There's a certain thrill associated with racking up likes, views and impressions on your online content. Those numbers can be a welcomed surprise, but don't pat yourself on the back just yet. Not all positive social media metrics are correlated with positive business results.

Although, as a small business owner, you understand the value of measuring and collecting campaign data, many entrepreneurs fall for sexy statistics like follower count and likes regardless of whether those numbers contribute to the company's greater marketing and communications goals. Unfortunately, these so-called vanity metrics may only offer a narrow view of the overall impact of your social media marketing campaign.

Avoid vanity metrics and misleading data.

Vanity metrics are figures that produce misleadingly positive data that have little to do with the tangible business goals of a company. They usually come in the form of shares, likes, views, etc. and, in some instances, should be considered the low-hanging fruit of your social media marketing campaign.

It's not to say those figures have no value - they can keep your brand active and visible. But understand that these metrics alone won't always contribute to business growth and usually provide little context to guide the direction of parallel marketing efforts.

Case in point: The number of likes for your Facebook page has increased twofold over the past year, but sales are stagnant. That's because the number of likes doesn't necessarily manifest into tangible results, particularly if the majority are coming from folks outside of your target demographic. Branded Facebook page engagement has declined by more than 20 percent since 2017, according to Buzzsumo, saturated by the volume of companies posting content on Facebook and ongoing updates to the platform's algorithm.

So even if Facebook earns three times more traffic than SlideShare, as reported by the Content Marketing Institute, it doesn't mean it's the best-performing channel to help you reach your goals. However, when you pair high traffic results from Facebook against a business objective like customer growth, the numbers start to present real value.

Focus on actionable metrics.

Actionable metrics derived from your social media campaigns, like website traffic, e-newsletter subscriptions, content downloads or consultation requests, are worth your time and effort as they are the numbers that can ultimately lead to meaningful results.

If a metric isn't actionable and doesn't positively correlate with business goals, it can serve as a distraction that can take your social media marketing efforts off course, especially when you adjust your strategy to pursue them. Although tempting, the key is resisting the urge of getting caught up in vanity metrics, which can tank your social media marketing return on investment by taking your focus away from your target audience and outcomes that matter most to your brand.

Let's say that one of the primary goals of your business is acquiring conversions in the form of e-newsletter subscriptions. With that in mind, concentrate on exposure and campaign metrics that have a positive correlation with securing new subscribers - your actionable metric.

And never lose sight of your target audience. If your company promotes business-to-customer products or services with wide-ranging appeal, you'll likely want to cast a wider net than if you have a company marketing to a niche audience or business-to-business customer base.

Focus your time and social media marketing efforts on metrics that deliver the goods. Sticking to a clear goal can drive conversions, boost traffic and ultimately show meaningful, measurable results. It's time for vanity metrics to take a back seat to actionable metrics. While increased exposure feels good, you want to make sure that the exposure is worthy of the resources required to attain it.

Published on: May 22, 2018