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Problems of measuring success

Read about the problems of measuring the success of social media marketing when some users don't interact in any visible way with the online platform.
© University of Southampton 2017

In previous steps we discussed the advantages of social media marketing for businesses, and came up with numerous benefits such as the low cost, targeted, and visible nature of social media.

However, even with all these advantages that social media can bring, there are some issues associated with it that may compromise success. The main problems are:


Generally around ninety per cent of any online community is made up with users who don’t interact in any visible way on the online platform.

So, if a brand has a hundred followers on a social media site, it is likely that ninety of them won’t interact with the brand by posting on comments or sharing stories. This makes it extremely difficult to judge the effect that an organisation’s social media messages have on the majority of their audience.

But ‘Active Lurkers’ will still use the information gained online in an offline setting, and a lurker’s thought process and subsequent behaviour can be affected, even if they don’t interact at the time. But how can we ‘measure’ non-action? If social media ‘gives a voice’ to people, then surely listeners are just as important as those who speak?


When the remaining ten per cent of the audience do interact on the social media site, it is difficult to ascertain whether their expressions of ‘liking’, for example, actually means that they have been swayed into buying something by the marketing message.

An example of this causing issues has been publicised by UNICEF Sweden with their ‘likes don’t save lives’ campaign, as they were having a lot of people ‘liking’ their Facebook page, who then did not go on to donate any money to the charity that would actually help them achieve their goal. Further information about this is available from the link below.

So there is an inherent difficulty in measuring the success of social media marketing through social media itself.

How do we define and measure engagement with social media?

There is a general consensus though that even when people aren’t seen to be interacting online, there are still advantages. For example, people may see that many other people like a particular product, and could therefore be more inclined to buy it themselves because a higher number of likes instils trust and confidence in the product.

Additionally, even if someone doesn’t make a social media post about the product following a campaign, it does not mean that they haven’t been affected by it, and may subsequently go and discuss the product in their offline circles, spreading the influence of the message beyond social media. This can have a significant effect, and is presently a major challenge in determining the success of social media based marketing.

You may like to have a read of Brian Solis’ blog post, which is available from the link below, where he discusses the problems with defining and measuring engagement on social media.

© University of Southampton 2017
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