What social media metrics matter most?

Constant changes and tweaking by online platforms could mean that you are measuring meaningless or misleading factors. Here’s what will make a major difference for your campaign.

With ongoing algorithm changes, bot cleanups and paid advertising on social media, it can be a challenge to articulate campaign success.

For social media managers, it might seem enticing to report on vanity numbers such as “likes,” retweets and impressions to show quick progress and to keep clients happy. However, those numbers can be easily manipulated and hard to re-create, and they can lead to stagnant social media campaigns.

Providing your client with sustainable, actionable metrics can prove significant return on investment and can be trusted for accurate insight to guide strategy.

Instead of pumping your campaign with the data equivalent of sugary, caffeinated beverages (which will lead to an inevitable crash and burn), you should track actionable metrics.

When reporting on social media analytics, focus on the important factors—and avoid misleading figures. Here’s how:

1. Analyze your reach. Reach represents the unique number of people who saw your content at least once. Unlike impressions, reach counts the number of individual people who saw your post. This is important because it demonstrates that your content is reaching a clearly defined number of users and eliminates guesswork.

2. Disregard raw impressions. Impressions are defined as the number of times a post from your page is displayed, whether the post is clicked or not. This number will always be inherently higher than reach, which is why it is tempting to cite. However, this metric is convoluted and provides no real insight into how your content is performing. If your post receives 1,000 impressions, it’s unknown whether 1,000 different people viewed this post or 100 people saw your post 10 times. Avoid including this nebulous metric in your reports.

3. Pursue higher engagement rates. Engagement rate is a percentage that measures the number of people your post reached divided by the number of times people engaged with your post (e.g., “likes,” comments, shares, retweets). This metric is a reliable indicator of how well your content is resonating with your audience. According to a study conducted by Rival IQ, a social media analytics platform, the average engagement rate per post across all industries is 0.16% on Facebook, 1.7% on Instagram and 0.046% on Twitter.

4. Ignore “likes,” especially on Facebook. They don’t accurately depict how your content is performing, as engagement rates do. Knowing how many people your post reached—and how many enjoyed it enough to comment, “like,” retweet or share—is more valuable than just counting the minimal-effort clicks of approval. This is especially important when paid promotions come into play. Let’s say your organic content typically reaches 500 people and gets 30–40 engagements. If you boost your content so it’s reaching 4,000 people yet generates only 40–50 engagements, you should reevaluate what you’re boosting, when you’re boosting it, demographic targeting and the cost. With regard to Facebook, if someone “likes” your page and then unfollows the account, the “like” promises no future benefits.

5. Track page followers. The number of followers a page on Facebook has equals the number of people who have agreed to receive updates from your profile. Facebook followers represent the total number of people who could have your content organically appear in their news feed. Emphasize this metric, because it is a more accurate indicator of a page’s overall success.

Monitoring and recording these metrics will help you achieve your desired campaign results. There are plenty of metrics available to include in your analytical reporting, but choose metrics that align with your campaign goals, industry sector and client.

Kyle King is an assistant account executive at Padilla, an Avenir Global company. A version of this post originally appeared on the Padilla blog.

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