We see it all over the place. People throwing around their page fan counts or even post tweet counts like they're some kind of badge of honor. The bigger they are, the better they [want you to think] they are. Like somehow these numbers validate their efforts and prove their worth.
It's awkward. It's embarrassing. And it needs to stop.
What Exactly Is A Locker-room Metric?
Not to use a copout, but this is an 'it depends' type of situation. Typically these are things like the number of followers an account has on Twitter, or 'like's' on Facebook. They can even be views or comments. But what we're really talking about here is any metric or measurement that doesn't indicate return on your investment in some way.
Think of it this way - if you cannot answer the follow-up "...so what?" then chances are, you are in locker-room mode. Stop. Just stop.
That's not to say there is not a place for any of those metrics. Of course there is. But let's use them appropriately and not as a means to defining a social marketers sense of self-worth or a brands engagement aptitude.
What They Are:
You should absolutely be tracking all of these types of metrics. And you should absolutely be paying attention to them. But let's put them into context of how you should be using them:
- These metrics should help you inform your tactical decisions such as sentence structure and media type across your social channels.
- They are tools that can help to at least partially inform your content strategy.
- They will help you tweak your delivery by measuring performance.
- They can be an early indicator to how a piece of attached content will be received and/or perform.
- Indicators of increased community engagement.
- One way in which you can measure the growth of your community.
What They Are Not:
Not to beat the dead horse, but we need to also cover what they are explicitly not:
- Metrics that should be the sole indicators of a program's success
- A team's primary goal.
- The most important measurement you track.
- Your litmus test for what will resonate with your entire consumer base.
- The only components of a rich measurement framework.
So What Then?
At this point you may be wondering what to measure and report. Fair point. Go back to your strategic business objectives and goals. How do those get measured? Likely not in Twitter followers. Hopefully not. It's not right? *crosses fingers*
Perhaps your goal is to increase customer retention. So rather than growing and maintaining likes, you could start tracking customer retention rates as it applies to social engagement. If retention is your goal then invest further in service and support on social channels, then you'll want to pay attention to CSAT scores and online sentiment. Perhaps you're in e-commerce. You're going to care far more about conversions and sales than Likes. Measure what matters and find ways to align your social efforts for maximum impact.
You Will Invest In What You Report On
Shifting your organizations momentum away from some of the less meaningful metrics takes time and energy. Depending on how dead set executive leadership is on these it can take a lot of time and energy. But keep at it - start aligning your metrics and be sure they're consistently included in dashboards and readouts. Do the hallway walk and talk bits. Socialize your plans. Over time it will become clear what is important and where the true impact of your social efforts are really showing up.
I don't mean to discredit follows, fans and likes. They are a part of social and will likely forever be a key measurement. But they have their place and "key" is different than "critical". Maintain perspective on what's important and what ultimately drives your business forward.
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Kristy Bolsinger is a Senior Associate at PwC in Seattle, WA. She has previously worked at Ant's Eye View (acquired by PwC in 2012), and RealNetworks (GameHouse). Prior to her time at RealNetworks, and Ant's Eye View - Kristy was working as a Social Media Marketing Consultant and completing her MBA at Willamette University. She maintains a social media blog and can also be found on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.