Whether you’re handling the task in-house or relying on a social media marketing agency, there are a number of social media metrics that are important to gauging the success of your campaign and measuring your return on investment.

A recent article at Business2Community examines eight of these metrics in terms of their impact on a paid social media marketing campaign (although most of them are equally relevant to an organic campaign). The items that it highlights are important in their own right, but it must be acknowledged that their true importance only reveals itself when you look at the whole picture.

There’s clear evidence for this when your company or your social media marketing campaign takes a close look at the first listed metric: social media reach. There’s a reason why this one is listed first. It is the foundation upon which you build all of your other efforts. Naturally, you want your social media reach – the number of people following your account or otherwise being exposed to your content – to be high. But this isn’t to say that you should expect a social media marketing agency to inflate that number by any means necessary.

Social media reach can be a misleading metric on its own. One possible reason for this – although not the only one – is that you’ve unwittingly placed your social media marketing campaign in the hands of a company that’s prone to making unscrupulous, misleading promises. If a broader reach is all that you desire, it’s possible for such a company to give you that, or at least give you the appearance thereof, without setting the stage for improvement in other metrics like engagement, amplification rate, and conversions.

You may have seen these sorts of shenanigans over the years. In the earlier days of Twitter, a cottage industry grew up around artificially inflating follower counts, partly by creating a long string of dummy accounts. In rare instances, there may be perceived value in this. For people whose personal image is heavily invested in their social media profile, these superficial gestures can help with public relations. But for the purpose of social media marketing, an empty roster of followers is practically meaningless.

And you can end up with a similarly empty roster even if the followers are ostensibly real people. Some users will reflexively follow back all of their followers, and although this might bolster numbers for both parties, it’s unlikely to increase engagement with your actual social media content.

For that, your social media marketing agency must take a broader view of boosting and subsequently analyzing key metrics. Generally speaking, an increase in social media reach is a good thing, but if it does not coincide with improvement in other metrics, you may have to change strategies. If a large-scale reach is preventing your campaign from effectively targeting its core audience, you may even need to shed some followers.

The full picture of social media metrics is a complicated one. With this in mind, it may be very much worthwhile for you to retain the services of an internet marketing company to perform detailed analysis on your behalf. Although less reputable companies may exploit individual metrics to give you the impression of a return on investment that isn’t actually coming through, this shouldn’t blind you to the role that a well-chosen company can play in fully explaining both the seeds and the fruits of your social media campaign.