Much ado has been made of Facebook’s continued revisions (downward) in their reported metrics; from page reach to ad metrics, the social media giant has lost significant trust among brands, advertisers, and shareholders.
What should we do, as marketers, when faced with such challenges? I suggest three tactics to use together.
Tag and Track Everything
First, tag and track everything. Don’t post a single naked link to any social network. All the tools in your toolkit like Buffer, Hootsuite, Spredfast, etc. should all have your tagging taxonomy implemented so that no matter what a social network says your “reach” is, you’ll know exactly what’s getting clicked on.
Consider using a service like Bit.ly as an additional checkpoint; bit.ly links provide one more layer of click tracking.
I prefer to use bit.ly plus Google’s URL tagging for Google Analytics as my preferred way to double-check whatever a social network tells me.
Finally, be certain you have implemented your Google Analytics tags properly, preferably using Google Tag Manager. Tag Manager is now the best way to deploy Google Analytics on any site you own or have permission to edit.
Focus on What You Own
Second, focus on the owned media properties under your control. Again, using a tool like Google Analytics tells you how much traffic a social network is driving to your property.
Some folks will say that the network is where all your content should go because it’s where all the people are. I disagree; as we’re seeing with Facebook’s metrics, in-network analytics may be severely unreliable.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t post on social networks; we still create great value by posting, interacting, and being present where the audience is. Better to focus time, energy, creative effort, and budget on things which you own, control, and can measure well.
Measure social media not by what it does for itself, but by what it does for you.
Third, as much as possible, focus as far downfunnel in your marketing operations as you can. As fellow marketer Matt Heinz says, use the beer metric: focus on KPIs with which you can buy a beer. No bar serves beers paid for by organic reach on Facebook. Plenty of bars serve beers paid for with cash.
Look inside your CRM. How many customers had Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn somewhere in their attribution history? How many customers interact with you on social media now? Focus your social media marketing and measurement efforts on the most valuable members of your audience, either to convert them or retain them.
What About the Top?
Top of funnel measurements aren’t valueless; what you must do is determine which ones drive the outcomes your business needs. Use sophisticated statistical methods like multiple regression or linear analysis of variance to determine potential drivers at the top of the funnel for advancing prospective customers to do business with you. Facebook might drive a lot of reach or eyeballs, but if your statistical model suggests it does very little to advance your business, that effort might better be spent elsewhere.
In the final summary, Facebook’s metrics issues shouldn’t substantially matter to our business. No one marketing channel should be so important that it endangers our company. Nor should we depend solely on top of the funnel metrics to prove our value; our value should come from the entire customer journey and the revenue we help to generate.
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