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Rules of Engagement: Finding The Holy Grail of Effective Social Metrics

One of the interesting things about doing “social marketing” (that’s FancySpeak for marketing through social networks) is that nobody really knows what they’re doing; “tried and tested” is just the stuff you did last month that happened to be more successful than the stuff you did the month before.

Thus, rules and goalposts are constantly changing and as a result, it’s difficult to offer meaningful or consistent measures of how good a job you’re doing and how effective your social strategy is.

With a few of the key statistics — reach and clicks to name two — essentially at the mercy of Facebook, Twitter and whichever other platforms you roll on, big changes in results can often happen through no particular fault of one’s own; it’s more often a case of a job well done being working with the changes to deliver the best results possible rather than straight off doing something different which results in results plummeting.

On the outside, though, a 40% drop in reach looks bad. That everyone else saw a 60% drop in reach doesn’t really make you look too much better, when in fact you’ve done a great job (great job, you!). This means what “success” is is often pegged to what results have been in the past and what results other people are getting. Everything’s relative.

That’s all fine, but it’s so easy to take that attitude, look through the shit-ton of statistics you’ve got available to you and then decide you are, in fact, doing a fantastic job. You can then produce the statistics which show what you want them to show and everyone else can agree that you’re doing a fantastic job.

But that’s not really the best way of doing things. Pretty much every statistic social marketers see can be manipulated to show whatever is convenient. You want to reach more people on Facebook? Sure, I can do that for you, it’ll just come at the expense of meaningful engagement. You want more clicks? I can do that too, just it’ll be slightly misleading what people are clicking on and your bounce rate will shoot up, too.

On social platforms, everyone can see how many likes, how many comments, how many +1s you’ve got, and it’s so easy to just use little tricks to push those figures up when it’d be better in the long run to do something else.

The holy grail, then, is to find metrics which allow for effective engagement with your audience, not just hit-and-run-high-engagement-today-gone-tomorrow pictures of kittens (although pictures of kittens have their place; this is the internet).

And once you’ve got those metrics, explain them to the people who need to know so that they don’t think you’re doing a rubbish job because your latest tweet only got 12 re-pins. It makes sense, honest.