With Social Media Marketing Spending Up, Justifying Social Media Performance Is More Important than Ever. This Social Media Metrics Template Can Help.

According a 2023 CMO Survey average spending on social media marketing for U.S. companies is 16% of marketing budgets and it is expected to rise to nearly 25% in 5 years. For B2B products spending is 23% today. Yet the same survey reveals marketers are only 53% confident in social media contributing to company performance. And a Sprout Social survey finds that social media teams’ second biggest challenge is proving ROI.

You need more than Likes today to justify social media marketing spending.
Photo by Daria Nepriakhina 🇺🇦 on Unsplash

The days of social media being a part of an experimental budget are gone. With that significant spending comes expectations to meet marketing objectives. Social media budgets are not guaranteed and in some years average spending has gone down. How can you reassure management and clients that social media is a good return on investment? A social media evaluation plan.

An evaluation plan measures success based on social media metrics. Metrics are standards of measurement by which efficiency, performance, or progress can be assessed. They’re important to gain approval and funding to implement social media plans and prove ROI to continue them.

Marketers love digital media because so many things can be measured. Yet the sheer amount of data and options of what can be collected from where may be overwhelming.

The key to understanding social media metrics is knowing how to collect data, track metrics, and identify key performance indicators (KPIs) to link social media actions to marketing objectives for measurement and optimization. A KPI is a key indicator that is used as a type of performance measurement. It’s a metric identified from all the other metrics as being important

Measure Metrics that Support Overall Goals and Objectives

The right key metrics will come from your social media goals that support your main marketing and/or communications objectives. For every objective, you need related social media metrics per platform that determine if your social media plan is working and helping. Here are some example metrics per objective category.

  • Awareness: Impressions, Reach
  • Engagement: Likes, Comments, Shares, Clicks
  • Share of Voice: Volume, Sentiment
  • Customer Care: Response Rate, Response Time
  • Return on Investment: Referrals, Conversions

Top social media platforms each offer their own analytics such as Meta (Facebook/Instagram) Insights, LinkedIn, Twitter/X, Pinterest, YouTube, and TikTok analytics. Metrics for social media platforms can also be accessed through third-party software tools and metrics can be collected in unified dashboards and reports.

Other metrics may be used across social platforms such as engagement rate and cost per engagement. Engagement rate measures the amount of interaction social content earns relative to other audience figures such as reach. Engagement rate can be calculated against reach, posts, or impressions. Cost per engagement is the total amount spent divided by total engagements.

The metrics that are right for your plan depend on your unique objectives and what management or your client considers to be valuable. Once you understand the platform metrics, link the specific metrics for each platform as KPIs to specific marketing and communications objectives.

Create a Social Media Metrics Table for Your Evaluation Plan

A social media metrics template helps organize and show how social media data and plan objectives connect to measure the success of social media efforts. Place marketing and/or communication objectives across the top – one column per objective. In the left column, place each social media platform – one row per platform.

(Click on template image to download a PDF)

Social Media Metrics Template Worksheet

Specify your marketing or communications objectives following SMART guidelines ensuring they’re Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely. Examples of situations that would lead to different objectives and metrics are shown below. A single organization or business may have all these objectives and more if they’re quantified and assigned metric KPIs for each social platform.

  • A startup or business with a new product or service may be focused on building awareness among a certain target audience (impressions, reach).
  • A company or organization may have issues with brand reputation and want to increase share of voice to change perception (volume, sentiment).
  • A business needs to drive sales leads or online purchases (referrals, conversion).
  • A brand needs to focus on retention of customers for continued sales or recruiting new customers via word-of-mouth (likes, comments, shares, clicks).

These KPI metrics can be used to measure performance at the beginning of a social media plan, at the end, every quarter, month, weekly, or even daily. Overall strategies and plans should be set and reevaluated yearly, but individual campaigns, promotions, and tactics should be measured and optimized continuously throughout the year.

Managers may also require quarterly, monthly, or weekly reports. Many software tools make it easy to set up dashboards of KPI metrics and schedule analytics reports to be generated and automatically sent to specific team members regularly. You should track the effectiveness of different strategies and tactics in dashboards as well.

What if those metrics are not performing well? You might not be using the best social media platforms for your strategy. Find out with this Social Media Platform Guide.

Are Ethics and Etiquette Outdated in 2024? An Updated Look at My 2016 Social Media Etiquette & Ethics Guide.

It’s a great time for reflection as we look back on last year and forward to 2024. A colleague recently shared on LinkedIn Pew Research Center’s “Striking findings from 2023.” What stood out to me was the significant increase in calls for restricting false information on social media – 55% believe government and 65% believe tech companies should (up from just 39% and 56% in 2018).

In 2022 Pew Research found 65% believe social media makes us more informed on current events, but 85% were concerned with how easily social media can manipulate people with false information.

In 2015, the year the first edition of Social Media Strategy was published social was fairly new. I didn’t have a chapter on law or ethics. A professor asked that I cover law, ethics, and etiquette in the next edition.

I created a Social Media Ethics & Etiquette Guide on this blog in 2016.

In creating the guide I found social media needs a unique approach as it brings our personal, professional, and working lives together in ways mass media could not. Social media is highly interactive, easily scalable, nearly real-time, and blurs the lines between personal and professional.

This is where ethics and etiquette become important. Ethics studies ideas about good and bad behavior and Etiquette is the proper way to behave. Both are important in Professionalism, or the skill, good judgment, and polite behavior expected from a person trained to do a job.

I found it useful to look at actions from three perspectives: Personal (as an individual), Professional (as an employee or perspective employee), and Brand (as a social media manager). I created questions to consider for each category in the 2016 Social Media Etiquette and Ethics Guide.

What to Consider for Personal Posting.

  • Is it all about me? No one likes someone who only talks about themselves.
  • Am I stalking someone? Be driven and persistent but not too aggressive.
  • Am I spamming them? Don’t make everything self-serving.
  • Am I venting or ranting? Don’t post negative comments or gossip. It doesn’t look or feel good.
  • Did I ask before I tagged? People have different comfort levels so check before you tag.
  • Did I read before commenting or sharing? Don’t assume – fully review posts, people, and articles.
  • Am I grateful and respectful? Respond and thank those who engage with you.
  • Is this the right medium for the message? Consider people’s feelings before saying it on social.
  • Am I on the right account? Don’t post personal information on brand accounts.

What To Consider For Professional Posting.

  • Does it meet the social media policy? Know and follow employer or client policy requirements.
  • Does it hurt my company’s reputation? Certain content/behavior may have a negative impact.
  • Does it help my company’s marketing? Have a positive impact and consider employee advocacy.
  • Would my boss/client be happy to see it? Even private accounts are never fully private and could be shared.
  • Am I being open about who I work for? Be transparent about financial connections when sharing opinions.
  • Am I being fair and accurate? Constructive criticism is best and so is opinion backed by evidence.
  • Am I being respectful and not malicious? Don’t post what you wouldn’t say to someone in person.
  • Does it respect intellectual property? Not everything on the internet or social media is free.
  • Is this confidential information? Ensure you don’t disclose nonpublic company or client information.

What to Consider for Brand Posting.

  • Does it speak to my target market? Focus on your target audience’s wants and needs, not yours.
  • Does it add value? Make your content educational, insightful, or entertaining to grab audience interest.
  • Does it fit the social channel? Don’t post content ideal for Twitter/X on Instagram, Reddit or Pinterest.
  • Is it authentic and transparent? Don’t trick people into clicking or hide important relevant information.
  • Is it real and unique? Don’t use canned responses, create spam, or pass off AI content as your own.
  • Is it positive and respectful? Don’t belittle competitors or customers (unless you’re Wendy’s and roasting is your brand).
  • Does it meet codes of conduct? Consider AMA’s, AAAA’s, or PRSA’s Code of Ethics.
  • Does it meet all laws and regulations? See the FTC and other government guides on social media requirements.
  • Does it meet the social media policy? Ensure you follow company and client policy standards.

Do I listen twice as much as I talk? Make sure you fully understand what you’re commenting and posting about.

(Click on the template image to download a PDF)

Are social media ethics and etiquette outdated today?

Much has changed in 7 years, and I sometimes wonder if some of these questions may appear naïve or outdated. After all, clients want results and increasingly studies tell us lies and negativity raise engagement which typically leads to sales.

Research in the journal Science on Twitter/X found falsehoods were 70% more likely to be retweeted/reposted than the truth. Verified truth posts took 6 times longer to reach 1,500 people than verified false posts.

In the journal Nature research found negative words in headlines increased consumption. Each additional negative word increased the click-through rate by 2.3%.

The Wall Street Journal reports companies frequently use fake reviews to sell more products fooling even seasoned shoppers. And it looks like Sports Illustrated may have been publishing AI-generated articles by fake writers to keep up with content and engagement demands.

Are lies and negativity simply the way you do business on social media?

I believe Advertising Hall of Fame member Bill Bernbach would disagree. He understood the power of media and the responsibility of those who create it.

Bernbach said, “All of us who professionally use the mass media are the shapers of society. We can vulgarize that society. We can brutalize it. Or we can help lift it onto a higher level.”

Social media marketing only works if it’s seen as credible.

When we abuse our professions by not following the law, by being unethical, or by not following good etiquette, credibility is lost. Once you lose credibility, people stop listening. If people stop listening, we won’t have a profession.

This past semester a colleague wrote about an ethical situation a student faced. An internship employer wanted social media customer questions and responses to highlight company products as solutions, but they didn’t have any real customer questions.

The possible future employer asked the student to create the questions and fake customers to ask them. The solutions would be real, but the customers and questions would be lies. Is this okay?

Unfortunately, ethical dilemmas aren’t rare. A 2020 survey published in Harvard Business Review found 23% of U.S. employees feel pressure to do things they know are wrong. More witness unethical behavior like rule violations (29%) and lying (27%). Employees describe ethically questionable actions as being specifically demanded of them or implied to meet time pressures, productivity goals, or make the company look better.

Perhaps we need a “we’re lying” disclaimer on social media.

I used to teach a law and ethics course required for students in an advertising program. An example I used in class was the famous Joe Isuzu ads from the late 1980’s and early 2000’s. The brand spokesperson gave false claims about Isuzu’s car and trucks.

The false information was okay because everyone knew he was lying. It was done as a joke with outlandish claims such as the Impulse Turbo was as fast as a speeding bullet (915 mph). The ads even told you in big bold type “Sounds like a lie,” and “He’s lying.” No one truly believed it.

Should we add “we’re lying” to some of our social media content like the Joe Isuzu ads?

Just because you can or because others are doesn’t mean you should.

As a social media professional, we can’t restrict false information on social media. We also don’t control the algorithms that may emphasize negative posts. But we do have a choice to hold ourselves to a higher standard.

What are our professional responsibilities in using social media? If current incentives are to vulgarize and brutalize it, should we follow? Or should we follow Bernbach’s advice and strive to lift it onto a higher level?