I was having a chat with a friend who is in the communications industry the other day.
In our chat, a subject came up about the most relevant social media metrics to track during the coronavirus pandemic.
The discussion referred to above inspired this post, which is published on the 21st day of South Africa’s lockdown that still has 14 more days to go.
About coronavirus pandemic and social media
A lot about the pandemic is new.
And, a lot is still being discovered as I publish this post.
Questions still linger on; about the various ways that the disease spreads, whether climatic conditions matter, sure-fire preventative measures we can all take, and the eagerly-awaited vaccine.
Outside of the previous two world wars that most of us who are alive today did not experience, the need to shut down countries – for any reason – has never happened before.
I would even venture to say, the two world wars were not taking place in so many territories across the world, almost at the same time.
The question then is: has the coronavirus pandemic lead to a change in conversations on social media in anyway, shape or form, which may become part of the norm going forward?
Do we need to relook how we measure social media given the heightened spread of misinformation and disinformation about the virus that is currently taking root?
The science behind selection of social media metrics
eNitiate published a document on a model that companies must use to select effective social media metrics, called the 1+4 Metric Matrix.
This model that advocates for a selection of maximum 5 metrics for a brand, is based on the premise that, without science, companies run the risk of selecting vanity metrics that may not yield desired outcomes, considering that there are so many social media metrics to choose from.
A list of the most common hierarchy of social media metrics
Below is a list of 10 social media metrics, grouped into 4 categories.
The list is by no means exhaustive, so I picked only the most commonly used metrics.
In addition to the 4 social media metric categories, I round off this section with the share of voice category where any of the selected 10 metrics can be used to compare performance of any allowable number of brands that are active on social media.
The most obvious comparisons under the share of voice category would be between competing and/or complementary brands.
Here is the hierarchy of the 10 most common social media metrics and their categories:
1. Brand discovery
Reach: number of “people” reached on social media with published content.
Use of inverted commas above is acknowledgement that non-humans are also active on social media.
Impressions: number of times published content is viewed, including repeat views.
Video views: the name is self explanatory, and it relates specifically to moving visual content.
2. Community development
Followers/fans: measurement of growth in brands’ social media communities.
Engagements: measured by the extent of published content likes, rt’s, shares, comments and replies.
Mentions: this metrics relates specifically to unsolicited mentions on social media.
Sentiment: any social media post that mentions a brand; and which displays a mood, on spectrum from excited to angry.
Clicks: clicks on provided links to move fans and followers away from social media, typically to a different online platform such as a blog or Website.
Leads: this is another version of a click, but it is with an intention of converting the click into a sale.
Sale: this metric is the least common on social media at the moment, hence it is the last in the hierarchy.
The reason for this is that social media stores have not caught fire yet.
I am doubtful if the day will ever come where social media become a booming sales platform, and the explanation for my view is based on the name itself.
5. Share of voice
In this category, brands are compared with each other and one another across the various metrics above.
The recommended comparative social media metrics would be engagement rates, mentions and click rates.
Now that the map of the land has been laid, let me get back to the main subject of this post.
Which are the most relevant social media metrics to track during the coronavirus pandemic?
I was personally hoping for a simpler, straight forward answer. But, it turns out this will not be the case.
Here are the scenarios to explain why:
This resulted in acceleration of Avi’s social media metrics to the conversion (4) category.
Metrics for other new brands that made their mark would at best be in the community development (2) category, at this stage of the pandemic.
- A few existing brands have since gained global popularity (or notoriety), and most are found in the health industry. These include Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus – the W.H.O. Director General and first African (from Ethiopia) to serve in that role, W.H.O. itself, Johns Hopkins Resource Centre, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC – US), Worldometer, Minister Zweli Mkhize and Professor Karim (both from South Africa).
Metrics for many of these brands are straddling between advocacy (3) and conversion (4) categories.
- Some companies – including the established ones – have bit, or face the risk of biting the dust.
Companies in the transport and tourism industries, and in some cases from countries that are heavily reliant on such industries, are especially vulnerable.
These companies’ metrics are found in the advocacy (3) category
The most relevant set of metrics for these brands is found in the advocacy (3) category.
Here is a count of social media metric categories from the 4 scenarios above:
- Brand discovery – 0
- Community development – 1
- Advocacy – 3
- Conversion – 2
Which scenario does your company fall under?
My back-of-the-match-box analysis indicates that advocacy metrics are the most relevant during the coronavirus pandemic.
Recommendation to brands?
There is no doubt that all brands have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic; which, as per IMF estimates, will cost the world’s economy $9 trillion in the next 2 years.
Common sense must also tell us that this pandemic has affected social media conversations.
We are in the business unusual phase that is filled with lots of uncertainty.
Therefor, the key insight I would like to be taken from this post is that brands with social media presence must ask the question whether existing metrics are still the most relevant during the pandemic that is projected to be with us for at least the next 12 months while a vaccine is being sought.