Measuring communication effectiveness on social media

This article was published on the European Commission Digital Team blog

When talking about measuring effectiveness on social media it is indispensable to talk about monitoring or, as many like to call it, listening. Listening is one of the most important yet it is one of the most often overlooked uses of social media. Listening to where your audience is, gives you an indication of how to address them in the most direct and adequate way.

Apart from that, monitoring leads to reporting and something which we should not neglect is to be “understandable” to the final readers. When you stick around mostly with people sharing your own expertise you might forget that your reports could go to people who are not familiar with your jargon or vocabulary. This is why lately I can’t stop thinking about this scene from “The Internship.

In today’s market, we really have a wide choice upon the indicators we can get. Even though a lot of data is available, that doesn’t mean you should drown in a sea of indicators! Here are some recommendations I would like to put forward on communication effectiveness on social media.

  1. Focus on relative rather than absolute data
  2. Consider engagement as currency
  3. Reports are “Step 1” for your next digital activity

Understanding the difference between “relative” and absolute” helps you gain a deeper sense of what your target audience or the influencers among your community are doing. 10, 1.000, 1.000.000 are just numbers. Whether these apply to likes, shares, retweets or followers, mere numbers won’t tell you much about your social media presence if they are not benchmarked. Compare your latest conference, Twitter chat or digital event with other similar activities. The same can be done for major online events that have had global or more circumscribed reach.

Everybody is obsessed with number and especially with followers. Well, that partly makes sense since the bigger the followership, the highest the message’s reach. So why is Twitter founder Evan Williams advocating a move away from the follower count? “People like the illusion of quantitative success in social media. Numbers are meaningless though without engagement, without interaction with your audience that moves them to action.” Evan Williams is in fact advocating the importance of the retweet over the follower and he’s absolutely right. The number of followers you have is a false comfort and an unreliable metric. But the number of interactions you get is actually very valuable.

While followers, fans, plusses are indeed indicators of popularity, getting followers per se should be a strategic communication goal. Instead of focussing on followers, focus on being engaging, making people share their views, opinions, questions. This is all very valuable content to understand what your target audience and online stakeholders are looking for. Focus on rewarding your followers with interactions and accessbility and don’t forget to be “human” by giving people a feeling that a person, not a machine is running the account.

Reporting is not the end of this. It’s actually the beginning. The insight you have got about your performance, about the influencers in your topic, about the demographics of your conversations will serve as Step 1 for your next activity. This will help you refine your strategy for next things to come. Be more prepared and already build a network of people you want to interact with. Network creation should be one of your goals. A network where you are identified as a reliable and important source of information and expertise.

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