For all the want of digital and social return on investment, many associations still cling to measurements that tell them little to nothing about how their programs are actually doing. These measurements, such as the number of Facebook “likes” and Twitter followers are most often referred to as “vanity metrics.”
Including vanity metrics in your measurement program isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As the name suggests though, vanity metrics tend to accomplish more in terms of organizational flattery than they do in helping an organization understand how its digital programs are impacting its mission and target audiences.
To take the focus off vanity metrics, group multiple metrics together to form KPIs or “key performance indicators.” KPIs are bottom-line measures that are tagged to specific things an association wants to accomplish.
For instance, an association interested in changing people’s minds about a particular issue might break its measurement program into four groups of KPIs: a) how many people have prompted or unprompted recall of an issue based on the activities of the association; b) how many people, once aware of the issues, will investigate using assets and resources provided by the association; c) what proportion of those investigations arrive at a point of action; and d) how do the actions taken by those people on the issue influence and impact others? (See figure above for an example of Kellen’s ROI mapping.)
Each of these KPIs might be made up of three to five individual metrics combining impressions, level of activity, net sentiment of conversation, and click-through/content consumption rates across not just one but multiple social and digital platforms.
What this combined approach helps to accomplish is to assign KPIs to each step of the issue advocacy process. Rather than looking at just one piece of one platform, combined KPIs have the ability to measure how effective an association is at participating and influencing in the overall social and digital realm. The drawback of this approach is that it tends to paint a very realistic picture of the mindset of your target audience. In most cases “realistic” also means “messy,” which is why many associations prefer the cleaner, simpler measures like vanity metrics.
However, what is learned from the 2015 Kellen Social Media Impact Study is that associations that measure intent, versus simply vanity metrics, usually perform better. They also are more satisfied with their overall social and digital programs because they see how their programs fit into the association’s larger organizational mission.
For those that truly desire ROI, vanity metrics can be comforting but rarely insightful. With a little more structure and thought however, your association can have a much better understanding and much better results with combined, well-laid out KPIs.