How well are your social media campaigns performing? How much revenue are they driving? Are they engaging the right kinds of customer?
The only way to reliably answer questions like these is through social media measurement – the use of digital tools to track aspects of how people interact with social accounts or content.
In social media measurement, we can track performance against a variety of success metrics, each of which provides unique insights to inform your ongoing social strategy. In this article, we’ll walk you through some of the most popular metrics, before finishing with a case study that demonstrates how metrics can feed into better strategy.
To create your ideal set of metrics for social measurement, work through this article and identify those which could fill in your knowledge gaps and strengthen your strategy making.
How many likes or follows does your social profile have? A live community size count gives a decent idea of a social account’s following. The higher the count, the greater the potential organic audience (before sharing is factored in). A large community size tends to look impressive to new visitors and company executives. Do be aware though that overall community size metrics are often a bit of a vanity metric and have little to do with your actual day to day reach. As social platforms have been gradually throttling back on the amount of organic reach you can achieve, audiences built over many months or even years, especially on Facebook will require paid for boosts in order for you to stand any chance of reaching them with your messages. For this reason, typically community size metrics actually have very little value in terms of effectively measuring how big your actual active online social community is! There is a big difference between likes and followers and actually engaged community. For this reason, we would always recommend treating community size metrics with a healthy dose of suspicion and scepticism.
A live likes/followers count is easy to find on any social profile.
This gets really interesting when you look at the relationship between change in your community size and what’s happening on your social profile and beyond. For example, you might notice an above-average increase in followers on the same day you successfully promoted a post; or, you may see a dip in followers coinciding with a controversial post.
How many people have engaged with your social content?
This umbrella metric contains four finer types of metrics, which can be defined as follows:
Be mindful that some social engagement may be coming from social media bots.
Reactions, interactions, amplifications and further actions can all be tracked using inbuilt social platform analytics. Much like community size, overall engagement with your social accounts can be tracked using an analytics tool.
In the specific case of tracking clicks and click-through rate, our favoured tactic is to create a unique bit.ly link for the content, which can be used across all our social channels. We can then review all social media activity related to that link using bit.ly’s global analytics, which in our view is more manageable than reviewing separate analytics for each platform. Just be aware that the analytics data will only track back for 30 days if you are using a free Bit.ly account so you will need to schedule capturing that data if you wish to track back any further than that or to keep historical records of monthly performance. ( Bit.ly Enterprise edition account does not have this restriction)
Another advantage of using a bit.ly link is that we’ll also be able to see when the link has been opened from “dark social” (i.e. a non-public messaging facility such as Facebook Messenger). This is hugely important to a comprehensive understanding of what’s happening to your link on social, given that as much as 70-90% of social sharing takes place on dark social.
Social reach means the number of people who see your social content. We can measure the social reach of:
On most social platforms, when your content “reaches” a user, that simply means it has rendered on their screen in some way, shape or form. In our view, this means the reach metric is best suited for comparing the performance of posts on a single platform, or a change in the combined reach of posts on a single platform. If you intend to compare reach across social platforms, first consider the relative value of reaching a single user via each one.
Once again, individual platform reach can be monitored using platform-integrated analytics, while cumulative reach can be tracked using third party tools.
Perhaps the most useful aspect of the reach metric is how it can be combined with other metrics to measure additional, even-more-useful ones.
For example, in a social post with a link to an external website, we can divide the number of clicks by the number of people reached to work out that post’s click-through-rate (multiply by 100 to find the percentage of users who clicked). This tells us more about the post’s efficacy as a “click magnet” than the click count alone could.
One of the key reasons brands use social media is to drive traffic to their websites. They typically do this with specific objectives in mind, such as encouraging people to make a purchase or sign up to a mailing list. When a person completes that action after clicking through from social media, we can chalk this up as a conversion.
Conversion tracking can help marketers make better-informed decisions about their strategy, and is also essential to campaign performance evaluation. Tracking conversions from social media is more complex than measuring most of the other metrics measured in this article, but we think it’s well worth the effort.
Conversions can be tracked by adding a small piece of code (often in the form of a tracking pixel) to the linked website. This can tell your social media analytics when a social user has completed certain actions after reaching your site. Some social media – including Facebook and LinkedIn – have incorporated this capability into their inbuilt analytics tools. This built-in tracking typically has a wider attribution model enabling you to track any action over a period which later leads to a conversion. As social channels are very often an early part of any multi-session user journey, this wider period of conversion attribution can really help to better determine how effective your social channels are within a multi-touchpoint online journey.
To make sense of what a conversion means from an ROI perspective, we need to work out the value of that conversion, which we’ll call its conversion value. This can be calculated by considering the average value of transaction conversions (e.g. the average conversion led to a sale worth £50), or better still, by calculating the average lifetime value of a customer acquired via social media.
The ratio of positive mentions of your brand to negative mentions on social media, usually based on the keywords used in public posts involving the brand name.
Keeping an eye on your sentiment ratio can help ensure your posting strategy fits the public mood. When sentiment is good, you can capitalise by posting more frequently; and when it’s bad, you can stay relatively low-key.
Sentiment ratio can also be used to measure the effects of your social media activities on public sentiment in real-time. For example, if you’re using social media to promote a new corporate social responsibility campaign, you can monitor your sentiment ration to see whether a positive effect is emerging. This approach can be made more targeted by adding keywords from the relevant campaign into the tracking process.
Social media share-of-voice refers to a brand’s share of social media activity within a sector or product category. For example, Coca-Cola might have a 20% share-of-voice in the soft drinks industry. This figure considers both the brand’s own social activity (e.g. their posts and comments) and other people’s posts (e.g. a customer tweeting about the brand’s products).
Social share-of-voice can be calculated by monitoring the volume of social media activity relating to your brand, versus the volume of activity relating to all your important competitors. We outline how to do this using a social listening tool in our guide to social media share-of-voice.
As we’ve seen, social media metrics can be as simple as checking a few figures on a public social profile, or as complex as analysing all the key players in your industry to calculate your brand’s share of voice.
Before we tie this article up, we want to emphasise that turning a finding from your social metrics into actionable insight that improves your social performance can be achieved quickly, provided you apply the right strategic mindset. Here’s a real-life example:
Emma Tapper of Wavey Social Media runs an Instagram account for Out Of This World health-food shop in Leeds. Tapper tells how she uses the account’s engagement metrics to continually shape its content strategy.
“I mainly look at which posts get the most impressions and likes,” says Tapper. “The ones that achieve the highest impressions I will replicate in future.”
“Say, for example, some of our posts that get the highest levels of impressions are about vegan desserts. I’ve seen that these posts tend to go quite viral, so I’ll do one most months to sell more of those products.”
As Wavey Social Media’s case study shows, the effective use of social media success metrics is all about seeing what works best and feeding that finding into your strategy going forward. If you can do that with all the metrics featured in this article, you’ll be able to achieve a well-thought-through basis for social success.