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How to Establish the Best Social Media KPIs for Your Content Marketing Goals


For many content marketers, social media strategy never gets beyond the spray-and-pray process of sharing a new piece of content with the widest audience possible, and then measuring if anybody engaged with it. It’s based on an idea that if you just keep creating new content and pushing it out, results will come.

But, as Jonathan Crossfield puts it, “In social media, the audience pulls the strings.”

In #socialmedia, the audience pulls the strings, says @kimota. Click To Tweet

As content marketers, we must take a step back. Just as we put time into creating a content marketing strategy, so too do we need to create a social media strategy specifically tailored to our content goals. And this begins with establishing the right social media KPIs (key performance indicators) for those content goals.

After all, if our social media strategy is built around intuition rather than KPIs, it’s unlikely to serve our content well.

Social media strategist Jeremy Goldman knows a thing or two about this. He’s the author of Going Social and Getting to Like, and he’s the founder of Firebrand Group, a brand management consulting firm that counts L’Oréal and Unilever among its many clients.


CCO: Going Social was published four years ago, and yet still contains lessons for today’s social media strategists. What are the most significant changes since then?

Goldman: When Going Social was about to come out, I was freaking out for the reason you just stated … social media moves so fast. How do you write a book like that without it immediately becoming outdated? I realized I had to avoid writing about the mechanics of how you respond to comments on Facebook or how you participate in a Twitter chat since those could easily change at any moment. Instead, I focused on how social media is based on the principles of communication that have predated social media by a few millennia.

As for the most significant changes? That’s easy. Social media is pay for play, and good luck running any meaningful strategy purely around organic reach. When I wrote Going Social, mid-sized businesses could actually find ways to get creative and win at social media without a paid media budget. Oh, how times have changed.

Good luck running any meaningful #socialmedia strategy purely around organic reach, says @jeremarketer. Click To Tweet

CCO: In the context of content marketing, how do you wade through the seemingly infinite social media metrics to get to the social media KPIs?

Goldman: First, it’s completely normal to get metrics and KPIs mixed up to some extent. In fact, I’ve seen people at even senior levels flub this. Metrics are simply measurements quantified. KPIs are metrics that you’ve determined are mission critical to your business.

You touch on something very important here: These days we can measure more than ever before. However, that isn’t necessarily a good thing in that it causes some organizations to lose focus. Just because we have more metrics doesn’t mean we need more KPIs.

The more KPIs your organization has defined, the less focused it likely is. I had one company boasting that it was determined to go from four KPIs to 16 KPIs in the next fiscal year. Is that always a good thing or does that dilute the value of a KPI?

CCO: Speak to the newly minted content marketing manager. What are the first steps they need to take to figure out the best social media KPIs for their content marketing goals?

Goldman: That’s going to depend on the organization and the scope of the particular role, so the first thing is to figure out how to be of greatest value to the organization in general. If the best thing is to get eyeballs on the company’s latest white paper, the best KPIs may be visits to the lead-gen form connected to the white paper, and the total number of white paper downloads – simple as that.

CCO: What are typically the most important social media KPIs for content marketing, and how do you create a sustainable, team-oriented process for driving toward them?

Goldman: Again, it’s going to depend on the organization, but I think sales leads is probably the number one KPI for content marketing. If you’re not making any sales, it’s hard to keep the lights on, and it’s hard to write good content without any lights. Tied to that, customers coming from those leads are a powerful KPI, not to mention traffic on specific pieces of content.

I like that you ask how to have a team-oriented process because that’s something not enough people touch on. It’s important to have the entire team pushing in the right direction. Every team member must understand not just team KPIs but what role each member of the group needs to play to reach them. You can’t all be rowing in different directions. I see that happen all too often.

CCO: You’ve helped both scrappy start-ups and massive transnational companies establish their social media KPIs. What themes run through each, and what can content marketers, regardless of the size of their company, learn from them?

Goldman: Small companies and large enterprises have far more in common than you’d think. The biggest parallel is a desire to run before figuring out what path they should be taking. We live in a society that rather harshly judges anyone who takes a second to breathe. If you’re not doing, you must be a slacker, right? But the reality is that setting KPIs and then revisiting those KPIs on a regular basis are beyond critical, and both start-ups and monolithic enterprises don’t do it often enough.

Setting KPI’s and then revisiting those KPIs on a regular basis are beyond critical, says @jeremarketer. Click To Tweet

CCO: Can you offer some tips on establishing the best social media KPIs for your content marketing goals?

Goldman: Understand your brand. Your organization presumably has a mission statement – a reason for being. It may sound like a lofty place to start, but you can’t succeed without an understanding of the firm and where it’s looking to go.

Determine your own role. Make sure you know what your role is in the company. You would be surprised at how many content marketing managers are spending their time in slightly different areas than their managers would like.

Survey your metrics. Look at all the metrics your organization is tracking. Don’t assume everything is important. Likewise, don’t assume a seemingly valueless metric can’t be immensely helpful.

Determine your KPIs. Break down your list of metrics and pick a few you’re determined to work night and day to measure your success by. Make sure you’re not picking too many – no more than six and, in some cases, fewer will do.

Determine your KPIs. No more than six and, in some cases, fewer will do, says @jeremarketer. Click To Tweet

Refine on an ongoing basis. There’s a chance you may have picked the wrong KPIs, your role may have changed, or your organization is heading in a new direction. No matter which one occurs, reviewing your KPIs on a regular basis lets you course correct and select new ones.

A version of this article originally appeared in the August issue of Chief Content Officer. Sign up to receive your free subscription to our bimonthly, print magazine.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute