There’s no shortage of software companies offering you ways to track your marketing successes. But what actually qualifies as a marketing success?

Many companies tout their large Twitter following, voluminous content libraries, stacked Hootsuites, and robust Pinterest boards, yet most businesses fail to connect the dots between content production and lead generation. While your LOL cat meme may have garnered thousands of likes, what did it do to actually drive sales?

To simplify, here are a few metrics that don’t matter all that much. They’re “vanity metrics,” numbers people love to report to make it look like they’re actually doing something. In reality, these kinds of measurements give you very little insight:

  • Facebook likes
  • Twitter followers
  • Number of blog posts
  • Visitors to the website
  • Pinterest boards created
  • Instagrams posted

Being social is no longer an option, which unfortunately renders high numbers of all the above necessary for any business if it wants to look plausible. So, you can’t avoid building up your following across various platforms. However, here are the numbers you should be asking your social media marketer to report during your daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly meetings:

  • Facebook shares of a post
  • Organic Twitter engagements
  • Comments on a blog post
  • Unique visitors to the website, their bounce rate, and the average time spent on each page
  • Repins that include a link to your website
  • Click throughs to your website from your Instagram profile

Obviously, there are many more kinds of metrics you should track, but you get the idea. Stagnant, low-effort numbers like a passive like or RT rarely translate into sales. Demand generation is created by shoutouts that involve much more effort. Backlinks are of course social sharing gold, because they lead people to your site, provide your page domain authority, and offer mental third-party validation to consumers who are just learning about your brand.

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Apart from backlinks, comments to a post are also extremely valuable. While it’s always great to see a positive response, even negative comments can be useful (provided they are not from some cynical troll mouthing off about an unrelated topic, or from a bot). Receiving comments on your blog means that someone was so moved by whatever your wrote that he or she was taken time to provide free, unfiltered feedback. Don’t take it personally if it’s negative, but do realize that if one person has this thought and feels strongly enough about it to voice it with his or her name or gravatar beside it, there’s a good chance another consumer feels the same way.

“Engagement” is a word social media marketers and traditional marketers alike love to throw around, but that’s much to broad a phrase to have any real value in a strategic conversation. What kind of engagement do you want?  When determining which marketing metrics matter most (say that 10 times fast), it’s not about “good” or “bad.” Rather, it’s about “high” vs. “low,” regarding the amount of energy it took for the consumer, user, or reader to provide feedback. Like most things in life, there’s an inverse proportion between a goal’s value and the amount of effort required to achieve that goal. Whether its an endorsement via share, question in a LinkedIn community forum, or backlink from an influencer in his or her blog, it’s essential to remember what really matters when tracking your social stats.