Social media marketing works well on its own, but also serves as a perfect complement to both SEO and content marketing initiatives. When working in harmony, content, social, and SEO can form a powerful traffic- and lead-generating trio.
Unfortunately, there are also a handful of downsides to social media marketing. One of the most notable is the notorious difficulty in calculating an objective ROI for the strategy. Building up brand sentiment is nice, but it's hard to objectively measure, and to make things worse--the metrics you do measure can actually mislead you.
When calculating the results of your social media marketing campaign, beware of these seven ways those metrics can deceive you:
1. Your friends and followers might not care about your brand. Friends, likes, and followers are all measures of how many people have engaged with your brand or subscribed to your brand's posts. Because this number has a lot of social clout attached to it, its importance has become overinflated. Having 50,000 followers on Twitter might look good on paper, but those 50,000 people won't be useful to you if half of them are spam accounts and the other half aren't interested in your brand at all. Anybody can click a "like" or a "follow" button, but it doesn't directly imply an esteemed relationship. It's far better to have a smaller number of followers who genuinely like and engage with your brand than a large number of followers who don't. Don't be fooled by this metric.
2. Social traffic may not convert or engage with your brand. One of the more popular social media measures is the social traffic that can be tracked using Google Analytics. Under the Acquisition tab, you'll find your total site traffic segmented into various sources, including "social," which includes traffic across all social platforms. It's good to take this measure as an indication of how well your posts are performing, but traffic isn't everything. Your headline might have attracted thousands of new visitors, but what if those visitors left after reading the first line of your story, or what if your content left them with a negative impression of your brand? Traffic is important, but it isn't everything. Be sure to analyze that traffic to determine its actual value.
3. Social shares can come from bots. Social shares are a powerful metric because they instantly connect your content with a wider audience and may carry a ranking signal to Google for a specific page. However, what you may not know is the overwhelming number of bots and fake accounts that are dedicated to sharing and syndicating articles. As a general rule, more shares are a good thing, but don't automatically assume that every share of your content means that a human being invested in your brand has shared your content with tons of their adoring followers. Not all shares are equal.
4. Shares aren't as useful as links. Going along with the idea that your total share numbers can be misleading, remember that a social share isn't nearly as valuable as earning a link. If a user reads an article you syndicated on social media and links to it on his/her own domain, it's far more valuable than a user who passively shares that content and never links to it, yet the latter is what registers in your total shares metric. Links are more valuable because they pass more authority to your site and usually have a higher likelihood of generating referral traffic over a longer period of time, so pay close attention to the number of links you're getting in addition to shares.
5. Brand mentions and shares can harm your reputation. You can use social listening software to evaluate how often your brand is getting mentioned, but that doesn't mean all those mentions are positive. Similarly, just because your content is getting shared doesn't mean all those shares are intended to favor your brand. Some people might be sharing your content to criticize it, or mention your name to slander you. Rely on more than just numbers to evaluate your reputation in the social sphere--follow up on the actual shares and mentions to see what people really think of you.
6. Contest participation doesn't equate to new customers. Contests are valuable ways to generate visibility and traffic on social media, but be careful with how you position and measure them. Giving away a $50 gift card might earn you 100 new likes, but how many of those 100 people actually like your brand, and how many were just looking for a quick way to get $50? Frame your contests in a way that gets people involved with your brand directly, such as encouraging reviews and testimonials, or an interaction with your products. Otherwise, the visibility you generate from the contest could be both superficial and temporary.
7. Impressions don't mean you're getting seen. Most social media platforms offer an "impressions" metric to track how many newsfeeds your content and posts have shown up for. However, it's important to note that "impressions" mean the number of opportunities for your post to be seen, not the actual number of times your post was seen. If a user scrolls past your content, never even seeing your brand name, it could count as an impression--and it doesn't benefit you in the slightest.
Numbers are important to quantify the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns, but just as it's difficult to numerically quantify a friendship or familial relationship, it's difficult to numerically quantify a social media impact. Measure what you can, being cautious of misinterpreting the results, and try to focus on the results that aren't open to interpretation--namely, the conversions you get from social media traffic.