Villing & Company

The Social Media Metrics that Matter


To say that your organization is “data-driven” when it comes to marketing is now bordering on cliché. In an age where analytics are prevalent, everyone wants to use data to find that competitive edge. The more your decisions can be informed by actionable statistics, the better.

The key word is actionable. There are many statistics available, but not all of them tell you what you want to know. Especially in the realm of social media, marketers can be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of metrics at their disposal.

So, what metrics should you really be looking at to best prove social media performance? Well, not to be coy, but it really depends. It first depends on your audience. What networks do they use and what content do they consume? Then it depends on your social media goals. Are you looking to generate leads or inform your audience? But you didn’t come here for the answer, “It depends.” Your specific situation will determine which metrics are most important to you. However, I do believe that there are some metrics that have broad utility across many different situations. The following are metrics you can bank on for gauging the success of your social media efforts:

  1. Social Shares - Many times, you will find the more general term “engagement rate” listed as a metric to watch. While engagement rate does a good job of showing you whether or not your content drew people in, it doesn’t really tell you if they were delighted. Social sharing, however, does. By looking at the number of shares or retweets on your content, you can determine which content was so valuable it prompted your followers to want their own audience to interact with it. Engagement rate factors in any type of interaction with your content (clicks, likes, comments, etc.). It gives a higher level view while social sharing really helps you drill down to see which content is the most delightful. That, in turn, can help you create more content that will keep your audience coming back for more.

  2. Referrals - As I mentioned earlier, determining which metrics are most important to you starts by auditing your market and target audience. Along with that, you need to have clearly-defined goals for your social media efforts. One common goal is web traffic – using social media to direct users back to your website. The metric of choice here is referrals, because the number of referrals you receive from each social platform will tell you where your audience is spending its time. This can provide direction on where you should be investing the bulk of your content creation efforts. To determine this number, however, you will need to have an analytics tool in place – like Google Analytics. We previously shared a Beginner’s Guide to Google Analytics here on the Villing Blog. Here are the links to Part 1: Overview and Audience, Part 2: Traffic Sources and Part 3: Content.

  3. Mentions - One of the great benefits of social media for businesses is the opportunity it provides for brands to listen to their customers. One way to do this is by monitoring mentions. If your brand is mentioned on a social media account, make sure to respond quickly but appropriately. Don’t be so caught up in having the quickest answer that you miss out on an opportunity to truly delight your customer. But, it’s also not advisable to wait until you’ve crafted the perfect message to the point where your customer deems you slow and passive. Have systems in place so that your team can quickly and seamlessly craft a response that will foster quality social interactions for your brand.

  4. New Followers - You may have been expecting to see “total audience” as a metric on this list. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say that metric is unimportant, I will say that I think many brands put undue pressure on their own follower counts. For instance, we would never advise a brand to undergo a paid follower campaign of which the sole purpose was to grow their follower count on that specific platform. Advertising and marketing on social media are not what they used to be. Instead of looking to send your message to the largest possible audience, social media gives you the opportunity to send the right message to the right person at the right time. So why do I highlight new followers? Because these are your social leads. Social media can be a powerful tool for lead generation, but it must be monitored. So how do you get new followers into your social pipeline? Make sure your social accounts are prominently displayed on your website, and consider adding follow buttons to your email signature or e-newsletter.

  5. Conversions - Not every post will have the same goal. Some posts are meant for engagement. Some are meant to inform. And some are meant to sell. For that third group, you must, I repeat, MUST track conversions. As content marketing guru Jay Baer said, “It’s about action, not eyeballs.” According to Buffer, a leading social media management platform, conversions are defined as actions, sales and results. Simply put, a conversion is when a user takes a desired action on your site. Maybe they download an e-book or fill out a form. Maybe they sign up for a newsletter. Maybe they actually buy your product! In any case, they are taking the action you want them to take. Again, keeping tabs on a metric like conversions requires that you have some type of analytic software in place. In some cases, like Facebook Advertising, it is also advisable to add special tracking code (called a pixel) to better monitor the amount of conversions. Here’s a quick guide on using the Facebook Tracking pixel. As I said, not every one of your posts will be “salesy” (If they are, you need to change your posting habits). But, the posts that are designed to convert can have a powerful impact on your business. You will want to track conversions to prove that impact.

I want to emphasize that even these metrics will not serve you optimally in every situation. You have to start with a goal in mind – web traffic, lead generation, etc. From there, you can determine which metrics to follow closely. This is by no means an exhaustive list. If you’d like a deeper dive on social media metrics, check out this blog post from Buffer. With that…get tracking!

Filed Under: Social Media, ROI

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