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Social KPIs: Tracking Progress and Proving Impact

This is the sixth post in a series based on a ZS social selling survey of 125 sales leaders.
By Alec Goldfield


While the four aspects of social selling that we’ve covered in our “Six Building Blocks of Social Selling” series all sound like good ideas in theory, it will be difficult to gain traction and prove their worth without a way to track the impact on your business and your team’s progress. This is where social key performance indicators come into play. By tracking measurable performance metrics, sales teams are able to drive and reward desired social selling behaviors. Social KPIs can be related to social selling training (the number of unique logins to a training site, or time spent on educational content), social selling adoption (the number of new connections, or LinkedIn’s Social Selling Index score), and, especially, social selling impact (the number of qualified leads generated, or the number of content shares by customers).

When it comes to measuring social selling performance, it’s more about the quality of metrics than the quantity. What’s important is identifying and establishing a process to measure the right set of metrics to understand how your sales organization is using social selling tactics, how it’s leading to improved customer engagement and if it’s leading to increased business.

The results from our recent survey with 125 leading B-to-B companies have highlighted how sales teams are using social KPIs, what metrics they’re tracking and, most importantly, what impact they’re having on the success of their sales teams. Here’s what we’ve found:

  1. The use of social KPIs is still in its infancy. Just 21% of sales teams are tracking and measuring defined performance metrics to drive and reward social selling. This level of use is consistently low across industries as just 20% of high-tech and telecom teams and 23% of travel and transportation teams are using social KPIs. As with other social selling practices, the use of social KPIs is more common among teams where social selling is a formal part of the sales process (38%) compared with teams where optional training is used (19%) and teams where reps learn from other reps (7%). Sales leaders cite uncertainty about whether social KPIs will have a positive impact on sales performance (52%) and a lack of support from executive leadership (49%) as the primary barriers to use. Furthermore, it doesn’t appear that the use of social KPIs is likely to change quickly as just 12% of sales leaders expect that their teams will begin defining and tracking KPIs in the next year.
  1. Teams using social KPIs may be focused on the wrong metrics. Among teams that are tracking and defining social KPIs, 38% of them measure the number of shares of content and blog posts. Measuring this metric is especially important because it shows whether social selling efforts are reaching their intended audience and are engaging to customers. However, this was not the most commonly measured metric. Fifty percent of teams that are tracking and defining social KPIs measured the number of new leads generated from social selling activities. While companies seem to be more focused on the bottom line when it comes to measuring the effectiveness of social selling, it’s important to note that increased brand recognition and engagement may take some time to result in increased leads and sales, and it’s important to track both engagement and new leads. Just 19% of sales teams are using social KPIs to track the number of active versus passive followers, most likely because tracking this metric requires digging further into website and social media data.
  1. Teams that are tracking KPIs are finding success. Of the teams defining and tracking social KPIs, 65% believe that defining and tracking social selling performance metrics increases sales force effectiveness. This is in contrast to just 33% of teams that are not using social KPIs. Furthermore, 65% of teams using social KPIs believe that the ability of sales leadership to clearly articulate social selling metrics for sales reps is critical in driving adoption of desired behaviors. (Just 47% of teams not using social KPIs believe this.) While there seems to be general skepticism among sales teams regarding the effectiveness of social KPIs, teams that are using them are convinced of their value.

Three Steps for Successfully Tracking and Implementing Social KPIs

To put social KPIs into practice, first sales leaders should clearly define metrics that are aligned with the objectives of the social selling program. For example, engagement metrics such as content shares and blog activity should be tracked in order to determine whether a social selling program is resulting in increased exposure to, and engagement with, customers and prospects. If lead generation is the primary goal of the program, leadership should focus on tracking the number of new leads and how the leads were captured (percent captured due to social selling content). Once each metric is clearly defined, they can be used to improve the effectiveness of the social selling program by highlighting which components of the program are working the best.

Once the metrics are defined and aligned with the objectives of the social selling program, sales leadership should work to make the metrics actionable to drive better adoption of the program and increase its impact. Tracking metrics such as time spent by reps engaged with educational content will convince those who are not engaged with the social selling program to increase their commitment. If the content posted by reps is rarely being shared, leadership should understand that further guidance is needed to help reps ensure that the content that they’re providing is relevant and engaging. If content is being shared, but few additional leads are being created, reps need to concentrate on turning this increased engagement into leads by reaching out to the readers. For each metric, there should be a set of defined actions that will help drive improved performance.

Lastly, sales leadership should identify top performers as indicated by the tracked metrics and work with these top performers to share best practices with the rest of the sales team. There will inevitably be reps who are more engaged with the social selling program: posting content, establishing a professional brand, and using the practices to generate leads and increase sales. If leadership can show, through the use of KPIs, that reps who’ve embraced the program are also increasing their sales numbers, this will go a long way toward increasing overall engagement in the social selling program. In addition, the competitive nature of reps will likely lead them to further engage in the program in order to keep up with these top performers.  

Next up, in part seven of our series, we’ll explain how to make use of social networks to improve efficiency and effectiveness throughout all stages of the buying journey.

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