Mind Your Measures: Social Media Metrics that Aren’t Skin Deep


Last week, Microsoft announced an upcoming change in its default font from Calibri, the 14-year-old brainchild of Lucas de Groot, to one of five new custom options: Tenorite, Bierstadt, Skeena, Seaford and Grandview.

Once the laughter subsided and our team had exhausted silly jokes about font development – like what the artists were really doing when they created Bierstadt (it literally translates to “beer city”) – our inner PR nerds emerged, and we began discussing Microsoft’s approach to gathering customer input on social media.

Unlike the social media contests we have seen before that rely on poll responses or photo likes, this one simply asked participants to provide feedback in the comments.

Realizing Microsoft’s focus not only on simple quantitative measures, but also on more complex qualitative measures – such as the number of times a font name is mentioned and the sentiment of those mentions – we launched into a conversation about social media measurement and best practices.

Initially impressed by the level of engagement on Microsoft’s tweet, the aggregate 11,000+ interactions we could easily see (excluding replies, which were likely also in the thousands) seemed less impressive in context of its 9.4 million followers. With a quick scan of Microsoft’s Twitter profile, however, it’s clear this tweet received the most engagement it has experienced since Microsoft said, “Hello.”

Further, in context of the tech and software industry average engagement rate of 0.027% on Twitter, the engagement Microsoft received on its font announcement tweet looks even better.

Why does any of this matter?

We commonly track and report metrics like followers, reach, impressions, engagement rate, as well as how those metrics change over time. But, reported alone and out of context, these measures are less about value and more about vanity, revealing little about the actual performance of our social media content.

It’s critical for social media management teams to not only establish and track the performance indicators that matter to their brand based on carefully defined objectives, but also to measure and report on progress in context of their external environment.

For example, on a post like Microsoft’s font announcement, replies and comments would be more important indicators of success than likes or retweets, since these are where input for decision-makers would be found.

Over a longer period, metrics such as share of voice – how often your brand is mentioned in conversations about your industry versus competitors – can be particularly valuable indicators of social media performance. The Oxford College of Marketing and Payne Publishing offer others.

If you are wondering which metrics are right for your social media program, you should know by now that we start by asking, “Why?” Before measuring anything, ask yourself: Why is social media important to advancing my business objectives? Only then will you be able to identify metrics of value and leverage those insights for meaningful impact – like selecting what will surely become one of the world’s most-used fonts.

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