Forget Impressions: How Marketers Can Rethink Their Social Marketing Metrics

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This article by Brad Lawless originally appeared on CMO.

We all know that social media evolves more rapidly than any other channel. But the measurement of social media has failed to keep pace with the production of social media content.

The impression, first deemed a meaningful metric, has proved insufficient in the measurement of social media reach and engagement. Content publishers with large followings can manufacture impressions by simply publishing more content. The impressions prove meaningless if half of those potential viewers aren’t online when the content appears–or more importantly, aren’t engaging with that content.

Without impressions, what should marketers, and the brands and retailers who rely on them, use to understand the value of social campaigns? People taking meaningful actions with content that matters most. Consider the following three tips for rethinking metrics around your next influencer campaign.

Set Goals Against Engagement

Social engagements, meaningful actions people take with content, serve as effective proxies for purchase intent. People have a finite number of seconds in any given day, and they make a powerful statement when they choose to give some of that time to your brand or product.

A simple “like” indicates approval for your content. Pinning that content to an inspiration board or sharing it with friends demonstrates endorsement of that content and the product it features. Savvy marketers seek to replace impressions with engagement, as this metric shows hand-raising action versus passive listening.

Savvy marketers seek to replace impressions with engagement, as this metric shows hand-raising… Click To Tweet

To benchmark your engagement factor, ask yourself this: If a consumer pulled up your brand’s Twitter feed tomorrow, what would it look like? Would she see a stream of promotional marketing content filled with jargon and industry buzzwords, or would she see a feed full of dynamic conversations and valuable content?

You must audit your social channels in order to understand how consumers connect with your brand. Evaluate social streams in the same way you would consider an actual friendship: Is the brand helpful? Insightful? Do I enjoy its content?

Measure Niche Content Campaigns  

Once we understand how a given customer interacts with branded content, marketers can abandon the spray and pray approach to target a smaller number of consumers through more relevant, niche content campaigns. Marketers should A/B test different niche campaigns to better understand what type of content moves a customer toward engagement.

For example, if a Kraft customer doesn’t like bacon, Kraft should ensure bacon content doesn’t end up on his screen. Instead, Kraft can curate images and inspirational recipes of cheese shreds that resonate better with the sub-segment of non-bacon shoppers. It could also test a content campaign with another bacon alternative in order to identify what type of content resonates best with that group of shoppers.

Swap Page Views For Time Spent On Page

Page views alone, much like impressions, no longer carry the weight they once did when it comes to social media marketing. Along with page views, we should focus on the amount of time shoppers spend on that page viewing content. The longer the potential shopper spends with your branded content, the more engaged he becomes with that product or service and moves closer to action.

Page views alone no longer carry the weight they once did when it comes to social media… Click To Tweet

Time spent on page can also help brands track and ultimately predict how shoppers will interact with specific content and content topics. Imagine how much more efficient media spends become when a marketer knows that a $100,000 social campaign will garner a specific number of page views with a specific time spent on post and guaranteed social engagements.

While we can’t tie the value of a tweet or pin directly to a sale yet, we can be sure to use the right metrics to measure impact. First we must stop focusing on digital impressions alone. By goal setting against engagement, evaluating niche content campaigns and measuring time on pages over simple views, marketers can more accurately measure the value of their social media marketing campaigns and learn to spend their marketing dollars more wisely in the future.

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