PR Specialization

3 ways to impress execs with social media metrics

No audience affects your job security more than your own leadership team.

That’s why presenting campaign results to executives may be a communicator’s most essential skill.

It’s also a skill the communications team at Southwest Airlines has mastered. Here are three insider tips for using dashboards and data to inform and impress top leaders:

  1. “Socialize” your dashboard. Dashboards packed with data can be impersonal and overwhelming. That’s why communications teams and the executives they report to often just scan the metrics without fully understanding them.The solution is to “socialize” the data, says Southwest Airlines senior communications specialist Cindy Villafranca.

    “Make the data real for real people,” she says. “Set up meeting with colleagues and internal stakeholders to talk about the dashboard. Use the meeting to highlight takeaways from the data. Amplify anything that’s a success or that will lead to a shift in focus.”

    Her social business team holds a monthly dashboard meeting and her communications team conducts one at least quarterly. Meetings include the social media team, the PR team, marketing partners and communications leaders at the VP and managerial levels.

    Villafranca recommends budgeting an hour for these meetings. “Also be sure to include a Q&A component,” she says. “The more you do this, the more people will buy in and get jazzed about the data.”

  1. Seek out “ah-ha” measurement moments. “Make sure to highlight ‘ah-ha’ data every time you present metrics to management,” Villafranca says. “Call out surprising metrics even if they don’t support your cause, campaign or initiative.”Southwest’s communications team experienced a big “ah-ha” measurement moment a few years back that impacted how the airline boarded passengers.

    “We saw the volume of social media chatter spike about our lack of a mobile boarding pass app,” Villafranca says. “The data caused us to escalate the integration for our Passbook passenger app. We didn’t realize it would be such a big deal until then.”

  1. Educate execs—but still deliver what they want. “It’s easy for senior execs to become enamored of social media engagement metrics comments and shares,” says Villafranca, “but those KPIs don’t necessarily tie to growing the business or help build an asset.”That’s why her team educated top managers that fan growth, for example, is a preferred metric. “Fan growth gives you an audience you can market to in the future,” she explains. “That’s an asset that stays with you, unlike shares or post virality.”

    The team also ties social media data to bookings and revenue. “Our execs always want to see how many bookings we generate per campaign,” Villafranca says.

    She recognizes that executives across all industries want to see ROI highlighted.

    “My advice is to present the ROI KPI first on your PowerPoint when briefing execs,” she says. “If we have a fare sale, for example, we’ll always show that our press release or social media push drove revenue and we’ll put that number up front.”

    Villafranca adds that her team always includes a quarterly sum indicating how much revenue the communications team brought in through social media and website source coding.

    “We source-code everything, not just marketing and media campaigns,” she says. “We also source-code all of our internal communications, because our employees are our biggest advocates and they often share information externally that we can track back to ROI.”


Brian Pittman is a veteran journalist, communicator and marketer. He is also a consultant, webinar moderator and editorial contributor to Ragan Communications and PR University. He formerly served as VP & Associate Publisher at Bulldog Reporter, and before that as partner at CommPRO.biz. Prior to that, he was editor of Utah Business magazine as well as editorial director for various PR trade publications. He is also a produced screenwriter and Writers Guild of America member.

1 Comment

  • Social media is a huge part of my generation and the PR industry nowadays. It’s important to know how to use it to your advantage and analyze the data in order to improve. This post gives awesome tips about how to use social media strategically in the industry for your client or organization.

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