Imagine you’re hosting a grand opening for a new shop, and far more people show up than originally expected. At first blush, this might seem like a smashing success. But if nobody bought anything, the only thing being smashed is your dreams of success. Measuring the wrong metrics can lead to disaster, especially when it comes to data-driven endeavors like social media.
If you’re not tracking the right social media metrics, you’re missing out on useful information you could otherwise be using to create more effective marketing strategies in the future. But what are those metrics, exactly?
- Audience Demographics
- User Sentiment
- Content Type Performance
- Click-Through Rate
- Conversion Rate
- Platform Performance
- Goal Completion
How the Right Social Media Metrics Can Benefit You
They may not sound fascinating, but nearly everyone with a social media account cares about tracking social media metrics to some extent. An account’s number of followers, likes, views and comments all qualify as metrics, and boosting any of the three is a win for social media users.
For marketers, though, social media metrics’ importance goes beyond the thrill of gaining a slew of new followers or having a few posts go viral. Instead, metrics act as a canary in the coal mine. Depending on what the numbers show, sales could be destined to dip or rise, customers could be poised to jump ship or stay loyal, and site visits could be ready to falter or skyrocket.
Which metrics should marketers monitor to gain such knowledge? As it turns out, followers, likes and other similar measures aren’t the only important yardsticks for success. Given the prevalence of bots on social media (they may account for up to 15 percent of active Twitter users), relying solely on these three metrics may paint an incomplete picture.
The solution is to focus on deeper-level metrics such as growth, engagement, click-throughs, conversions and revenue. By doing so, you’ll gain truly actionable insights you can use to see what the future holds and make smarter decisions accordingly.
Thanks to increasingly advanced social media algorithms, most users’ feeds aren’t in chronological order. Instead, they’re organized based on what the platform thinks the user wants to see, whether the platform’s assumptions are correct or not.
So if a user consistently likes and comments on photos of cute rescue dogs (and who could blame them?), plenty of similar dog-related posts will likely be placed near the top of their feed. Instagram confirmed as much on Twitter after receiving a large number of complaints about reduced engagement:
For marketers, algorithmic feeds are both a blessing and a curse. If users are already in the habit of liking or commenting on your posts, they’re likely to see more of them. But if they don’t regularly engage with your posts, they may rarely see them.
So, take time to keep track of your social media reach—that is, the number of unique users who have seen a piece of content. (Keep in mind reach is different from impressions, a measure of how many times the content was displayed, including multiple times to the same person.)
- compare reach to follower count (what percentage of your followers are seeing your posts?);
- track reach for individual marketing campaigns; and
- track reach for hashtags as well as posts.
If you need to learn more about the people who see, read and engage with your social media content, audience demographics can tell you what you need to know.
Depending on the available data, this social media metric will provide details such as:
- geographic location;
- occupation; and
- hobbies and interests.
For example, 2019 research on the demographics of online platform users includes respondents’ income level, ethnicity and developed environment:
You can use demographic information to determine who makes up your core audience and which segments need more attention. Knowing your audience demographics can also help you create buyer personas and use them to improve future marketing campaigns.
While it might not always be a good idea to see what people are saying about us on the internet, it can help improve your marketing.
With social listening, you can analyze online chatter to measure user sentiment and understand how users feel about your brand.
Don’t stop at direct mentions, either—by monitoring conversations about your competitors and industry in general, you can identify common complaints and address them early on. Better still, you can use positive feedback to tell you what’s already working.
- your brand and product names;
- your competitors’ brand and product names;
- branded and unbranded industry hashtags;
- common industry keywords; and
- other relevant conversations.
Broad statistics can give you a general idea of the best times to post on social media, but truly perfect timing comes down to your followers’ unique preferences.
Track the times that generate the best results for you. They may not be the same, or even close to, the ideal for others in your industry—including your direct competitors—so take the time to pinpoint what works best for you, not them, and change your posting schedule accordingly.
- certain times of day work better on weekends or weekdays;
- some times or days result in specific results (e.g., higher engagement or views); and
- the ideal time to post varies by platform.
Content Type Performance
Since different forms of content work better on different platforms, keeping an eye on the top-performing types can help you develop a more efficient content creation process.
For instance, even though video posts get higher engagement than other types of posts on nearly every social media platform, your particular content may perform better as text or a photo.
Also account for more specific types of content, including:
- product posts;
- contests and giveaways;
- video stories; and
- posts with links to other content, such as webinars or blog articles.
You’ve probably heard about the importance of engagement before, and there’s a good chance you already track it to some extent. Nevertheless, it’s so crucial it merits a closer look.
Engagement includes publicly visible user interactions such as:
- likes or dislikes;
- retweets; and
By measuring engagement, you’ll be able to tell which types of content generate the best responses from followers. This goes beyond basic content types such as photos and videos. For instance, maybe your followers prefer tutorials, or perhaps they like to see round-ups of interesting stories.
Whatever the case, your engagement stats can tell you what you need to know.
If your marketing strategy is even partly based on generating site traffic, nurturing leads or driving online purchases, click-through rate (CTR) is one of the most important social media metrics you can measure.
CTR refers to the rate at which users click the links provided in social media content, such as a swipe-up link included in an Instagram story or a URL pasted in a tweet. Typical CTRs vary by platform—on Facebook, for example, businesses can expect an average CTR of 0.9 percent:
Your CTR will show you how many of your followers are going the extra mile to engage with your content, whether you’re linking to:
- product pages;
- external content;
- sign-up forms;
- third-party content; or
- other social media accounts.
When scrolling through photos of cute pets on Instagram or reading celebrity tweets, taking the real, concrete action of getting out your credit card and clicking “pay” seems like a drastic step. In a way, it is: It takes concerted effort to transition from a casual observer to a paying customer.
That’s why your conversion rate, or the number of people who convert from follower to customer, is a vital social media metric to track. A healthy conversion rate shows your audience is prepared to do more than engage: They’re willing to spend real-world money on your products or services.
Depending on your goals, your conversion rate doesn’t even need to refer to sales specifically. It can measure the number of users who take any type of desirable action, such as:
- filling out and submitting a form;
- subscribing to an email list;
- creating an account;
- signing up for a rewards program;
- signing up for a waitlist; or
- contacting your organization.
The ultimate goal of almost every social media marketing campaign is to generate funds, whether in the form of sales, donations or another type of transaction. Naturally, this makes revenue an important metric to monitor.
By tracking revenue, you can not only measure the effectiveness of your marketing strategies, but also use measurable gains to justify your investment in social media marketing.
Revenue can come from multiple places within social media platforms, including:
- on-platform transactions (i.e. those completed on each platform);
- external transactions, such as those completed on your website;
- sponsored content; and
- affiliate links.
Take all possible sources into account when calculating your social media marketing revenue.
Social media metrics don’t simply provide granular data—they can also help answer big-picture questions like, “is it worth it to continue investing in this platform?” By observing platform performance, you’ll be able to see which platforms deliver the best results (and which don’t).
Lackluster performance isn’t your cue to cease efforts on a platform altogether, though. Instead, try to improve results by tweaking your strategy. Only when you start seeing consistently poor performance regardless of strategy should you consider reducing the amount of time or money you spend on any given platform.
For instance, your Instagram marketing may be underperforming, but that may be because you haven’t yet learned how to use hashtags on Instagram, not because Instagram itself isn’t appealing to your target demographic or worth the investment.
Before making any decisions about an underperforming platform, consider whether your strategy for that platform is:
- customized to suit its users;
- taking full advantage of its built-in features; and
- being given as much time and thought as your strategies on other platforms.
The purpose of tracking social media metrics is to glean actionable insights that’ll help you achieve measurable results. Regularly check your overarching social media strategy for goal completion.
Step back every now and then to confirm your efforts are actually generating the desired results. The goals you’re monitoring don’t need to be monetary, either—they can be centered around anything from audience growth to brand awareness to email subscriber sign-ups.
When evaluating goal completion, ask yourself:
- Have I completed my primary objectives? What about secondary ones?
- How long did it take for me to reach my goals?
- If a goal wasn’t completed, how much progress toward it was made?
- If a goal is long-term, how much longer might it take to reach it?
- Which strategies contributed most to goal completion? Which contributed least?
- If I could start working toward this goal all over again, what would I do differently?
With Social Media Metrics, Who Needs a Crystal Ball?
If you want to better predict the future—no psychic abilities required—the right social media metrics can help. Seeing an influx of international followers? Perhaps it’s time to emphasize your website’s worldwide shipping. Noticing increased engagement on video content? You might want to start improving production quality.
Tracking the most important social media metrics helps you put your marketing time and resources to optimal use. Leverage the insights you glean today, and you can look forward to hitting your social media goals in the future.
Screenshots by author / July 2020