Ultimate Social Media Metric : Value per Unique Social Interaction


Social attribution has been a unique challenge for marketers to justify the spend on social media campaigns. We marketers are creatures of habit, and we always like to find ways to connect the dots between the revenue generated or customer acquired to our awesome social efforts! Trust me, you are not alone if you are doing this. We are all culprits in some way or the other. Social media is cool and awesome but how can you get your boss to jump on the cool bandwagon with you?

Numerous blog posts have been written about the social media return on investment. The issue is almost all traditional social media metric end up falling under the three categories a.k.a.

  • How much revenue has social media generated?
  • What is the social media engagement score?
  • What is social media share of voice?

Let’s discuss the problems with these three-prong social KPIs.

Boss : How much revenue has social media generated in the last month?

Marketer : According to the multi-channel report in Google Analytics, the assisted conversion of the last click attribution of the Radians 6 share of voice shows a 10% impact on the SEO revenue for non branded keyword with less than three words. (you guessed it… a boloney!)

I am not disagreeing on the impact of the social campaigns to revenue. You may be the super awesome marketer that has cracked the code to generate substantial revenue from your social efforts. However, this is not a common pattern or the entire digital marketing industry will dump their gazillion dollars of ppc spend into Facebook ads (Sorry Mark Z. Not happening any time soon ). Social media strategy is much larger than pure revenue generation. Think about social support or social recruiting. Both uses cases do not involve direct revenue creation.

Boss : What is our social media engagement score for last week?

Marketer : Our engagement score is 1.5673 which is 10% better than the competitor A but 15.22% worse than competitor B and is inline with the industry benchmark provided by a company who is a leader in pay per click marketing 🙁

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Blah Metric : Engagement Score

The engagement metric used in isolation of other metric is even worse. You may have created a patented formula for measuring engagement and kudos to you on that but engagement is just a blah metric when used independently. There is no harm in using social engagement metric as a part of your social metric portfolio. The problem starts when you report your awesomest metric as the only way to measure social performance.

You may argue engagement is a good measure of social performance because it gives an indication of audience participation.

My response will be

– how do you know 1.5 is a better score? Why is it better? What is driving this score? Is it better because of our Facebook post engagement or due to our Twitter syndication tactics?

– what if your competitors are driving higher value with lower engagement?

-what if the benchmark you are using is flawed or is missing key social valuation?

I could go on for hours questioning the independent usage of engagement score, although the web is filled with tools and formulas for calculating it.

Boss : What is our share of voice compared to other competitors in the industry?

Marketer : We are rocking on our share of voice, and we have been consistently leading SOV for keyword “i love social media” compared to competitor A, B and C.


share of voice

Blah Metric : Share of voice

Share of voice (SOV) is another interesting metric, and most marketers rely heavily on it to measure social media performance. The reason I call it interesting is because popular social media tool companies market this as the ultimate way to measure social. While SOV may be useful to measure the brand reach for a specific keyword, it is nothing more than the measure of how many times people are talking about your brand versus other brands. In addition to the metric being high level, it will not give you any insight or context on the keywords used. Company A in the chart above could be Carnival cruise line dealing with the outrageously negative sentiments during the power outage. Does it mean Carniaval is doing an awesome job on social media? Trust me, SOV is not remotely close to measuring the performance of social efforts.

But Sameer you may ask – what if I combine SOV with positive/negative sentiments? Wouldn’t it give me insights on whether the SOV growth was due to positive or negative activities. True, adding sentiments would definitely give insights, and this is why SOV cannot be used in silos. You have to tag it either with sentiment or a granular level platform engagement to identify the underlying cause. However, even after pairing with the sentiments you will have to drill down to the actual time frame and the pin point the update or macro-economic factor impacting the issue.

Just by itself, SOV is nothing but a blah metric.

So how can a social marketing analyst and social marketer truly evaluate their campaigns? Is there a way out from what your social tools spit out or are we tied to the norms for eternity? I can assure you there is a better way to solve this problem. So let’s dive into the details of the alternative.

Introducing – Value per unique social interaction (VUSI)

So far, we have discussed how the typical social metrics are not really useful and provide limited information. If your leadership social dashboard includes the blah metrics, then you will end up confusing the leaders instead of helping them. Remember, the idea is to get at a deeper level and extract the value of your social performance so you can justify social efforts and request more budget.

What if we come up with not one but a set of micro metrics that leads to one macro metric I call “value per unique social interaction”.

Value per unique social interaction quite simply is the combination of value delivered through interactions on social media. Think about it for a second… social interaction can lead to multiple outcomes, i.e. customer acquisition, customer support leading to saved dollars or improved customer satisfaction, new employee acquisition, content sharing, identification of new influencer or generating promoters. VUSI is an outcome base metric, and it provides a clear view of each interaction on social channels.

Super cool isn’t it?

Wouldn’t it be great to have a dashboard showing the VUSI for each platform along with outcomes instead of engagement or share of voice? Can you imagine how much more insight this will give the leadership or the stakeholders about the social media performance?


In the table above, we have identified the outcomes applicable to a business and then assigned value points to each outcome. You don’t have to do complex mathematics calculations to come up with the value points; at least not when you are just getting started. Once you start using the value points you will get better at understanding the point assignments.

So what is the table telling us?

The VUSI table makes it so much easier to identify the winning channel. Twitter is clearly the top-performing channel, but it is best when used for content syndication and customer support. LinkedIn is clearly the winner in gaining influencers because your LinkedIn group interactions are getting noticed. Facebook is helping us acquire new customers so let’s invest more money on Facebook ads.

The metric also gives insights on the channels driving the biggest return on your investment of time and money. It allows the marketing managers to reallocate the budget at the activity or the interaction level.

VUSI can also be used in combination of your traditional social metrics. So, now you have a neat looking actionable dashboard!


Even though in the previous table, we discussed interactions on the social platforms, you don’t have to limit it to social media. You can apply the VUSI framework to your blog or community. The outcomes may change slightly, but the methodology remains the same.


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The only challenge I see in following the VUSI framework is manual collection of data.  As of June 15th 2013, no social metrics tool allows you to measure the value of interactions.

Let’s summarize what we have discussed in this post.

Traditional social metrics makes you feel good but share of voice or engagement score are not actionable. More importantly, the metrics may also be misleading in most cases and lacks context. Most social interactions can lead to multiple outcomes and value per social interaction framework gives you the opportunity to think about social performance at a deeper level. It allows you to kill the interactions that are not helping you generate any outcomes while focusing on interactions with return. Don’t get me wrong, it is still your responsibility to monitor and respond even though it may not produce any positive outcome for you. The conversational nature of social media should not be lost for selfish gains but having a framework helps a lot.

Hope you enjoyed the post. Please share your thoughts, comments, feedbacks or tweets!

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