After many years working to help leading brands listen to conversations online, too many times I came across brands and agencies that were missing the mark by producing too many useless Key Performance Indicators (KPI), a move that ultimately led to confusion and a loss of focus on their business goals.

Though social media listening is a complex process with a seemingly endless amount of data to analyze and present to impressed clients, PR executives can and should approach it in the simplest possible way – focusing on only the most important KPIs. Anything beyond this will likely only complicate and obscure the most important information.

Through trial and error, I’ve learned the following are the most simple and effective KPIs for social media listening:

#1 The Big Picture: Establish your brand's place in the world

As a PR or marketing manager, you have a clear idea of your long-term goals, whether they are to build consumer-advocacy and awareness or to keep an ongoing eye on the competition.

To benchmark your brand’s reputation and those of your competitors, a good approach is to focus your lead KPI on a social media method inspired from the Net Promoter Score (NPS) developed by Bain & Company and Satmetrix. The NPS measures consumers’ attachment to a brand by asking them one very simple question: How likely is it that you would recommend [your company] to a friend or colleague?

Our clients, like automotive leaders Nissan and Toyota, use a similar scoring system that is adapted for social media comments as a means to measure brand reputation, share of voice, and brand loyalty.  This, in turn, generates a single benchmark score, from 1-100, encapsulating overall performance and can be compared to your competitors in real time and used across an organization.

For instance, Accor, a hotel group with 4,000 properties included this scoring in its community managers’ bonus calculation, which led to a two-digit growth in their online bookings.

#2. The Short Term: Identify one short-term goal and measure accordingly

Following the Parkinson’s law, leaders know that clear goals and short deadlines are a key variable to success. This rule applies to social media quite well. One short-term goal at a time associated with one KPI is an effective way to keep control of your activities and teams while following a clear roadmap to achieve your long term mission (#1), such as:

#3. Keep Your Enemies Close: Identify and monitor your biggest threat

There is nothing worse than learning of a crisis from internal company sources when you have a full-capacity social listening system in place, so it is important to make sure you have the right alerts set up.

Simple KPIs will alert you at the right time - before the fire sparks, and keeps you from being overwhelmed with data at crucial times. An easy way to do this is to base your alerting on:
• Data spikes to watch for an unusual influx in negative online conversations pertaining to your brand
• Real-times alerts on your most sensitive topics

To yield the most accurate data possible that clearly reflects your brand’s goals and objectives, just remember to keep it simple. Produce uncomplicated, clear KPIs that make sense for your brand that can be easily reported and shared with other departments.

Loic Moisand is co-founder/CEO of Synthesio, a social media monitoring and engagement software.