A focus on social media engagement metrics — the likes, re-tweets, favorites, re-blogs, pins, comments, shares, followers, fans and friends — could be holding companies back from realizing social's full potential. In fact, Forrester Vice President and Principal Analyst Nate Elliott warns clients against measuring social engagement.
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"Marketers tell us measurement is their single biggest social challenge. And I know that tracking engagement feels like an easy option. But the simple fact is, engagement is not a useful social marketing success metric … We've spoken with scores of social vendors who measure engagement, and none has proven if — or how strongly — engagement correlates to business success metrics like loyalty or sales."
Social media metrics and the associated analysis by marketers has "failed to live up to its promise as a panacea for customer-centricity," according to a recent report from customer intelligence platform Vision Critical, based on research compiled from three global brands. "It turns out that the people who participate and post on social media are not representative of your customers."
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From the Vision Critical report:
"Almost 85 percent of what you hear on social comes from slightly less than 30 percent of the social media audience — a slice that has distinctly different shopping, media and social media habits. That means that social media analytics can't tell you what you need to know about your customers."
One reason why today's marketers are so reliant on social analytics is the abundance of measurement tools. Twitter, Facebook and other social platforms make it easy for businesses to track the people who follow them and what they say about the brands.
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Conclusions based on this data are meaningless, though, if they can't be linked to actual sales or other business objectives. Facebook and Twitter both recently reorganized their ad platforms and products to focus on these goals, but many marketers are still lost in the tangle of numbers and engagement.
Savvy companies could start to put significantly less focus on social engagement in 2015 and redistribute their efforts toward achieving demonstrable mission-critical sales goals and other objectives.