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Measuring social mediaEarlier this week a post on the average clickthrough rates for popular Facebook brand pages reminded me of an article I wrote nearly three years ago, which was all about how to measure social media.

At the time I believed that social media sat somewhere between offline and online, as far as measurement was concerned. Yes, you can measure the hard numbers, but what about the softer metrics? Doesn’t there need to be a little room for interpretation?

Well, I still believe all of that. The key to measuring social media is to track all of the usual ‘hard’ metrics, but it’s also to step back and correlate performance against the major business KPIs. That’s pretty much the key to measuring everything. If it an engagement tactic or marketing campaign doesn't move the needle in terms of sales, satisfaction, loyalty or profit then ultimately what's the point of doing it?

Clickthrough rates on Facebook

So it turns out that the clickthrough rate from Facebook pages with more than 100,000 fans is a mere 0.14%. Terrible, right? Well, that depends. As Jim Gilbert said in the comments of that post: “Do studies take into account the other non-click advantages of building a community with engaged advocates?” The answer is no, although that study was purely about measuring the clickthrough rate. Some other questions we need to ask are:

  • Does the clickthrough rate really matter?
  • Exactly what is the purpose of a brand’s Facebook page?
  • What tactics have been employed and what are the business goals?
  • What other hard metrics can be tracked?
  • What soft metrics are worth looking at?
  • How does a Facebook page affect the performance of other channels and campaigns?
  • How can we quantify ROI from Facebook / social media?

Not all of these questions will have easy answers. 

What the clickthrough rate can tell you

If the aim of your Facebook page is to drive traffic to your website then that 0.14% number sucks. But there’s more to life than the clickthrough rate (or at least there should be). Nonetheless, this metric is indicative of something.

So what does that lousy 0.14% statistic tell you?

It could tell you that you haven’t figured out what kind of content works best for your audience. You might need to rethink your content strategy if that’s the case. Are you creating and publishing the right things, at the right times?

Maybe it tells you that your audience sucks. Does your Facebook page force visitors to click ‘Like’ in order to access your apps? Are your Facebook apps right for your brand? Some Facebook apps are so far removed from the brand that they should never have been commissioned in the first place. Are those 100,000+ fans really ‘fans’?

As for ROI, you need to step back and see the bigger picture. In this respect the clickthrough rate isn’t typically the best metric to look at. As Jim says, what about customer advocacy? How are you measuring that? And how does audience engagement on Facebook and other social platforms impact on other channels, and other campaigns?

Direct response vs emotional response

As a metric the clickthrough rate can be filed under direct response. It’s an action metric. It’s easy to measure, and is highly accurate. It’s tangible. There are at least 35 other 'hard' social media metrics like this (I'll update that list soon).

Now consider the role of TV advertising, which still accounts for the lion’s share of marketing budget among large brands. TV tends to focus on the emotional response. It’s difficult to measure with any degree of accuracy. TV ads are obsessed with changing perception about brands. In doing so, the hope is that the viewer will become more aware of the brand, more favourable towards the brand, will remember the brand, and so on. The response doesn’t have to be quite so immediate. It’s a slow burner.

I happen to think that social is a bit like TV. But because it's online we can track a bunch of things far more accurately than any TV ad. 

The funny thing is that TV is fast becoming a direct response channel. Around half of all TV viewers have access to an internet-enabled device while watching the TV (smartphones, tablets, laptops, etc), according to the IAB. This means that TV will increasingly drive visits to web properties, as well as shifting consumer perception of brands.

Lovehoney’s Matthew Curry recently launched the firm’s first TV ad campaign and noted that there is a two-minute window of opportunity directly after the ad has been shown. That’s when any traffic spike is likely to happen, and after that time the visits fall away quickly. 

But what about the bigger picture? How many of those people will remember the Lovehoney brand at the point at which they want to buy sexy products? Moreover, how can Matthew make sense of this?

Measuring brand and advocacy 

Web analytics tools can help you to monitor your brand metrics. There are two really straightforward ways of doing this (see Avinash Kaushik’s post for some others). 

1. How many visitors access your site directly, by writing your URL in the address bar of their browser and pressing enter?

2. How many people search on Google for your brand name, or web address? 

How have these numbers changed over time? What has contributed to that change? The last question there is the key one to answer. What have you been doing to increase brand awareness, and brand recall, and brand favourability?

In Econsultancy’s case the volume of brand searches is rising at a rate of about 32% a year...

Now, we don’t advertise on TV, nor print, outdoor or radio. But we certainly do content, and we do social, and both of these things underpin the two big things that make a difference to our brand metrics: search, and word of mouth

As we produce more and more quality content it stands to reason that brand awareness will rise, especially if we do a good job of SEO and social. But is it word of mouth that has always been the key to the growth of our business. Recommendation and advocacy are huge for us. Always have been. Twitter and Facebook are both incredibly useful platforms for engagement, which drives advocacy (as well as the more important things, like sales, satisfaction, loyalty and profit). 

We measure advocacy directly (e.g. exit surveys) and indirectly (e.g. reputation monitoring). Social media provides us with the means to tune in to our fans and followers. It is easier than ever before to eavesdrop on people, to find out what they’re saying about our brand, our products and our service levels, and to respond to them. 

We monitor brand mentions on Twitter, and sentiment, just like we monitor brand searches on Google. And we learn about what people like and dislike. It helps us to refine what we’re doing as a business, in all sorts of areas. 

You might think as a content business that we’re obsessed with traffic, and that the clickthrough rate on platforms like Facebook is all-important. But it’s not. We don’t care how or where people engage with our brand, but only that they do, and what they think of us. 

If you’re fixated on traffic then I think you’re probably doing it wrong. There are nine other areas that are arguably more important indicators of social media success, even if they are harder to measure. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try.

[Image by on Flickr by tachyondecay, various rights reserved]

Chris Lake

Published 18 November, 2011 by Chris Lake

Chris Lake is CEO at EmpiricalProof, and former Director of Content at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter, Google+ or connect via Linkedin.

582 more posts from this author

Comments (5)

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Joe White

Thanks Chris. Your right, its just part of the jigsaw, don't obsess over traffic.

about 5 years ago

Hannah Rainford

Hannah Rainford, Associate Director of Social Media at Jellyfish Online Marketing

A good article. Those who are measuring social media metrics need to focus on their objectives and measure to those. If the goal is to engage with customers, then focus on the engagement rate rather than the number of likes. If the goal is to increase sales then make sure you are tracking links correctly to track conversions.

Some smaller companies set themselves unrealistic goals of how many likes and followers they should have. It's almost heartbreaking to see them crash and burn because they haven't thought about objectives clearly.

about 5 years ago

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Innes

I do keep an eye on my social media usage and how well it works for me but this for sure gives me new ideas as to how I can get the best from it. On the whole, its beginning to become a good means to developing new business.

about 5 years ago

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Steve @ Wise - Facebook Analytics

Great article!
Does 0.14% CTR sucks ? Compared to display advertising, it's still pretty great! ;-)

about 5 years ago

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@michellecarvill

Agree completely Chris - think insight and thinking it very much in line with my own. Like the comparison TV. The key message is 'Measure what Matters' (also the title of my most recent blog post)- and what you measure depends on your business objectives or campaign objectives.

about 5 years ago

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