Beware of bad advice on social media metrics

Lately, I’ve seen a slew of articles — like this, this and this — bashing the use of certain measurements in social media and online marketing efforts.

You mean Facebook page “likes” don’t matter? The amount of traffic to your website is irrelevant? And the number of Twitter followers isn’t worth counting?

Tape measure

Photo via {a href="http://www.sxc.hu/photo/507636"}Gastonmag{/a}

Whoa, Nelly, let’s slow down a bit here. Those metrics do count, and if you’re in online marketing or social media, you should watch them closely. The key is understanding what they really mean and how to use them.

The experts are right in that if these metrics are the only thing you measure, your online efforts are doomed. If you tell the CEO how many people “Like” the company on Facebook, then that person has every right to fire back with “How is that driving our sales?”

So yes, report the metrics that count to leadership: How many new sales leads your efforts have generated, how much increased revenue (or better yet, profit) you’re responsible for, how much you’ve boosted awareness of the brand. That’s all good and well.

But actually driving those numbers in the direction that makes the boss happy requires more insight. You’ve got to know what levers you can press to move the bottom-line numbers. The best way to figure this out is to understand what kind of sales and marketing funnel you’re working with. (If you don’t know what a sales and marketing funnel is, here’s a good explanation.)

Boost the top line to drive the bottom line

Let me give you an example here. Let’s say your target metric is the number of website lead-gen forms you get potential customers to fill out. Before people can fill out the form, they’ve got to visit your website. And even once they’re on the website, they have to believe that they can trust with their information, that you can deliver something of value to them (hopefully the product or service you’re selling), and that it’s worth their time to give you their contact information.

To start with, let’s say you’re getting two leads a day through your online form. And let’s say you’re getting 20 visits a day to the page with your lead-gen form, and 200 visits a day to your website. One way to increase the number of leads you get is increase the number of visits to the lead-gen form and, a farther up the funnel, increase the number or website visits you’re getting.

This is based on a pretty basic sales principle: If you want to close more deals, make more calls.

I think of these kind of metrics as “top of the funnel” stats. They’re not numbers you necessarily include in your report to the boss, but they are numbers you need to monitor, understand and move if you’re going to deliver the bottom-line results the boss wants.