Social Media Metrics and Promotions

August 25, 2009 — 1 Comment

Cathie’s given me a little dig in her most recent post, and I thought I might respond….

I’d argue that in the spirit of marketing via social media, clicks are the least important measure of success – offering little or no insight into engagement, reach or virality…..
But while not the key metric, clicks are still a metric, and I would be delighted to be able to help my talented friend fund her next film…

Which is, of course, true, but not the point in this case.

Social media – as with any promotional campaign – will have key metrics that must be achieved. Any other metric may be useful, but they are only important insofar as they contribute to the key achievable metric. Virality is great, but unless it translates to achievement of a key metric, it’s useless. Engagement is good if it’s useful – though you’ve only got to look at Harley-Davidson to see that a passionate, engaged fanbase can be a liability as much as an asset.

In this case, the campaign is designed to achieve 50 000 clicks. Clicks are usually not a good measure of much, except a basic understanding of popularity, but in this case the financial success of the project is tied to that basic metric. Tactics that promote virality, engagement and reach are useful in reaching that goal, but the metrics of those are of secondary importance in this case.

This goes to a consistent misunderstanding that I see in social media promotions. Virality, engagement, reach and the like are all valuable measures, but they are rarely goals in and of themselves. The useful key metrics of a campaign are rarely about the number of clicks on youtube or the volume of online conversation, they are about the increase in car sales, the petitions sent to a politician or the public support of a political change (or an Australian Idol contestant). These things are often hard to measure, and the change may not occur in a helpful timeframe, but that doesn’t mean we can blow off clients with a measure of virality or clickthroughs.

When I was working at WWF-Australia, it was spectacularly irritating when columnists would decry Earth Hour on the basis that the power usage drop during Earth Hour was minimal, or that the city didn’t appear to darken greatly. The fact that the power use drop was never the point, or that Earth Hour was always intended to be a symbolic gesture was lost on them. While the imagery of lights going out is powerful, and was used substantially during the campaign, the reality is that for most cities the overall light level wasn’t going to drop a great deal – and photographic representations of that drop were not a useful metric in any case.

While working on some of the social media stuff, the Earth Hour campaign had some great successes – several videos in the top ten on Youtube, massive numbers of mentions – but the key metric for Earth Hour was people and cities who had signed up with Earth Hour to commit to switching off their lights as a gesture of support for international governmental action on climate change.

Deploying social media, broadcast and print in its service was helpful, and those metrics were of supplemental value in making the case for public support, but the key metric was signups.

The key metric in this competition is clicks. Other metrics are useful, but in this case, they are not key.

So, now, if you’re interested in that bottle of Laphroaig….

One response to Social Media Metrics and Promotions


    Thanks for the great info, keep up the good work, I’m an avid reader!

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