social media ROI

Measuring Social Media ROI With The Wrong Tape Measure

Gee RanasinhaSocial Media

Most companies are measuring social media success using the wrong tape measure. Let me explain.

A few years ago, if you’d bought a new computer and told your friends about it, often the first question they’d ask you was “How fast is the processor?” Computers were measured by how fast their processors were. It was assumed that a 2.5Ghz processor, for example, was “better” (read faster, bigger, more powerful) than a 2.1Ghz processor.

The Megahertz Myth

In reality, the speed of a computer is more about what (and how many) tasks the processor is actually doing, rather than just its outright speed. The real-world performance of a modern computer is a delicate balancing-act between the internal hardware, the operating system, and the software that you’re running at the time. Today’s 2.4Ghz processors are considerably more powerful than the 3.0Ghz processors from a couple of years ago, for example. In other words, we’re measuring the computer using the wrong tape measure.

It’s the same with digital cameras. A camera with a 15 megapixel sensor is automatically deemed to be “better” than a 12 megapixel one. However, just because a camera has a higher-resolution sensor, doesn’t mean that the actual pictorial quality of the image will be better than that from a smaller sensor (in fact, it can often be a lot worse).

What’s happened is that people have latched-on to a measurement yardstick that bears little or no significance to the end result. They see a number, they see another number that’s bigger. They associate the one with the bigger number as being “better”.

The same is true for most companies’ social media strategies. They’re calculating social media ROI with numbers that have no meaning or correlation to success.

“How many Twitter followers do you have?” How many “Likes” do you have on your Facebook page?” “How many blog comments did you get?” Measuring the success of your social media efforts by empty numbers such as these is sure to end in tears.

Measuring Social Media ROI By The Wrong Numbers

The problem is that many companies are designing their social media strategies around the wrong set of numbers. They’re designing around the number of Likes, Comments, Retweets or for how long a piece of content gets circulated. But these numbers don’t actually mean anything. They’re vanity metrics.

Instead, we should be designing for an action or an outcome – something that results in a transaction of some sort. We should be working on developing content that meets (or exceeds) expectations – information that is seen by our target audience to have value.

Like any recovering gambling addict will tell you, betting on the numbers is something that you’re never going to win long term. Today, we earn the actions and attention that we deserve. Pushing useless, uninteresting, one-sided content into someone’s timeline isn’t going to cut it for the long-haul. What’s the use of having 5,000 Twitter followers, for example, if none of them are engaging with your brand?

The more important question companies should ask themselves is how to find out what content customers want and expect from you, and how (and where) do they want to receive it?

That’s easy. Just ask them.