Ah KPIs (key performance indicators). Spend just about any time in marketing circles and you’ll come across the term. They’re pretty important, as they give you a clear means to know which marketing activities are effective. They’re also some good stats to show the boss so you can get bigger and better budgets (and a nice healthy raise or promotion). There’s a good quote that works for KPIs from Victorian mathematician and physicist, Lord Kelvin: “If you can not measure it, you can not improve it."

Now Kelvin, big smarty-pants though he was, probably knew diddly-squat about marketing, but it’s a good quote and definitely applies here. Even the most disorganized social media “strategies” need some KPIs to know what they should continue to do.

Basically, even if you’re following the old “throw it at a wall and see what sticks” method, your KPIs would be measuring the stickiness, how long it stays on the wall before it falls, and maybe if some of it sticks and some of it falls off (side note: today this writer learned this phrase refers to making spaghetti. The more you know!).

Now the wall method isn’t a great approach in any kind of marketing, and especially not when it comes to B2B marketing, so KPIs tend to be a tad more sophisticated. Most established businesses will have pretty firmly established metrics for measuring social media marketing success. But there will come a time in every B2B marketer’s career when they have to set KPIs themselves.

It could be because the company is brand new and doesn’t have any established practices yet. Maybe you’re launching a new campaign in a channel you and your business haven’t engaged with before. Maybe the existing metrics aren’t quite reflecting actual results and you need new ways of measuring success. Whatever the reason, you’re gonna have to do it sometime.

But what makes an effective social media KPI? What kinds of metrics should you be looking for? Well read on, oh inquisitive B2B marketer…

Quantity vs quality: your audience

While our B2C cousins might be able to get away with mass appeal “raising brand awareness” social media campaigns with KPIs based on number of views, B2B marketers rarely have that luxury. Getting a million views on an ad or piece of content doesn’t really matter much if none of those people are the decision-makers in the industries you’re trying to target.

So, if your KPIs are going to be based on reach, they should ideally be based around getting your marketing in front of people with the right business titles in the right companies. For some fancy marketing lingo, we call these people MQLs (Marketing Qualified Leads).

In simplest terms, MQLs are leads most likely to both respond positively to your marketing and become customers. There are many different ways of defining what qualifies as an MQL which can vary across industries, businesses and even different marketing departments in the same company.

A simple starting off point is what we said above: the people in the businesses your products/solutions can benefit, who also have the clout to pull the trigger on buying into your company's offerings.

For example, a SaaS company specializing in cloud security would likely want CTOs as their main audience, so they would be the starting point for defining their MQLs. A baseline KPI based on this would be the number of CTOs who view their marketing.

But that’s not really good enough, as all you’re measuring with that KPI is the effectiveness of your targeting metrics. While this is a valid exercise, there’s more to be gained with more sophisticated KPI approaches.

Let’s take a social media post as an example. Say you’ve boosted a post and as a result it’s had 10,000 views from the MQLs you targeted. That’s a pretty good reach! But what does this tell us about the quality of the post? Absolutely nothing! All it tells us is that it appeared in people’s feeds, even then they might have scrolled straight past it. It doesn’t even tell us whether they read the dang thing.

Engaging the right people

So now that you’ve got a baseline KPI based around building an audience of MQLs, next you want to be measuring the post's engagement, to make sure your social strategy is appealing to them.

There are different tiers of engagement on the quality/quantity scale of KPIs when it comes to social media. The types of engagement you can measure and want to aim for as KPIs can vary depending on your goals, audience and marketing channel, but there are still tiers. For now we’ll stick with that hypothetical social media post.

Likes

The base tier of the social media engagement scale is likes. These are good but fairly lightweight. People can hit a like button without even thinking about it, making it not necessarily a good metric to have as a KPI.

Comments

Next up is comments, which are good (so long as they’re positive) as it signals someone has paused and taken the time to write something in response, especially if the point of the social media post is to start a conversation.

Shares

Above that is shares, which should be the main goal for most social media posts. There’s a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, it means that people like your post enough that they’re willing to have it on their own social media feed, showing you’ve caught the interest of the right person.

Secondly, it extends your reach even further. The person who has shared that post is basically making themselves into an ambassador for your marketing and brand, and it’s likely that person will have people in similar positions in their social network. CTOs like to talk to other CTOs, CMOs like to gab with CMOs, etc.

Now it can be a bit more complicated than this. Obviously you want to avoid negative engagement like dislikes and negative comments. You might also want to avoid getting “ratioed”, which is Twitter-speak for both a tweet that has significantly more replies than likes, and a reply to your tweet getting more likes than your original, both of which are usually taken as indications that people disagree or dislike what you’ve said.

Regardless, these tiers should give you an idea of different things you can measure and the KPIs you can establish.

Click-throughs

One of the best KPIs for any form of digital B2B marketing are click-throughs, so including a link on your social media posts can be extremely useful. They are good measurements for the effectiveness of that initial marketing interaction: you’ve inspired enough curiosity in your targets that they’re willing to take the time to proceed with what you're asking them to do.

Looking at click-throughs when it comes to social also allows you to establish KPIs for your entire marketing funnel. By following that click-through from a social post all the way along the journey to becoming a customer, you’ll be able to see how effectively your social media fits into your overall marketing strategy.

Charting that journey might not always be possible, making it tricky to establish as a KPI and it might not even be your goal with an individual marketing campaign, but hopefully you get the idea about establishing quality KPIs over quantity.

A few more examples of quality social KPIs

  • Increased followers (of the right audience)
  • Mentions - how many people are talking about your brand on their own channels (and are they talking about you positively)?
  • Amount of satisfied interactions, if you use your social pages as a customer service tool
  • Leads generated (along with cost-per-lead for paid social)

With all of these quality KPIs for your B2B social media marketing, you’ll be better equipped to incorporate your social channels into your overall marketing strategy, assign your resources more efficiently, and generally produce more interesting and effective posts (both paid and organic).

If you can show quality measurements to the people in your organization who might not be as social-media savvy, you’ll gain more resources, respect and clout to let you do more exciting work!

Looking for more B2B marketing KPIs? Check out our guide to email KPIs.

What do you find to be the most effective social media KPIs, and how do you go about establishing them? Let us know!