For the last 15 years, we’ve been using social data wrong. We think that because social marketing programs create lots of social data these two things — social programs and social data — should fit together. But they don’t.
- Social data doesn’t prove social success. And yet most marketers use engagement as their top social metric.
- Social data does offer vital business insights. But few marketers understand how social data relates to customers’ preferences.
This is the social data disconnect. Most companies try to use social data for something it can’t do: proving marketing success. And when they try to use social for something it can do — providing insights — they very often fail.
Social data doesn’t prove social success
Try as we might, we’ve never reliably connected engagement or sentiment or any other social data to the business outcomes executives demand. But we believe that because social data springs from social programs, one can prove the value of the other. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.
- Marketers report social data out of desperation. It’s no surprise we struggle to measure social marketing. Few marketers know how to gauge success. When our vendors, and the social networks themselves, highlight social data in their reports, we simply follow their lead. That’s why 58% of social marketers in a recent Simply Measured survey said engagement is their most important success metric.
- But social data doesn’t demonstrate business value. Facebook has long known social data doesn’t prove success: In a 2014 white paper, they admitted that over 90% of the offline sales driven by Facebook ads come from people who don’t engage (PDF). And for years, they’ve advised brands that success “should be measured through business results and not via engagement rates.”
- The result: Executives don’t think social works. Even if we believe social data proves the value of social marketing, our bosses know better. The August 2017 CMO Survey conducted by Duke University found just 16% of top marketers say they can quantitatively prove the impact of social media on their business — and that number is falling rather than rising.