Measuring engagement is how to best evaluate whether a modern messaging program is working, and out of that we can set our marketing KPIs

Actionable Metrics Reflect Achievement, Not Opportunity

Historically, those of us on the qualitative side of marketing – PR, social media, events – used the success metrics available to us by our channel partners to provide marketing KPIs for our programs.  The most common ones we used typically had to do with community size: impressions, reach, fans, etc.

Listing our community size on reporting isn’t necessarily a bad idea: big numbers look good on charts and graphs, and it gives us an idea of how many people we might reach on any given channel.  That said, the problem with using community size itself as an indication of success is that community size is an opportunity – not an achievement.

Quality Interaction was Always the Point of Marketing KPIs

In today’s socially-networked communications ecosystem, our #1 goal – whether we’re in PR or social media marketing – is spurring engagement.  This isn’t actually any different from communications before they were tech-fueled: in a time of paper messages as it is today, PR pros had to engage a journalist to get pickup, and that engagement led to earned media (impressions).

Now that our media has become interactive and socially networked, we have ways to examine the qualitative metrics that matter.  Figuring out what those metrics are is as simple as understanding the difference between vanity metrics (opportunity) and engagement (achievement).  The former is a possibility, and the latter is a proof point of our success in inciting an action that helps move our marketing goals forward.  With that in mind, here’s a little matrix to illustrate the point:

If we really look at the PR, marketing and advertising programs of yore, we can recognize that our goal was never really “impressions” – it was to make a good impression that would, eventually, lead the person behind the eyeballs to act in our brand’s favor.  That action might have been becoming a customer, writing an article, or simply passing the word along to a friend or colleague.  Looking at communications that way, one thing is clear: while the PR and marketing landscape has been irrevocably changed by social media, the primary goal of our programs has remained the same.  A great communications program is really as simple as getting the right message to the right person at the right time – and now, we can measure it.