Social Media ROI – Identifying the Metrics that Don’t Matter

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Social media marketing has taken the business world by storm, but according to a study last year,68% of companies cannot or do not know how to measure social media ROI (return on investment). This is how social media management ends up getting banished to the intern’s task sheet.

If you’re engaging in social media marketing simply because it’s all the rage, you’re probably not being effective. Next week, we’ll discuss the metrics that you can use to power your digital marketing success. But for now, here are the 3 social media metrics that you don’t need.

#1 – Klout Score

The idea behind the Klout score is a good one, no doubt. And it does indicate, at the very least, authority on a topic. But remember the example of @horse_ebooks – a spam account that randomly tweets snippets from the ebooks that it hawks (presumably about horses) that has gained a cult following on the Internet. The root of its Twitter popularity and a resultant Klout score of 74 was best summed up by Jon Hendren, writer at SomethingAwful.com:

“@Horse_ebooks is a Twitter bot designed and automated by apparently some Russian guy to sell worthless, horrible ebooks about horses. In order to avoid being detected as a spam bot, it occasionally posts a text snippet or two from one of its ebooks, chosen at random. I will never buy an ebook from it, but I will follow this Twitter account until I die or horses become extinct, whichever comes first.”

The tale of @horse_ebooks should drive this message home: just because something is popular on the internet doesn’t mean it can convert followers into customers or fans into clients.

#2 – Your Facebook Fans

In just a minute, we’re going to explain why the number of friends, fans, and followers you have doesn’t matter, period, but Facebook fan count deserves its own assessment because it’s the most commonly misconstrued marker of digital success. Facebook’s EdgeRank system is designed to only allow your well-branded messages to reach users who already engage with your Facebook page.

Instead, you should take a look at the “People Talking About This” metric. This number better reflects your social influence and what (if any) impact you have on your followers. As people engage with your brand, you’re more likely to appear on the feeds of “friends” of your fans, thus funneling new traffic to your page.

#3 – The Total Number of Friends, Fans, and Followers You Have

That’s right. That Facebook fan page you’ve been cultivating for months, or that Twitter feed you’ve been pouring hours into means next to nothing when compared to a healthy email marketing list. Banking on social platforms to drive the majority of your business is a principle known as digital sharecropping, and it’s dangerous.

The idea of digital sharecropping was outlined by Nicholas Carr in 2006, and can be boiled down to this: you don’t own the Web platforms that you’re building your digital bases on. If that platform changes its service or evolves in a direction that no longer drives your business the way you’re used to, you’re up a creek without a paddle.

You’re using the Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and LinkedIn platforms not just because they are popular, but because they’re currently and demonstrably successful channels of marketing and business success – granted. And these tools might be useful to you for a long time, but what happens to your business when Facebook becomes the next MySpace, or when the next craze in digital business, management, or marketing rolls into town?

This doesn’t mean that these platforms are bad for your business, and you should leverage them to your advantage to drive traffic to your website and to your opt-in email list. You control these assets. Even if your email account is hacked, you can export your mailing lists to other providers and keep a back-up copy on your hard drive – or even a hard copy on your desk, a printed list of your contacts. If your Web host goes under, you simply upload your backed-up copy of your website to another hosting provider, and re-direct the URL.

It’s OK to keep an eye on these numbers, but remember that when it comes right down to it, they don’t influence or measure the volume of your business or its projected growth. Invest your time in assets that will drive your business with demonstrable success, like an informative website, email list, or promotional ebook.

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