Actionable Metrics

by | Aug 4, 2020 | Strategy | 0 comments

A large part of using and managing social media is the use of metrics. Organizations use metrics as a way to track their KPIs, or for celebration when they hit a particular milestone, like 1,000,000 followers. A good social media strategist knows that there are multiple categories of metrics. The most common category are referred to as vanity metrics. Here are some examples of typical vanity metrics:

  • Number of followers
  • Impressions
  • Likes
  • Shares
  • Retweets

Vanity metrics can make you feel good, because they typically increase, rapidly in some cases, and make it appear that a particular campaign or post is a success. On paper, vanity metrics are very appealing. They can show if one platform outperforms another, and can give you a gauge of your social presence. You can determine how your content is consumed. Vanity metrics make great KPIs for campaigns. However, the metrics alone do not tell the full story. Large values may indicate popularity. They have no correlation or effect on product growth, or indicate if you have any conversions. They will not tell you if you are selling more product because of your campaign. The vanity metrics give you a good starting point for deeper analysis. What is missing is the “WHO, WHY and WHAT.”

That is where the second category comes into focus. The metrics in this category are referred to as actionable metrics. These metrics give the rest of the story, the “WHO and WHY behind the WHAT”. Gathering this data will take more time, but the results discovered and conclusions drawn are well worth the effort. Some examples of actionable metrics include:

  • Gender
  • Sentiment/Temperature
  • Themes
  • Keywords
  • Interests
  • Demographics
  • Engagements

Consider the vanity metric number of followers. There was a time when celebrities were competing with one-another to see who could get the most Twitter followers. Great, so Celebrity A has 12 million followers and Celebrity B has 9 million. How many are followers of both? Are people really following the celebrity because they want to hear what is tweeted, or are they followers just participating in a stunt? And, who are these followers? Are they in the target demographic for the celebrity, or just random Twitter users? More importantly, are all of the followers even real? What is the value of a fake follower, and how does that contribute to building the brand for the celebrity? The answer, zero! Fake users don’t go to movies, buy music, go to concerts or events, and follow brands endorsed by the celebrity. The number of followers alone can be an empty statistic. A better metric would be the number of active followers, so the fakes and the “one and dones” are eliminated. There are tools to determine the percentage of followers that are fake. 

Another important actionable metric is the sentiment, or the “temperature of the room” for a given post, campaign or brand. This is not a number that is directly calculated, and generally requires some software to help compile and analyze the data. For instance, a series of keywords commonly used tells one story, and a set of conclusions may be drawn. However, if the keywords are then combined with some adjectives, it can yield a completely different story, a more accurate story, and determine whether sentiment is positive or negative. If a series of viewers engage with a post using comments, the content of the comments are analyzed for common keywords, and a word cloud would be generated. Then, looking at the way the keywords were used, and the descriptions or sentiment around them, a rating could be applied. In TV advertising, there is a scale from -100% to 100% to determine sentiment. That same scale could be used in social media, with -100% being the most possibly negative a post, campaign or brand can be, to a 100%, which would be a “media darling”. If a new soft drink hits the market and a word like “bubbly” appears often in the comments, it tells a bit of a story all by itself. The drink is bubbly, light and enjoyable perhaps. However, if “bubbly” is used in conjunction with words like “overly”, “excessively” or “too” then the result is a different story. Software could analyze those pairings and derive a sentiment rating. This gives the person running the campaign richer feedback data, and a metric that has more value.

Another consideration is what you can learn from an actionable metric like demographics. How is your content consumed? What are the purchasing habits?  Here are some categories to consider:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Geography
  • Ethnicity/race
  • Income/lifestyle
  • Family status

You may discover that one age group tends to consume your content on YouTube, and shies away from Facebook. You might find a specific gender in the west prefers Instagram over Pinterest. It is entirely possible that content on one platform may get more mentions, or have higher vanity metrics, but the purchase intent is in the complete opposite direction. Use demographic information in conjunction with your vanity metrics to help segment your audience, as any good social media strategist would.

Lastly, the holy grail of actionable metrics is engagement on steroids, otherwise known as a conversion. You can look at the amount of traffic on your website, and there may be a huge number of visitors per day. But, if they are window shopping, all you are doing is building brand awareness. That in itself is a fine goal, but should not be the end game. You want your content to be actionable in some way, so you get someone to consume an additional piece of content, make a purchase, interact with a poll, give an opinion/rating, register for an event or refer a friend. Tracking these types of activities give you a true measure of the effectiveness of your posts. A TV commercial is considered really successful if it gets people to buy product, or call now while operators are standing by. 

A piece of social media content should stir an emotion, drive someone to act, or generate some actionable metric. If you want to go beyond the vanity metrics, and perform a deeper analysis, you need to use the actionable metrics. Conversions will tell you if your posts and content are growing your audience, and if your content needs to be richer. Look for patterns and outliers to get a complete story, as you retool your social media strategy.

Author: Joe Cannata

Joe Cannata, Certification Director for Kinaxis, has 18 years of experience in the certification industry, building and running three different programs. His extensive experience with the exam development process and item writing best practices includes written blogs on the subject. Using various platforms and strategies, he also ran the social media marketing for his programs. Joe was a community manager and champion for showing how social media can lead to certification program growth. He authored a chapter in the eBook, “Best Practices for Creating a Hot Certification Program (that Makes your Product Stickier)”.

Joe has spoken at the Association of Test Publishers conferences on exam security, is a Board Trustee for the Customer Education Management Association (CEdMA), has a Bachelors Degree in Elementary Education, and a Masters Degree in Applied Science and Computing. Joe lives in the North Atlanta suburbs.

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