I recently had a friend who asked me to speak at a class she is teaching on social analytics.  She is super bright and has been in the field for a long time so I was contemplating on my drive into work what I might say to this class.  Many of the things we talk about here at Tellagence are not the standard counting and sorting version of analytics.  As I was thinking about what I hear out in the market and from our clients, I started thinking about what they focus on.

More often than not I still see potential impressions as a metric that companies and agencies are using to measure a major part of success.  This is the thought started an internal rant for the next 20 minutes of my drive.

When you start with analytics there should not be a bucket list of things you measure and report.  You should start with defining what success means for your organization.  There is usually 1 or 2 major things (at least to start with) that you can measure as overall success.  There may be a ton of secondary metrics you measure underneath the primary success metrics..  Those metrics typically are measuring the process to get from start to finish but it usually comes down to a few things.

Very often I see potential impressions as a key metric being highlighted.  At one point, we got away from the idea that followers was a key metric.  But the more and more that advertising has become the standard for social media, we have gone back to potential impressions because this is what the advertising world has understood for decades.   But if you were to back up and define success would potential impressions ever be success?  I could see actual impressions, actual consumption or conversion but potential impressions is just a big number the execs like to see and marketers like to show.

If I could give you a highly targeted list of people who would consume and engage with your content and ultimately convert at a much higher rate or you could show your content to a ton more people (potential impressions) with a much lower conversion which would you choose?  In my last post I talked about consumer attention, these are your "potential impressions" giving their attention to 20 other things.  We have to get smarter about this.

We have to stop focusing on metrics for show and start focusing on optimizing the outcomes we want.  So when I speak to this class my message will be for them to challenge the norm of metrics for show and start really thinking about how to measure and optimize for success.  Analytics should be used to optimize outcomes, identify issues and resolve them, not just looking at aggregate metrics because they are easy or safe.  In college, I was an accounting major (I'm cured of that now) in which we all had to take cost accounting and as part of that class we read The Goal.  Marketers should read this and think about how it applies to their objectives.  It is about examining and optimizing a system.  The way social networks actually work is not this simple but this type of thinking can move us a long ways from the basic view of potential impressions being our idea of success.