click-through ratesClick-through rates have long been one of the main success metrics in online advertising, so it only goes to follow that it has become one of the key performance indicators for social media marketing efforts as well.

Actually, it has been proven that social media traffic is significantly less likely to convert than traffic from search, PPC or email campaigns (Baynote and Kenshoo studies). But regardless of the actual conversion rate, an understanding of the benefits of social media and the other relevant and valuable KPIs will help any social media professional demonstrate the value of their work and these platforms.

Participating in social media is still a must for the vast majority of brands, even if it’s only for customer service. And of course, social media can be crucial for building awareness, positive sentiment and keeping your brand at the forefront of customers’ minds. Digital strategists, marketers and those in similar careers must set client expectations accordingly and educate them on what types of results and data they should anticipate receiving from social media efforts.

Maintaining a strong social media presence can help keep a brand at the top of its audience/followers’ minds — even if they don’t directly click through to the website and make a purchase or convert. Only the regular presence in their feeds can promote purchases when they are actually out shopping and/or making buying decisions.

In addition, marketers and brand managers should remember that social media success metrics aren’t necessarily one-to-one. On the other hand, it is a “softer” segment than catalogs or coupons. In fact, social media is much more similar to traditional tactics, such as television commercials, in which advertisers put their messages out there during key times and programs and try to stay at the top of their target consumers’ minds.

After all, it’s important to remember that many email subscribers and social media users are generally on the platform to socialize and get updates on their networks’ activity, not to shop.

However, if they search for your keywords or open your emails, they are much more likely to be engaged along the path to purchase. Social sites are typically not the last media “touched” before a purchase, so your audience may engage on social but convert later via a different platform. Many factors affect a buying decision, but it is often the final click through that gets the credit for the purchase — rendering the standard online marketing KPI of click-through rate somewhat irrelevant.

That said, social media can be an incredibly valuable tool for building positive sentiment around a brand, from both a customer service and content creation perspective. However, it is equally vital to understand its limitations and the different ways users interact with it and not get too caught up in judging success solely by the number of followers or “likes” or simply add to the din of brands’ attempts at posting content purely for the sake of putting something out there.

Instead, take a look at how you as a marketer or brand manager can educate your clients and add value using social media by generating increased awareness and positive sentiment, as well as encouraging consumers to share content because it is interesting, useful, entertaining or otherwise compelling. Focus on usefulness for the end user instead of traditional KPIs, and you may just create something that wins customers and awards.

Originally published Sep 10, 2013 1:00:04 AM, updated July 28 2017

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Social Media Analytics