This is a transcript for episode 90 of the Let’s Get Data-Driven podcast.

I’m Lanie Lamarre and I hate shoes but if I HAVE to wear shoes, it’s usually going to be Vans or a nice pointy-toed flat. My favorite part of the pandemic was very much that I did not have to wear shoes for almost 2 years, and to me, that was something for the “win” column.

Here’s something I know most online business owners hate as much as I hate shoes: getting data-driven about their social media strategy.

The truth is that we tend to get caught up in focusing on vanity metrics and the easy-to-come-by metrics that don’t actually matter or help us move the needle forward when it comes to their social media strategy… so I’m dedicating today’s episode to finally just talking about it already.

Last week, we spoke about data source and the importance of identifying your best source of data to make the best data-driven decisions. Today, we’re going to take a closer look at social media insights as a data source because this is all-too-easy to be focused on the wrong thing, and on many levels.

The first of which is the difference between your social media insights – meaning the data that lives in your social media platform – and your website analytics that reports on your social media traffic.

I often see online business owners focus their entire social media data strategy around what they see happening within their website analytics, and I think that’s a huge mistake. Why? Because that means you’re only looking at the behaviors from a tiny segment of your audience, and you’re missing out on the big picture of what drives, motivates and interests your social media followers.

Looking exclusively at your website analytics to assess your social media performance is the equivalent of looking only at what happened on your “thank you for purchase” page to see how your launch went. While that may be the end goal, that’s not the whole story.

The truth is that if you want to understand the impact of your overall marketing efforts, you will need to take an overall view. When it comes to your social media marketing, your effort you’re generating and impact you’re having is happening on multiple levels and on multiple platforms.

And that makes putting an efficient data strategy in place for your social media marketing a little more complicated.

Let’s take a step back and reflect on what I call the ABCs of digital marketing.

First, you’re marketing to ATTRACT new audiences, then you’re BUILDING relationships and rapport, and finally, you CONVERT those audiences and relationships to sales and subscribers.

We tend to book-end how we look at social media by focusing on followers and dreams of going viral to ATTRACT new audiences, and we look at how we CONVERTED our social media followers on our website, and we skip social media insights that would inform us as to how we’re BUILDING engagement and interest.

This is the equivalent of reading the first page and the last page of a book – which you may think I’m a monster and I’ll agree with you on that front but I’ll admit, I’m 100% guilty of doing this because I definitely do read the first page, then the last page, then back to the first page to read the book through – but if you want to understand how the first page and the last page are connected, you do have to read the book through.

Same goes for your social media performance: you can look at vanity metrics and you can look at your website analytics, but unless you’re also looking at your social media insights, you’re missing out on how you got from point A to point C where those conversions happen.

But since we’re mentioning vanity metrics, let’s clarify what we’re talking about with those:

Vanity metrics are the numbers that look impressive on the surface but don’t provide meaningful information about the impact of your social media presence. Examples of vanity metrics include the number of followers, likes, and views.

Vanity metrics are easy to track and can give you a quick sense of your popularity, but they don’t give you a complete picture of your social media performance. For instance, you hear these stories about people who have 1 million followers… but yet they can’t sell a hundred t-shirts to that audience to monetize their following. Having a large number of followers doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a high level of engagement or that your audience is truly interested in what you have to offer.

What’s more is that when you use connector tools or automations to pull your social media metrics from platforms like Instagram, they almost always focus on those vanity metrics and they don’t even give you the option to automate the export of that engagement data that will inform how you’re BUILDING relationships and interest on social media.

I asked my biz pal Andréa Jones how she manages this data collection for her clients because she runs a social media agency that reports on that all-important engagement data. Her whole business model is dedicated to that BUILDING relationships and interest aspect of social media, and it’s far less interested in that surface-level “followers” and “likes” count.

Her answer really surprised me: she told me that all of that data is collected manually on each individual account because there weren’t any automations or connectors that would schedule the export of some of the most valuable and actionable data, like the insights behind your Instagram Accounts Reached and the types of content generated to followers as well as non-followers, and what your reach’s impact had on your profile activity.

Since she’s the expert in that field, I asked and she agreed to contribute some video tutorials for the Membership To Get Data-Driven that would guide members through how to be navigate this all-important data and those are live in the membership now in video format as well as in our private podcast; so if you aren’t yet a member, I encourage you to click the link in the shownotes to join, if you’re at all interested in seeing and better understanding what’s working best for you on social media.

I also encourage you to re-frame how you think of your use of social media. We’ve all grown to think of social media as our marketing and advertising platform – and of course, it can be! – but unless you’re paying to play, your presence on social media isn’t an advertising campaign. Plus, the end goal for marketing and advertising isn’t always how it relates to a conversion to sale.

Think about it: what are THE biggest ad campaigns being run every year? If you’re thinking Black Friday, your online marketer underpants are showing! And you may be right, but I would respecfully challenge for you to “come at me, brah” because I’d be going all-in and putting my chips on Superbowl ads. They’re talked about for WEEKS before the big dance begins and people will watch the game just to see these multi-million dollar ads.

Let me ask you: what do you think the ROI is for Superbowl ads? Better yet, what ROI do you think advertisers expect to get out of Superbowl ads?

Whatever return they plan on seeing isn’t money-related; it’s totally about keeping their brand front-and-center. These ads are about awareness, identity, making themselves part of the conversation. I doubt very much that there’s any kind of mention about things like conversion rates or cost-per-lead, and yet, these are a huge investment – perhaps the biggest of the year – for many of these advertisers and brands.

If it helps you to frame it in this way, think of your social media presence as your very own Superbowl ads; first and foremost, your presence on most of these platforms will be about awareness, identity and making yourself, your message and your offers to be part of the conversation. For scroll-based social media like TikTok and Instagram, this will be especially true and you will tend to make fewer sales from these platforms than you would from more search-based media like YouTube or Pinterest. Even then, though, think of how Pinterest is used; people scroll and curate a whole bunch of stuff they’re interested in before they go back and triage their curated collections until they make a final decisions about “the perfect thing”, and your analytics won’t be able to reflect that Sally actually bought your thing 3 months after she saved it and she looked at it a bunch before finally clicking through and buying it.

Another aspect worth re-considering is that maybe your job on social media isn’t to get them to your website. Sometimes, it’ll happen. But the person who logged into social media chose to log into that platform, and the platform wants to keep them there; you’re the only one who wants them to leave and do what you want to do. Have you ever tried doing that in real life? You’re at a party where everyone is already having a good time and you’re like, “let’s go to this other place where it’s all about me!” and they’re like “no, we’re gonna stay here.”

Likewise, I don’t think that Coca-Cola has any expectation from their Superbowl ad that this person will stop watching the Superbowl to go buy their product NOW. That’s not how marketing works. That’s not how advertising works.

That’s not how engagement works. And social media platforms are built for engagement.

Social media platforms have a game plan and that’s to keep its visitors on its platforms for as long as they possibly can. If you’re publishing content on their platform that is keeping people engaged on that platform, your content will then be shown to more people because the platform is seeing that “hey! this person’s content keeps people on the platform”.

If your goal is direct people off of the platform, that’s an advertising strategy and not a social media strategy, and you’d be better off paying for ads rather than trying to turn your post into an ad.

And if you’re serious and focused on improving your actual social media performance, your vanity metrics and conversion metrics aren’t the end-all and be-all, and while those numbers are the easiest to access, they actually tell you the least when it comes to honing in on how you can improve how you’re showing up on that platform.

If you want more on the metrics that matter based on what your time, money and energy are invested in, join the Membership To Get Data-Driven – link is in the shownotes – and we’ll talk soon. Baiiieeee!!!