How do you measure social media success?

I often have discussions with people who are new to the social web. We talk about lots of things. How pen and paper come before pixels and pinterest. How different ideas require different tools — tools that may require heavy lifting. How the angle of the camera held above a lunch can make or break a meal. Never ruin a meal with a bad photo. Mmmmm, burritos.

We get sidetracked sometimes. That’s what makes it social. #burritos

We also talk about what success on the social web looks like. I mostly listen at the beginning.

  • Followers. Lots of followers.
  • Likes. Lots and lots of likes.
  • Retweets, shares, stars, ribbons, trophies…

Twitter counts followers for you. Easy.
Facebook likes to show you likes. Easy.
They make cases to fill with ribbons and trophies. Easy.

The problem with this approach is that their success is directly related to the actions of others. It’s tied to a number — a number that can be misleading.

It’s possible to get 20,000+ followers on a twitter account by the end of the week if you have a shiny credit card and dull ethics. Extremely successful companies do it… but is it social web success? You can launch an untargeted “like” campaign on facebook and grow your audience with imaginary profiles that will do more to destroy your community than build it. That doesn’t sound like success.

My definition of social web success removes the potential fan/follower from the equation. Social web success for any department or office tasked with joining twitter, facebook, instagram, [next big thing] is:

To sustain efforts for a set amount of time… no matter how awful, futile and demoralizing it becomes.

Inspiring, isn’t it?

Two months. Four months. Six months. It’s their choice. But if they can possess the same amount of zeal in week one as in week 25, they’re a success in my eyes.

It doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time. The social web garden requires you to bust the sod, turn the earth, plant the seeds, water and weed. Many stop watering before the seedlings emerge — they don’t see the numbers they have dreamed about, the momentum dries up, failure becomes a reality.

Sustaining efforts when things look bleak, having permission to fail at the numbers game, placing value in consistently feeding the beast. Things that are in their control.

It kind of sounds simple, but it’s not. Lots of accounts are created one month and forgotten the next. It’s easy to stop.

But with persistence, they can discover their niche, their voice, and eventually their success.

Note: This is only for people starting out, not for those who’ve been playing for over 6 months. Much like in life, the definition of success changes as you age.


2 thoughts on “How do you measure social media success?

  1. This, my friend, is the kind of advice we need to shout from the rooftops. So on point, so important, and so glad you wrote about it.

  2. Great points! I think such an emphasis on just numbers and not engagement is hard to measure and hard to understand.

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