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Which Social Media Metrics Actually Matter?

Brian Hughes

Defining success for social media campaigns can be tricky, especially if the campaign’s goal is to raise brand awareness rather than promote a specific event or sale. Measuring awareness is not as easy as measuring an increase in sales or a bump in conference registration.

So, which metrics should your business be tracking? I’d love to give you a straightforward answer that “Metric A” matters, “Metric B” is a waste of time and “Metric C” can be useful, but unfortunately it’s not that simple. The truth is that different metrics can mean different things to different businesses.

Let’s start by looking at three common businesses goals, and which metrics matter the most, depending on these goals.

Business Goals Determine Which Social Media Metrics Matter Most

Goal 1: Increased website traffic

This one is a pretty straightforward measurement: you just need to look at the source of your web traffic to determine which percentage is being driven via social media. URL clicks, for example, can be measured via a tracking code that’s added to a default link shortener (Hootsuite does this automatically with, FYI).

Overall traffic from social media can be measured through Google Analytics and then compared with other traffic sources. Is there a specific tweet that sparked a big uptick in traffic (e.g., a tweet with a webinar registration coupon or a Facebook post promoting an upcoming event launch)?

How do different social media channels (e.g. LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook) compare with one another in terms of driving traffic? If one is driving most of the traffic, it’s worth considering if you should increase efforts on this network for even greater results, or if this is a sign that you’ve neglected other networks and they are not living up to their potential.

Goal 2: Increased engagement

Engagement is a bit trickier to measure since engagement can look like different things to different people. The key is to focus on metrics that show how your content resonates with your audience. I like to look at likes, tweets, shares, mentions, favorites and comments. When measuring comments, go beyond simply tracking the volume (e.g., 56 comments for one post versus 200 for another).

Go a step deeper by taking a look at the content of these comments. What were your followers saying about your product or service? Are they excited for an upcoming event? Do they have questions/problems with a new product upgrade? The tone and content of comments matter just as much as the volume.

Goal 3: Increased brand awareness.

Brand awareness may be the trickiest goal of all to measure. After all, plenty of potential customers might be aware of your brand but not following your business’s every move on LinkedIn, and that’s certainly okay. For the purpose of this exercise, we’ll stick to a few analytics we can easily track: follower growth rate, growth rate change over time, reach by region and clicks by region.

Follower growth rate is the most straightforward: your business can easily see if your social media reach is growing as the number of followers increase. Percent change is a useful metric for tracking how a major branding campaign or event impacts the number of followers. For example, let’s say you just completed a major month-long re-branding effort. One way to evaluate the success of this campaign would be to calculate the percent increase in followers from Day 1 to Day 30.

If you’re looking to expand your brand into a new geographic area (let’s say you’re based on the East Coast but just opened a new office in San Francisco), then you may also want to track how your brand’s reach varies by region.

Next Steps: Choosing a Social Media Management Company

Now that you have a better understanding of which metrics matter, you can make more intelligent choices when it comes to tracking analytics and then incorporating feedback from these results into your future social media campaigns. Keeping track off all these social media metrics (and then applying them appropriately to future campaigns), however, can be pretty time-consuming. That’s why many small businesses choose to use a social media company to manage their campaigns and analytics reporting. A few of the most popular (and surprisingly affordable) companies are Lyfe Marketing, Shoutlet, Oktopost and Direct Message Lab.

Do you currently use a social media management company to assist with analytics reporting? I’d love to hear which company you use and which metrics you find to be the most beneficial.

Image Credit: NanoStockk / Getty Images
Brian Hughes Member
Brian is a seasoned digital marketing expert who loves to write about subjects that help small businesses grow their brands and increase their rankings online. He accomplishes this through his agency Integrity Marketing & Consulting, which he founded in 2011. Brian cares about people and businesses, and tries to show it through his writing by producing both generous and accurate content. He stays abreast of industry trends and news, making it easy for him to stay relevant. When Brian’s not spending time helping clients conquer their niche online - you can find him hanging out with his wife and 3 kids. He also enjoys meeting new people and welcomes you to engage with him on social media.