted for our tool and make sure we were solving the right problems and we knew what they wanted, they would use, and they would buy before we started building it.

    Of course, to avoid tainting the responses I tried not to focus on what we did, but instead tried to get them to share the issues they felt most affected them.

    I called about on 2000+ of the top commerce b2c (retail/mobile/web) companies representing the top 1/3 of their space. Not all of them talked to me but out of the roughly 700 I reached I was able to speak with a little under half of that # (about 300), either C level or close (lowest were SVPs of ecommerce for web companies and CMOs for retail).

    The goal was to understand challenges in commerce and of course to identify where we could build something people wanted and would use.

    It wasn't a question list, there was no leading question at all. It was just an open ended talk about what mattered to them, what they wanted to do, what frustrated them and what they would like to see to help them build sales and business.

    This was a year ago.

    Almost every single company we talked with did discuss some areas we were focusing on, but the OTHER topic that was almost always covered was challenges/frustrations with social media issues.

    Of those companies at least 1/3 had social media initiatives planned or in development. At least 25% were looking at creating social media apps. About 15% or so were actively involved in social media campaigns at the time.

    Now here is the shocking part.

    Almost everyone of them that had invested in any initiative or campaign, from plan to an app, had no metrics or ways to determine what constituted success or failure! It was not that they were simply keeping those metrics secret, they admitted it specifically and voiced frustration bordering on invective that they had no idea how to know if what they did was working or failing.

    These were C level executives of multiple million dollar companies admitting they were just throwing money into a dark closet and hoping something happened! With no way to know if they were even successful or not! I was floored, until the 20th or so call when I heard the same thing, by the 100th call I just shook my head.

    I am hopeful some of this has changed but I have to admit I doubt it.

    I think things are changing, there is starting to be more roles, rights and responsibilities. People are realizing that it has to be part of an overall campaign and that as the voice of the organization it has to be consistent and clear (unlike my posts which are wordy and long).

    But like anything, when someone says "the old rules do not apply", usually the old rules apply. Time or money invested in any campaign needs to pay off, in the form of revenue.

    So what should matter is: Are you growing sales, growing the market, or reducing per sale either time, resources or money needed?

  3. Marie Meservy

    Tough question. It would have to be qualitative, but I think it may be a slippery slope to want to measure it at all? Cat pictures get an insane amount of +1's, a lot more than the things I consider quality content. As an average user, I'm not here to sell a brand or philosophy, and I think most people aren't. I personally just want to write, and possibly change the world a little bit–so how does one measure something that happens quietly within other people, or may not happen for years down the road?


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