common social media measurement mistakesGauging the value of social media marketing remains a continuing challenge for many organizations.

Accurate measurement is essential to decide how much to invest in social media and to determine which campaigns perform best. However, both companies and nonprofit organizations find that selecting the right metrics, measuring the value of social media, and connecting social media campaigns to key business objectives can be challenging.

Digital marketing experts say that these are the most common social media measurement pitfalls.

Bad search strings. The internet bursts with acronyms, identical words and abbreviations that have different meanings. Astra Zeneca’s stock symbol AZN is also short for “Asian,” AbbVie’s ABV is short for “Already Been Vaped,” and Bristol Meyers Squibb’s BMS is short for “By Myself,” notes measurement guru Katie Paine, CEO of Paine Publishing. Identical abbreviations may exist for your company. SAS refers to SAS Software, but it also refers to Sexual Assault Support, Society for Applied Spectroscopy, and Students Against Sweatshops. Such abbreviations fill your search results with undesirable, irrelevant results.

Boolean search terms provide a solution. Place the word “not” before the undesired term to exclude it from results that your monitoring. Write “and” between search terms to require the search results to include both words in any order. Write “or” to find any of the desired search terms. The Lincoln Motor Company can monitor for Lincoln AND (auto OR car OR dealer OR etc.) AND NOT (president OR penny OR emancipation OR St. OR Ave. OR school, OR etc,).  Most every acronym including stock symbols require a Boolean search query to assure accurate results.

Paine recommends regular tests of search strings, at least once a month.

Bots. Fake accounts proliferate on social media. Because of computer-generated accounts on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, up to 40% of what you measure could be spam or at least not representative of what influences your target audience. Take a few minutes each week to review the measurement reports and ensure that accounts are relevant and genuine. Focus on social media accounts that are most influential within your market and ignore the rest.

Fake accounts typically have a high ratio of people they follow to people following them, points out MediaKix. While authentic accounts on Instagram, where the problem is especially insidious, usually have a 1:1 follower-to-following ratio, fake accounts follow an average of 41 Instagrammers for each one that follows them. In addition, fake accounts typically lack profile photos and have posted fewer than 10 photos or videos to their account.

Misunderstanding mentions. Not all brand mentions are positive. At least some are negative. It’s crucial to employ a social media listening service with sentiment analysis to determine if mentions are positive, negative or neutral and grade mentions for overall sentiment.

The best sentiment analysis systems combine automated software analysis with human analysis. That’s because even the best automated sentiment analysis programs commit errors due to their inability to interpret slang, sarcasm and context. Social media can be especially challenging for automated sentiment analysis software. Slang can evolve quickly on social media, and syntax on social media is different from conventional conversational style or standard journalism style.

Being impressed by impressions. The typical impressions data report potential impressions, not actual impressions. Measurement platforms calculate impressions differently. Some use multipliers or count second and third-line followers. The best solution is to ignore impressions and consider engagement or more worthwhile metrics. Number of click-throughs combined with time on content provides a better view of reach and impact. If you have to show impressions, then always use the smallest number.

Emphasizing vanity metrics. Many marketers generally turn to vanity metrics, such as likes and followers to measure success. Vanity metrics make you feel like you are accomplishing something, but they provide little insight into what helps increase revenue or improve a business. Social media teams sometimes turn to vanity metrics to inflate their egos – and their clients’ egos — and to present a deceptive image of a successful business. While easy to report, those metrics can be difficult to link to business objectives.

Bottom Line: Many social media marketers commit a range of mistakes when attempting to measure social media results. Some mistakes are more common than others. Avoiding these common social media measurement mistakes helps improve social media marketing efforts.