Social Media Metrics – Beyond Number Crunching

cregan    March 1, 2015

Centennial College logo




Organization Name: Centennial College

Industry: Higher Education                                

Name of contact:  Ann Buller, President; Rosanna Cavallaro, Associate Vice President, Marketing and Communications

Web References: Centennial College

Description on how Social Media is used for Business Performance:

In Albert Einstein’s words:

“Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted”.

Einstein’s message defines the Social Media measurement paradox companies’ face.

social media wordle graphicsToday, companies can measure and obtain information about unstructured data such as conversations within target communities, engagement of key influencers, and the company’s reputation through positive and negative comments.  Also available is structured data about the number of unique web site visitors, fans, followers and how many shares were made.

 It is clear data is easy to obtain but the interpretation of how Social Media is impacting business goals and subsequent action to reach these goals is not.

 Many factors contribute to this situation such as the company’s Social Media action and activities are not clearly connection to business goals, anticipated business results are not clear or can only be measured indirectly, and lastly, each Social Media channel has its own measurement tools providing different degrees of information and depth.

Kristen Scott’s reported in “Social Media measurement: where to get started?” companies should answer these big questions at the start of their Social Media measurement journey.

  • Why measure Social Media?
  • What are my Social Media goals?
  • How do I measure my Social Media initiatives?
  • What Social Media Tools should I use?

A self-professed Non Social Media expert, Tierney Smith’s (below) discusses these questions and more with stories.

The eBook “Practical Social Media Measurement & Analysis” provides context about Social Media measurement, measuring awareness, attention and reach and ideas about revenue conversion and business operations efficiency.

Even with all this information, companies’ biggest challenge is still their understanding of what to measure as described by Jeffrey Cohen’s “Social Media Success Metrics Must be Tied to Business Goals”.  Most of companies use basic stats like followers, shares, likes, and comments.  But are these measurements a true representation of the company’s success and contributing to business goals?

Answering the above questions within the context of the company’s goals identifies which level (Jeffrey Cohen’s Blog) a company’s Social Media measurement activities are:

  1. Level – Not Tracking;
  2. Level – Tracking the basics;
  3. Level – Tracking and analyzing; and
  4. Level – Tracking, analyzing, and integrating.

When a company’s Social Media measurement is at level 3 or 4, they are in a position to begin to analyze the components to determine a Return on Investment on their Social Media initiatives.

Social Media metrics are about both qualitative and quantitative information concerning these three categories:

  • Reach and Exposure:  What are visitors seeing with your Social Media channels?
  • Engagement:  What are visitors, fans, and followers saying and feeling about your company, your product and services, and integrity? and
  • Conversion:  What actions do your visitors, fans, and followers do that contribute to your company performance?

To explore how to measure Social Media efforts, Michael Stetner of the Social Media examiner has a conversation with Lutz Finger Director, Data Science and Data Engineering at Linked IN and co-author “Ask, Measure, Learn” about Social Media measurement.


Lutz points out many businesses struggle with measuring Social Media activities because they have not first defined who the influencers (reach, content, and readiness) are and reached out to them to have a conversation.  Social Media can empower businesses but they must first define the goal or question; then figure out the data they will need to collect.  You cannot look at data as good or bad data but rather if it is useful or useless in gaining insights into your questions or progress toward business goals.

A common theme about Social Media measurement is the need to begin with either a business goal or question before you consider what and how to get necessary data.  In the words of author John H. Lingle;

“You get what you measure.  Measure the wrong thing and you get the wrong behaviours”.

As a Governor of Centennial College, I know Social Media is critical to our college’s success in attracting and retaining students who have many post-secondary education choices.  I believe we can learn lessons from Centennial’s Social Media measurement journey because their target audience are the ones shaping and creating the future of Social Media.

Centennial College


centennial College pictureIn 1966, Centennial College was established as Ontario’s first public college to serve the eastern part of the Greater Toronto Area.  Centennial has 8 locations serving 19,000 full-time students which include 5,000 international students and 20,000 part-time learners with more than 250 full and part-time programs and 1,000 continuing educations courses emphasizing practical experience, such as laboratory learning, work placement, individual and group projects and paid co-op education.  The students can pursue their interests and passions in areas such as business, communication arts, community and social services, engineering technology, health sciences, hospitality, transportation, tourism and culinary arts.  Centennial College is committed to diversity, inclusion, and equity and is one of the most culturally diverse post secondary institutions in Canada, almost 100 ethno-cultural groups are represented and 80 languages are spoken on campus.

Business Strategy:

President Ann Buller led the process to craft Centennial’s Book of Commitments – 2nd Edition and vision based on conversations with one thousand college staff, faculty, students, alumni, employers and community industry partners.  The Book of Commitment outlines the college’s vision and commitments:

  1. Bring the New Essential Skills to a Global Community;
  2. Drive Innovation and Entrepreneurship
  3. Offer the Map and the Compass;
  4. Redefine the Relationship Between Education, Experience and Employment;
  5. Make a Bigger Promise to Students;
  6. Ensure Smart Stewardship and the Truly Sustainable College;
  7. Lead the Conversation;
  8. Offer a signature Employee Experience.

The Commitments, mentioned above, guides the college in preparing the Annual Business Plan where priorities are identified and Marketing funds are allocated for social media efforts, campaigns, conversations and tools.

Social Media Measurement:

toronto skylineCentennial College started to explore the use of Social Media in 2008.  Since then they have learned how to effectively use these new communications channels to increase their brand awareness, communicate and respond to prospective students’ questions and provide important decision making information.  Their early experience with social media measurement was to track the number of visits to the Centennial College web site.  As the social media world exploded with new channels, the Book of Commitments guided the marketing and communications department’s efforts and annual budget to position Centennial College in the very competitive Greater Toronto Area marketplace and also worldwide.

The Marketing and Communications department uses social media to communicate Centennial College’s vision, mission and values as well as identifying what sets Centennial College apart in the higher education sector.

Christopher Jardine of Centennial College’s Marketing department describes their Social Media activities and what they do with their Social Media measurement.


Today, social media is a 24/7 staff requirement listening and having conversations with stakeholders and key influencers.  Rosanna Cavallaro, Associate Vice President, Marketing and Communications states “Centennial would not be able to compete in the Education Sector without social media.  An on-line presence is essential to being successful”.

Centennial has valuable learning over the years and have developed appropriate social media metrics in order to maintain the high standards that are required.  They have evolved their measurements to gain further insights with the current student population and prospects.

I asked Rosanna Cavallaro what were the 3 most significant hurdles Centennial had had to face as they implemented Social Media measurement (Audio Link her).


You will learn that Rosanna felt they were not hurdles, but rather strategically using social media and the learning from the metrics to meet the college goals.  Centennial College understands the importance of social media where the students and stakeholders are the centre of focus.

Centennial social media activities along with other marketing initiatives support the strategic commitment in “Leading the Conversation” with key stakeholders such as;

  • current students and their parents;
  • prospective students and their parents;
  • current and prospective employees;
  • alumni;
  • donors and industry partners
  • government officials.

Centennial’s two primary measurement tools are Google Analytics and Sysmos.  Over the years, they have created their own social monitoring reports to maintain the standards of excellence in social media management.  From social media measurement, Centennial is able to gain insights into:

  • the effectiveness of their digital presence (web site) in engaging the key stakeholders;
  • Centennial likeability (ratio of positive to negative comments); and
  • the reach of Centennial’s information, communications, and blogs (reaching various target audiences and countries worldwide in support of international student enrollment).

Social Media measurements are reviewed daily, weekly and monthly to better understand their many audiences’ needs, habits and what is required to engage them with the college.

Social Media Supporting Business Goals:

Through their social media measurement, Centennial College adjusts their social media messages and content based upon audience questions, interests, comments and location such as Canada, India, or China.

Centennial is achieving business results through their social media strategy and tools.  Greg Long and Nadia DiLima’s in their presentation at 2014 Canadian Bureau for International Education Conference describe the success the college is having.



Centennial also uses qualitative observations and information to judge their business success.  The College knows to expect an increase in student activity after a social media communications is posted about events, college and career fairs.  These events are designed to help attendees to ask questions and learn more about Centennial and what it offers to its students.

Over the years of measuring social media, Centennial has learned they can maintain their audience’s interest with posting new material every other day rather than daily.  With this insight, the social media group is able to do more to keep key influencers aware of and returned interest in Centennial College.

Social media is increasing Centennial College’s Canadian and International appeal to present and future students and they are accomplishing this in spite of the education sector being under financial pressure.


  1.  You must decide who your target audience is, establish your social media goals and how your social media goals are connected and support the organization’s business goals.
  2. When you decide to implement social media, you are committing to a communications channel that requires constant attention, measurement, and new material. It is detrimental to the overall company success to inconsistently communicate with your audience.
  3. Social media should be integrated into all other marketing plans.
  4. Social media measurement will not be right the first time so use the approach DO, EVALUATE, and ADJUST. In other words, start immediately tracking your social media metrics (basic information with basic measurement tools).  After some time, evaluate your social media metrics and review insights and what you have learned about your audiences’ habits and actions. The last step is to define/adjust and implement social media metrics that will impact your business planning and action.
  5. Social media metrics is irrelevant without measurement. It is about engaging your audience and constantly monitoring the hard numbers such as likes, length of time on your site and number of page visits and qualitative information such as likeability.

Submitted by: Charlie Regan

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If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Programme Director, Social Media for Business Performance.