A very typical debate in social media revolves around the idea of What is the most important metric to measure success?. There are usually two main camps: those who think engagement is the most important metric and those who think conversions should be the goal. My personal opinion is that both are highly relevant metrics but depending on which platform we are dealing with, one may be more likely than the other to occur.
For instance, if you have an ecommerce site and one of your social media platforms is Pinterest you will probably experience higher conversion rates on that platform than on Twitter. If you are a B2B business you may find that your conversion rates for lead generation are higher on Linkedin. Still, although the end result of a business is to generate revenue, engagement on a social network is extremely important. It allows you to tap into people’s networks without additional expenditures and it gives you an opportunity to get referals with a lot of weight as it is the case with friend recommendations. Yes, a lot of times you won’t be able to attribute a conversion to a specific social network as someone may ask for a recommendation from a friend but then call or go to the web site directly without leaving a digital trail to determine that the network was the source of that conversion. But if you have solidly established a multi-channel sales and marketing strategy, even if your attribution model is not perfect, you will have derived great value from it.
So it is important to fully embrace the fact that a multi-channel strategy will have different performance level for different metrics. Keep an eye on all the metrics but specially on both engagement and conversions and understand that you can’t use the same benchmark for every one of your channels (social or not).
Now that was my opinion, what does the research tell us? Below is the result of a study asking social media executives what they think is the most important metric. The “winner” is engagement over increased sales for social media overall. And the most interesting thing is that only a year ago the “winner” was increased sales. What is happening is that as more people are fully leveraging social media they are understanding that not all activities will lead directly to revenue and that there is value to be derived from those activities that may indirectly lead to revenue and that in addition can be directly linked to other measures of success.