Determining the success of a social media campaign can be iffy at best. Social media campaigns are generally directed towards a few basic goals: building out brand identity, developing site traffic or increasing ROI. Of these three major goals, only one of them — increasing site traffic — is easily isolated and quantified. And when you can’t be certain whether your social media campaign is truly working, you can’t identify areas for improvement.

bar-charts-152544_1280The Difference Between Lies and Statistics

Reports are a double-edged sword. And that’s great — because who wants a sword with just one crummy edge? But still, they can be misleading. Individual statistics will not give you the whole picture; they need to be viewed in context if they are to be valuable. And we all see what we want to see; it can be easy to rationalize statistics in a way that makes it feel as though our campaign is doing more than it truly is. This is a lie that we tell ourselves to justify our advertising budgets.

Imagine a couple very common scenarios:

  • Your traffic-based social media campaign has increased your traffic by 500%. It’s a success! (And it undoubtedly is, for that metric.) But upon further consideration, you notice that your sales have actually decreased. Your traffic increased in areas that you don’t serve — on a global scale — while going down in your local area. An easy mistake to make, and far too common.
  • Your ROI has increased by 14%! It’s a success! And the best type of success a company can have… right? But, wait — your customer retention rates have plummeted. What happened? Your social marketing campaign featured misleading messaging; your customer lifetime value has gone down due to dissatisfaction. Worse yet, customers who would have been genuinely be interested in your product as it truly is can no longer find it.

startup-594126_1280Reality Check: The Harsh Truth of Most Advertising Campaigns

In real life we don’t usually have clean data to work from. Marketers can tell you to “look at your ROI,” but when you’ve launched a dozen simultaneous campaigns, how can you really tell which campaign is working? Large businesses invest a great deal in software and procedures to isolate and track a variety of metrics, all separated into individual campaigns and continually tested. A small business — or even a mid-sized business — simply isn’t going to be able to do all that.

The reality is that most small businesses know “We opened a Facebook page and now we’re making more sales.” And to a certain extent this is unavoidable. But if maintaining that Facebook page is taking a business owner 12 hours a week, it might not be getting them enough traffic to actually compensate for their opportunity cost. This is where an actual testing process needs to begin.

stadium-597536_1280Remembering the Human Element

With as many technological leaps as we’ve made in recent years, it can be easy to forget that we are talking about people. Customer acquisition, customer retention — what we’re really doing is talking about people, coming and going throughout our company’s doors. And that’s why ultimately marketing may turn towards anti-marketing. Because when it comes down to it, what’s easier for a small business owner: tracking a thousand metrics to determine which page is getting them the most traffic, or simply polling their existing customers?

We all know that social media truly shines when users are engaged on a one-to-one basis, so it seems a step backwards to consider them as a numerical whole on a spreadsheet rather than the decision-making individuals that they are. And that is why statistics regarding social media are almost inherently misleading: they cannot quantify the connection that the brand actually has with its followers.

mobile-phone-426559_1280Social Media = Success

One thing that cannot be argued, though, is that social media is successful. The difficulty lies in determining how successful it really is and whether it’s financially worthwhile for a business owner to try to manage their social media on their own. Virtually every business can benefit from having an established social media campaign, but to be truly effective the campaign needs to be streamlined and managed efficiently.

Social media is undoubtedly a valuable asset to any digital marketing campaign, but how useful it is really depends on the company. One thing is certain, though: it’s usually best for a company to outsource their social media marketing to an expert. Most businesses, especially small businesses, don’t have the ability to analyze and manage a social media campaign effectively on their own and will fall prey to misleading statistics.

Jenna Inouye
Jenna I. is a freelance writer, programmer and web developer, focusing on the areas of digital marketing, technology, gaming and finance. Hire Jenna through WriterAccess or contact her directly.

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