When it comes to measuring the success of a digital footprint, most people have an obsession with the size of two “Fs” – Fans and Followers. The bigger they are, the better you must be doing.

But, like most obsessions with size, to stop here with the tape measure would be a very superficial exercise and one that will yield pretty well meaningless numbers.

Metrics that really count are those that measure the quality of your relationship with your fans and followers, and the success of your attempts to engage them. Which will start to tell you something about the way they think about you, how often they think about you, what they think about you – and whether or not they’re happy to hand you their money in exchange for your goods and services. These are the metrics your marketing and public relations department should be falling all over themselves to get their hands on.

How do you measure the depth of your relationship with your digital audience? The answer lies in looking at your fans and followers beyond their number, to what they’re actually doing with all your digital messages.

If you asked your marketing department about the results of a focus group on your latest product, would you stop at asking them how many people turned up?

Of course not. It would be missing the point of the focus group. It would ignore what people actually said about the product. It would ignore the types of people who were there, and who had what to say about the product.

The benefit of these metrics is that, over time, you can get an idea of who is listening to you and what resonates with them, and build real relationships that carry over into your offline decisions  – your marketing, your branding, even your hiring practices.

Once you understand social media metrics beyond follower and fan numbers, you’ll shift your thinking away from “posts” and “conversions” to “conversations” focused on your audience’s needs, wants, concerns and how you can add value. You’ll measure the content that gets your audience talking about you, so you can produce more of it and gain even more brand support. You’ll form a nice, cosy, symbiotic relationship that will resonate offline and with your bottom line.

Is it really possible to measure these metrics?

Sure it is. It’s complex and but plenty of companies are doing it and they’re doing it well. So why shouldn’t you?

Reducing the value of your social media activity to just your fan and follower numbers demonstrates a real lack of understanding about the role – no, the magic – of digital and social media when it comes to your brand loyalty, your reputation, and your bottom line.