After 20 years of Social Media Use

           After nearly 20 years of social media use, I thought I finally figured out the secret sauce: The higher your count, the more successful your account was. Friends, followers, subscribers, likes, whatever the network called it, the higher it was the better off you were.  I knew this wasn’t the full picture, but I was pretty convinced this was the foundation of success.  In my lifetime I have completely witnessed the creation of modern social media networks starting with SixDegrees as well as the blogging crazy in the very early 2000s.   Within that time, I have seen the rise and fall of so many social media networks as trends rapidly changed.  I recall being on AIM and just about every other messaging service, LiveJournal, Myspace, LinkedIn, Reddit, Flickr, and so on.  Over that span of 20 years, one thing seemed to stay a constant; the higher the number you had, the more successful you were. Fast-forward to fall semester 2020 when I find myself enrolled in the Social Media Marketing class at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, about to have all of my ideas about social media marketing challenged.  It would take just days to realize that the best indicator of success was determined by the goals you wished to accomplish and not by “vanity metrics”, otherwise known as metrics that are used to impress someone but not very useful in providing real answers about the effectiveness of your social media marketing efforts.

           When a business is considering using social media as a tool and only has a certain amount of resources they can allocate, it becomes very critical to understand exactly what it is that they are trying to achieve.  On the Science of Social Media Podcast by, Alfred Lua, stated: “Without goals, it’s hard to know exactly how well your social media strategy is performing and where you need to iterate to continue moving forwards.”  I find this to be a very important detail that is oftentimes easily over missed.  First, let’s discuss what kind of goals can be set by a business or organization, and then next we will address how to measure the success of those goals.

“Without goals, it’s hard to know exactly how well your social media strategy is performing and where you need to iterate to continue moving forwards.”

Alfred Lua, Product Marketer,

           As a business on social media, these goals may be to increase brand awareness, drive traffic to your website, find new sales leads, increase revenue through sales, increase brand engagement, build a community around your niche, provide customer service over social media, gain outside exposure, or to keep a finger on the pulse surrounding your company or industry.  Going back to my original thought that the best way to monitor success was to keep an eye on your number of followers; in most cases, an increase in followers will be a good sign.  However, the number of followers might not be the best metric to fully understand how well a social media account is performing versus their goal.  This is where the S.M.A.R.T. goals system comes into play.  In this case, the acronym stands for “Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely.”  “Specific” helps us to define exactly what we are after, “Measurable” is how we know when we’ve reached the goal, “Achievable,” asks if the goal is realistic given your resources available, “Relevant,” asks if the goal makes sense to the objectives of the organization, and finally Timely asks us to determine when we hope to achieve the goal by.  By creating SMART goals, we are better able to determine what it means to be successful with our goals and then we are able to determine which metrics are most relevant to the goals we set.

Once you have identified the right goals and defined them using the SMART goal system, it’s important to know how to measure them correctly.  In the article “19 Social Media Metrics That Really Matter – And How to Track Them” by Eddie Shleyner on the Hootsuite blog, he writes “The right data will assure executives that their investment in social is paying off.  It also helps you continue to make smarter, more data-driven decisions moving forward. “The article goes on to define four “key customer journey stages: awareness, engagement, conversion, and consumer” and goes on to define which metrics are most important at each stage.  Once you have determined what goals you should use to measure the effectiveness of your social media marketing, simply follow the article to determine which metrics are most relevant to measure and how to calculate them.

In closing, although it may sound impressive to state how many followers you have or to rehearse other vanity metrics, they don’t really give you an accurate measurement of the efforts of your social media marketing efforts.  To get a real clear understanding, it is important to first create SMART goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely”.  Next, you must identify and measure the right metrics to clearly illustrate the effectiveness of your efforts.  By following these steps, you will find your allocated resources are used much more wisely.


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