If you’re using social media, you should be measuring it—but don’t measure just for the sake of having metrics. Instead, measure your social activities so that you can learn what’s successful, what isn’t, and how you can improve.
In this post, we’ll help you get started with social media measurement for your organization by addressing these questions:
- How do you measure social media success?
- How do you decide what social media metrics to track?
- How do you calculate those metrics?
- How do you interpret the numbers once you have them?
What Is Social Media Measurement?
Social media measurement isn’t about counting likes or shares for vanity’s sake. It’s a process of tracking, gathering, and analyzing data from your social media channels to assess the performance of your strategies and make informed marketing decisions.
Let’s dive into the nuances of tracking social media metrics.
The Two Types of Social Media Measurement
The two types of social media measurement are:
- Ongoing Analytics – Ongoing monitoring that tracks activity over time
- Campaign-Focused Metrics – Campaign or event analytics with a clear beginning and end
Ongoing analytics are necessary for keeping up with the pulse of general conversation about your brand and company. Once you set up your brand tracking, you can just let it run and check in regularly to see how everything is going.
Campaign-focused social media metrics, on the other hand, help you understand the impact of targeted marketing initiatives and will vary from campaign to campaign, depending on your goals for each.
An effective social media measurement program will likely include both ongoing and campaign-specific measurements.
An Example Social Media Measurement Scenario
Let’s say you work at a large consumer products company and are about to launch a new diaper brand. To accompany the big advertising and marketing push, you want to sponsor a one-hour Twitter party where parents and caregivers can discuss raising children, focused on issues around diapering and potty training.
You’ve picked a unique hashtag, and contracted with an influential Twitterer who will pose questions and lead the conversation. You’re ready to go. Now you need to make sure you’re measuring this conversation so you can learn—and later tell your boss—how effective the chat was.
Step 1: Determine Your Social Goals
Before you jump into measuring every single tweet, photo, and Facebook comment posted about your brand, first think about your goals with social media. What are you trying to accomplish or gain through these social channels? And which channels are most relevant to those goals?
The first step in your social media measurement plan should be to generate a list of what you’re trying to achieve from your efforts. Social media serves a variety of purposes, from broadcasting news and information to answering customer questions and engaging with a community.
What is your company trying to accomplish?
You’ve probably already started interacting on social media sites like Facebook, TikTok, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter, depending on the type of information and the format of the content you’re sharing. You’ve probably also considered the audience you want to reach and the tools they’re using.
So, the next step is to think about what you want your audience to do with your content on these channels. Are you trying to get them to read, share, reply, click, purchase, engage? List out all your business goals for social media.
For our Twitter chat example, our goals are probably twofold:
- First, we want to spread awareness of the new product to potential customers.
- Second, we want to get to know the parenting community on Twitter, particularly the influencers in that community.
Step 2: Select Key Social Media Metrics to Track
The critical part of social media measurement involves focusing on metrics. But what are these metrics? And which ones should you monitor? Let’s dive in to how to measure social media success.
The first—and easiest—social media metric to measure is volume. What is the size of the conversation about your brand or your campaign? Volume is a great initial indicator of interest. People tend to talk about things they either love or hate, but they rarely talk about things they don’t care about at all.
While volume might seem like a simple counting metric, there’s more to it than just counting tweets and wall posts. It’s important to measure the number of messages about your brand, as well as the number of people talking about your brand, and track how both numbers change over time.
For example, the social media listening tool Hootsuite Insights enables you to track brand mentions via a variety of metrics across all the major social media platforms.
Learn when volume is higher—are there days or times when more people seem to be talking about your brand? You can use this information to schedule more of your posts during these times to get more engagement, which we’ll talk about in a minute.
Reach measures the spread of a social media conversation. On its own, reach can help you understand the context for your content. How far is your content disseminating? How big is the audience for your message? Reach is a measure of potential audience size.
A large audience is good, of course, but reach alone doesn’t tell you everything. Reach becomes very powerful when compared to other engagement metrics. Use reach as the denominator in your social media measurement equations.
Pick important action or engagement numbers like clicks, retweets, or replies (more on this in a second) and divide them by reach to calculate an engagement percentage. Of the possible audience for your campaign, how many people participated? Reach helps contextualize other engagement metrics.
And are there types of content that generate engagement? Start paying attention to what messages generate the most replies and retweets. It might surprise you what people interact with—it’s not always what you expect.
This is one of the most important social media metrics to track. How are people participating in the conversation about your brand? What are they doing to spread your content and engage with the topic?
In most social media settings, users can both share and reply to content. Tracking Twitter retweets and Facebook shares and posts helps you determine who is spreading your content. Tracking comments, replies, and likes tells you who is replying to your content.
Think carefully about your goals with social media. Are you focused more on generating interaction (replies, comments) or on spreading a message (retweets and posts)?
Be sure you’re using social media metrics that reflect what’s important to your brand right now.
Who is talking about your brand and what kind of impact do they have? Influence is probably the most controversial social media metric—there are myriad tools that measure social influence, and they all do it in different ways.
One thing they all agree on is that audience size does not necessarily relate to influence. Just because someone has a lot of friends or followers doesn’t mean they can encourage those followers to actually do anything.
Based on past actions, we can make assumptions about how influential someone might be in the future. This type of potential influence is useful for deciding who to reach out to when you’re preparing for a campaign.
Tools like Brandwatch Audiences can help you understand who is participating in and driving conversations about your brand and your campaigns. You can find your brand advocates by focusing on people whose messages are amplified by others—not just who has the most followers.
Share of Voice
Consider tracking the share of voice metric to gauge how well you’re doing on social media within your industry or niche. How does the conversation about your brand compare to conversations about your competitors?
Share of voice tells you what percentage of the overall conversation about your industry is focused on your brand.
It’s also a great way to learn from your competitors’ successes—since so many of these social media conversations are public, you can measure your competitors’ impact just as easily as your own.
Impressions refer to the total number of times your content is displayed, regardless of clicks or user engagement. While this metric doesn’t guarantee that users have read or interacted with your content, it provides a snapshot of your content’s potential visibility.
Say you’re running a promotional campaign on Facebook and your post has 5,000 impressions. This means your post has appeared 5,000 times in users’ news feeds. This can help you understand how effectively your content is being distributed.
However, impressions alone cannot paint the full picture of your social media success. High impressions with low engagement might signal that while your content is being seen, it may not be resonating with your audience.
By pairing impressions with other metrics like engagement and click-through rates, you can gain a more holistic view of your campaign performance and make necessary adjustments. Most social platforms feature functionality that allows you to track impressions from within their apps or web interfaces.
Mentions is a straightforward yet crucial social media metric. It simply represents the number of times your brand is referenced on social media, be it in your posts or when other users tag your brand. For example, if you run a restaurant and a customer posts a photo of their meal and tags your establishment, that’s a mention. It’s an indicator of your brand’s visibility and reputation online.
Monitoring mentions can help identify trends and gauge public sentiment about your brand. A surge in positive mentions could indicate a successful campaign or a well-received product launch, while a sudden increase in negative mentions could signal a PR crisis that needs immediate attention.
Ultimately, staying on top of your mentions allows you to proactively manage your online reputation.
On social media, every click, like, or comment holds the potential to convert to a lead. Tracking lead generation from your social media campaigns is crucial to understanding how effective your strategy is at attracting and converting potential customers.
For example, if you’ve set up a landing page for a new product and are directing traffic there from your social media posts, each click on that link is a potential lead.
However, lead generation is more than just tracking clicks. It involves monitoring the journey of potential customers from their initial interaction to their ultimate conversion into paying customers.
Understanding this journey can help you optimize your social media strategy, make your sales funnel more efficient, and ultimately drive more conversions. HubSpot is one of many helpful tools you can use to help you track your lead generation success.
Virality rate measures the number of shares a post receives compared to the number of unique views. It’s a telltale sign of how quickly and extensively your content spreads across social media.
For example, if your post has 100 unique views and is shared 20 times, your virality rate is 20%. This means that for every five unique views, your content is shared once.
Compelling, resonant content drives high virality rates—perhaps it’s a witty tweet, a thought-provoking blog post, or a heartwarming video.
By tracking the virality rate, you can identify the content that most resonates with your audience. This knowledge can inform your content strategy, allowing you to create more of what your audience wants to see and share. Remember, the more people share your content, the greater your reach and potential for engagement and conversion.
Step 3: Measure
After you’ve listed the metrics you want to focus on, you need to find social media measurement tools that actually capture these metrics, and then start measuring. We mentioned some above to get you started, but cast a wide net as you search for the best tools to track your target social media metrics.
In many cases, social media channels themselves provide some form of analytics. In other cases, you’ll need to use third-party tools. And occasionally you might need to build your own using APIs.
Many social media measurement tools work in real time, so if you can plan ahead and set up tracking before your campaign begins (and well before your report is due), it’ll be much easier to access the data you need later.
On Twitter, for example, accessing tweets that are more than a few days old is very expensive, difficult, and far less reliable than collecting and archiving them in real time. When possible, set up your measurement tools before your campaign begins.
Step 4: Track Your Social Media Campaign
The fourth step of creating an impactful social media campaign is to focus on tracking its performance. This is where you evaluate how your campaign is performing against the goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) you established at the outset. Using these KPI benchmarks as a guide for future campaigns and sharing these insights with relevant stakeholders is crucial. Two important questions to nail down are:
- How do your numbers compare to what you expected?
- How do they compare to your competitors’ or related products and campaigns?
One of the advantages of social media analytics is the ease of gathering comparative data. Running reports on your competitors’ campaigns offers valuable insights into trends, engagement strategies, and areas of opportunity.
Setting a regular reporting schedule is critical at this stage. Whether it’s weekly, monthly, or quarterly will depend on your unique business requirements. Consistency is key—regular check-ins on your metrics ensure that your hard work isn’t going unnoticed and allows you to make necessary adjustments in real time. Plus, the accumulation of data over time enables meaningful comparisons and valuable insights.
In your reports, be sure you highlight the important numbers:
- Showcase the key metrics that align with your goals and KPIs.
- Provide benchmarks or contextual information to help stakeholders interpret the numbers.
- Visualize your data. Use graphs to communicate results quickly and clearly, but keep them simple and clean.
Using the earlier example of a Twitter chat to promote a new product and identify community influencers, you would track the chat’s performance by preparing a concise report to share internally. You may not have baseline metrics for comparison yet, but you would likely have an idea of your targets.
Let’s say the chat generated 750 tweets from 200 unique contributors, reaching 500,000 Twitter users. You now have the data to indicate the extent of your product’s exposure and a list of potential influencers for future collaborations.
These numbers provide a great starting point to gauge the success of your initial campaign and help inform future initiatives.
Step 5: Adjust Your Social Media Strategy
The final step is to carefully review your social media measurement program:
- How are these metrics doing?
- Are you missing anything?
- Was anything superfluous or unnecessary?
Figure out what you can improve, make changes, and then measure some more. Check back in with the goals you set initially and make sure your new social media metrics actually help you address those goals.
In the case of our Twitter chat, we now realize that we also want to measure engagement around our chat hashtag. We’ve decided it’s important to know how many of our host’s tweets were retweeted and replied to, so we can understand what participants found most interesting. We can add this in and include it in our reporting next time.
If you’re participating in social media, you really need to understand how you’re doing. Ask yourself:
- Is your content having the impact you want?
- Are you meeting your company’s goals with social media?
This is why monitoring and measuring your social media activities is so crucial—you need reliable and consistent analytics that help you track your success on channels like Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, Instragram, and YouTube.
Social Media Measurement FAQs
Social media metrics are kind of like the vital signs for your social media presence. Just like your heart rate or blood pressure can tell a doctor how your body is doing, these metrics tell you how your content is doing out there in the world of social media. This can be anything from how many people are liking and sharing your posts to how many people your content is reaching, or even how many people clicked on a link in your post. These numbers give you an idea of what’s working and what you could maybe do a bit better.
Tracking social media metrics is easier than you might think. Most social media platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, have their own in-built analytics tools. These tools are kind of like a report card for your posts, telling you all about how many people interacted with them, who those people are, and much more.
If you want a bit more detail or want to track multiple platforms at once, there are also tools like Hootsuite, Buffer, and Google Analytics that can help. Remember, the most important thing is to keep an eye on the numbers that matter most to your goals.
Analyzing social media metrics is like playing detective—you’re looking for clues in your numbers that tell you more about your audience and your content.
The first thing you need to do is to think about your goals—are you trying to get the word out about your brand? Or maybe drive more traffic to your website? Once you know that, you can look at the metrics that tell you about those things.
You’re also going to want to keep an eye on trends over time. Are your numbers going up? Down? Staying steady?
And finally, you might want to compare your numbers with similar businesses or industry standards—it’s always good to know how you’re stacking up.
Measuring the success of a social media campaign is a lot like marking a checklist. You’ve got your goals on one hand—maybe that’s getting more followers, selling more products, or getting more people to sign up for your newsletter. And on the other hand, you’ve got your metrics—those numbers we talked about before.
If your numbers show that you’re meeting or exceeding your goals, then you’re succeeding.
Remember, though, success doesn’t always happen overnight. Keep tracking, keep adjusting your strategy based on what your numbers tell you, and you’re on the path to a successful campaign.
And there you have it, your 101 course on social media marketing metrics. Remember, tracking, understanding, and analyzing these metrics is the key to unlocking the potential of your social media campaigns.
These numbers offer you a peek into your audience’s behaviors, preferences, and interactions with your brand, giving you the power to optimize and enhance your strategies to resonate more effectively with your target audience.
Keep in mind that the world of social media is dynamic and ever-changing. This process isn’t a one-off task but an ongoing commitment that, when done right, can lead to tremendous growth and visibility for your brand.
Patience, perseverance, and a good dose of creativity will be your loyal companions on this exciting journey. So gear up, set your goals, start tracking your metrics, and let the data guide your way to triumph.
About the Co-author: Jenn Deering Davis, Ph.D., is Co-Founder and Head of Marketing at Gradient Works, a seed-stage startup building dynamic book management software for B2B revenue teams. You can find her on Twitter here @jdeeringdavis.
What metrics will you choose to measure your social media campaigns?
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