Social network concept: Blue Thumb Up on digital backgroundPeople have lamented that there are few valuable key performance indicators when it comes to social media. Despite having been in existence for more than a decade, many social media platforms seem to spend more time trying to convince you that they are giving you useful data than actually giving you valuable KPIs.

Part of the reason is that each social media platform works differently, and even how people use a single platform can vary greatly between you and other organizations. This is a new phenomenon. There’s really only one or two ways to use banner ads, so we’ve all learned how to measure and value ads.

But valuable data and KPIs exist within social space. The trick is to know how you are using social media to determine the focus for the best KPIs. In a previous blog post, we described the two major social media models: Post and Pray as well as Connect and Capture.

Post and Pray Model

In this model, you post a lot to your various social networks and hope that it attracts good candidates. Because this model eschews targeting and message intent, it’s very hard to establish KPIs for these social media channels. You are left with the basics, like clicks and visits.

The social platforms offer baseline analytics and will be happy to tell you things like how many new followers or fans you have, but since they won’t tell you how many are spammers and scammers, its not a number worth committing to memory. They’ll tell you about the number of “engagements” you had recently, but that number is defined differently by every platform and seems to drift toward bigger meaningless numbers. Congrats! You engaged a 1,000 people this week! Did any of them click a link to visit your site and apply? No? Then exactly how engaged were they? What’s the value of that number?

Clicks and visits are transactional KPIs. You can create more of them by pushing more people to them. But since they don’t lead to applications, all they measure is the effectiveness of your message. That is, if people click on the links, it’s because you gave someone something that sounded interesting. Since you haven’t targeted your audiences, you don’t know if that person who clicked was someone you might want to hire, or a link farmer in a country you don’t have any business units in.

Do you remember how it used to be that TV cared about Nielsen ratings, the raw number of people watching a show at any given time? Then in the late 80′s, we started to see demographic data. Shows with high Nielsen ratings that attracted people outside target demographics started to get pushed out. TV knew that people over 60 had already locked into buying patterns and weren’t as valuable to advertisers. (Want proof? Ask your grandmother or mother to switch peanut butter brands. Good luck.) Shows might have huge amounts of watchers, but if they weren’t in the target demographic, they weren’t useful to certain advertisers.

Post and Pray KPIs are like the Nielsens: they are giving you raw traffic data with little else to tell you how valuable those eyeballs were.

Connect and Capture

One of the virtues of a Connect and Capture model is that it starts with targeted audiences. This allows you to focus your messages to specific groups and not just whatever seems interesting today. Those audiences are driven to content on your site that might resonate with them, ultimately leading to an application.

KPIs for this model forsake basic clicks and visits for something more valuable. For example, if you know you are trying to drive certain people to look at a specific career area page, you don’t want to know the click, you want to know who looked at jobs beyond that page and how many applied. KPIs within this model would include:

How many people clicked on the link to your career site?

Yes, this is a transactional KPI, but it establishes the audience for the next KPIs. Plus, since you are driving traffic to your site and your analytics, you don’t have to rely on what the very biased channels says they are. (Don’t believe their numbers are biased? Then why don’t their numbers and your internal analytics numbers ever add up? And when they don’t add up, it’s always in the direction of more clicks from the channel?)

How many people went on to do more research?

This is an unexpected KPI for most people. They want to jump to the number of people who applied. But that’s not necessarily what happens. First, not all pages have specific calls to action toward an application. Sometimes, it’s about seeing jobs or other content. Secondly, not all your prospects are focused on the apply click. The higher in the organization or more specialized the skill set, the more likely they will want to learn more before applying. This metric indicates that your content on the site and the site itself are working, driving people deeper into your site. They might not apply immediately, but if you engage them with your content, they will be more likely to come back and apply later.

How many people applied?

The big kahuna of KPIs. The key to this KPI is knowing that not all jobs are the same. Announcing that you are starting to hire for the holidays will drive a lot of applications, but mostly for hourly or seasonal jobs. That’s not knowledge you can apply to your developers or leadership positions, but you can learn what channels work best for certain types of content and positions, as well as what content works best for each audience.

How many people were hired?

This KPI is the ultimate number. It sorts out posts and content that drew in the riff-raff from the content that changed the organization. This number is especially interesting next to the previous KPI in learning if there is content that drives lots of people, of whom one is your next hire or if certain content didn’t drive in many applications or traffic, but happened to really resonate with people you hired. When you find that content, you should spend some time trying to understand why it worked. That will be a key piece of information that can and should drive your content strategy moving forward.

By looking at these numbers, you can do more than verify that your social media is “doing something.” You can start to learn what your audiences respond to. You might be surprised to discover how many prospects will be interested in your interview of a thought leader and how many will be interested in your announcement of your new web site. That’s information that will lead you to putting up more content than people actually will respond to. KPIs can do more than indicate that something good happened, but that

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