Reacting to Metrics: How to Use Data to Make Concrete Social Media Marketing Improvements

metrics

Metrics aren’t perfect.

But if you can’t measure something, you have no idea whether it’s working or not.

While metrics don’t always tell the whole story by themselves, together, they can provide you with the whole picture.

This allows you to spot problems as well as opportunities for improvement in all areas of your business, including your social media marketing. 

There’s one issue I constantly see:

Marketers record metrics but never do anything with them.

Just recording metrics won’t do anything. You need to record and analyze them so you can take action to improve your processes, which will then lead to positive results.

That’s what I want to talk about in this post. 

Download this cheat sheet to learn how to use data to make concrete social media marketing improvements.

By the end of this post, you should understand what to look for in your social media metrics and how to respond to that data and improve your marketing.

We will look at metrics on both social media sites and your business’ site because social media is only the top of most conversion funnels:

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1. Valid subscribers/followers

One thing you’ll certainly want to track on social media is your subscriber (or follower) growth over time.

If your social media plan is working well, chances are your subscriber count will grow at an increasingly fast rate.

You can track this metric manually, using a simple spreadsheet. Just remember to record your follower count every month for all your social channels.

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Alternatively, you can use analytics of many social media tools, which will typically include your follower growth.

One example is Buffer, which tracks new followers as well as many other social metrics:

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Reacting to changes in follower growth: Each month, you could face three different scenarios.

1. Your follower growth may repeat itself in the last few months, which is good. Your process only requires a change if you believe there is significant room for improvement.

2. Your current follower growth may exceed your past follower growth. In this case, you need to analyze your social media posts carefully and figure out what went right.

If you understand the reasons behind the growth improvement, you should be able to sustain it.

3. Finally, your follower growth may be very low or significantly worse than in previous months.

That indicates a problem that needs an instant response.

There are two possible scenarios here, but one is easier to solve than the other:

1. If your follower growth was and still is very slow, you need to go back to the classroom.

Learn more about an effective social media plan as well as individual social media tactics. Here are some resources to help you get going:

2. If your follower growth is much slower than usual, you need to analyze what went wrong.

If you tried a new strategy and it didn’t work, it’s obvious that you need to either try a new one or go back to an old one.

But if the reason for the drop isn’t obvious, create a spreadsheet with the following columns:

  • month
  • number of social media posts
  • number of posts in category 1
  • number of posts in category 2
  • number of posts in category 3…and so on
  • changes within the social network

Fill this out for at least the last 3 months.

Your goal is to find the reason that caused the drop in follower growth.

It may be because you made more posts about a certain topic, which appears not to perform well on social media.

It may also be something out of your control. For example, Facebook has lowered organic reach in the past, which may reduce your follower growth.

In the end, you want to identify the reason for the drop and then fix it if possible.

2. Post reach (impressions)

Next up is post reach, which tells you how many users (mostly your followers) saw your posts.

Again, you can measure this with any advanced tool, but all this information is provided on all the main social media networks.

For example, in Twitter analytics, click on “Tweets” at the top, and you’ll get a detailed breakdown of your overall impressions as well as impressions per tweet.

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On Facebook, go to your analytics panel for you business’ page, then go to your page stats, which show you the same sort of breakdown:

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Obviously, a higher reach is better, so that is what you should always be looking for.

There are a few things to do here.

First, export this data into a spreadsheet, and then sort it by day.

Calculate the average reach for posts on each day. This will tell you what the best and worst days to post are.

Next, create a new column for all the posts, and put the time it was posted into the new cell.

Then, plot this time against the reach for the post.

On some networks, like Facebook, this is already done for you, and looks like this:

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Now you know the best time to post as well.

Start scheduling your social media posts at your peak impression times, and schedule more on the days that get the most impressions.

Finally, analyze post impressions by type of post: You need to create one more column where you manually fill in the type of post.

For example, you might create the following categories:

  • question posts
  • image posts
  • video posts
  • a link to an article

Feel free to make your own categories if needed.

Then, calculate an average number of impressions per post in each category, and compare them.

You’ll likely find that your followers respond better to some types of posts than to others. Start using those post types more often.

Just by analyzing your impression metrics, we’ve identified three ways in which you can substantially improve your social media marketing strategy.

Keep in mind that you should do this on a regular basis because the optimal times, dates, and types of posts may change as your audience grows and changes. It may happen slowly, but it can happen.

3. Engagement and click-through rate

Now that you have as many people seeing your social media posts as possible, it’s time to look at metrics for the next step in a typical funnel.

Engagement tells us how many users are interacting with your posts. It varies depending on the network.

For example, engagement on Facebook could be a click, like, share, or comment.

All of these are important in their own way.

The value of a click: shares, likes, and comments are valuable, but ultimately, you need to find ways to drive social followers to your content on your website. Otherwise, you’ll never generate revenue.

That’s why measuring the number of clicks you get on each post is so important. You should also measure your click-through rate—the number of clicks divided by the total impressions for each post.

Some networks provide this information in their analytics, but you can always use a tool such as Buffer:

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Clicks (and click-through rate) tell us one huge thing:

Does the user care enough about the post to click through?

On the other hand, shares tell us something different:

Does the user think this content is interesting enough to share with their followers?

It’s a small but important difference.

If a post has an above average click-through rate, that means your headline/post was enticing.

Study it, and learn why your audience thinks so.

However, if that post has a low share rate, it means that either sharing the post would make your user look bad to their followers or that they clicked through and were disappointed.

Usually, this won’t be clear, which is why we’ll be looking at more metrics in the following sections to identify the true cause of this problem.

The opposite can also happen. You might see that some posts get a lot of shares, but hardly any click-throughs.

This tells you that the users think your post makes them look good to their audience (and they know you well enough to expect good quality), but it’s not interesting to them.

This may or may not be a problem.

If that user is your business’ target customer, it is a problem. Why? Because your goal should be to create content that is useful to your customer, not your customer’s followers (who likely aren’t your target customer).

On the other hand, if that user isn’t your target customer but their followers are, it’s a great thing.

For example, if I follow a fellow marketing blogger, I’m probably not their target customer. However, my followers, who are business owners and marketers, probably are, so a share without a click from me is a good thing.

Are clicks and shares equally important? It’s hard to quantify the value of both of these metrics, but they are both very important.

Shares help you get in front of new social users, which will lead to more followers.

Clicks help you get those users further down your conversion funnel.

Both are necessary for a thriving social media account.

4. Time on page

If you’re getting followers to your site, the next step is to ensure they love your content.

One of the best metrics to judge that is the average time they spend on your page.

There are many places to find this data in Google Analytics, but the simplest is to navigate to:

Acquisition > All Traffic > Source/Medium

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This will divide your traffic by source, and one of the columns will show you the average time per page.

On top of that, you can click each name and then set a secondary dimension to the landing page so you can see whether any pages have a much better or worse time than others.

Reacting to average time on page: There’s no perfect time-on-page target to aim for. It depends on factors such as your topic, writing style, and length of content.

However, your average user should spend at least a minute on the site for most types of content (unless it is really short).

If your time-on-page metrics are low across all your content, you may have one or more of the following problems:

  • poor loading time
  • distracting ads/bad layout
  • poorly created content (reader quickly realizes they don’t like it)

Start by getting second opinions from anyone you can about your layout.

Then, evaluate your site speed.

Finally, if that reveals no problems, you may need to learn to create better content or to write better. It’s hard to admit, but it’s necessary if you want to improve.

What if you have low time on page only on certain pages?

In that case, the same factors as we discussed above might be responsible for that (maybe you have too many images slowing down load speed), but there’s also a new one:

  • you have a confusing headline (it may not match up with your post on social media)

Do your best to consider the viewpoint of your visitors. Would you expect to see your content after clicking through from your post? Or would you be somewhat confused?

This is an iterative process, and each time you iterate, you’ll learn more about the way your audience thinks and what they enjoy.

5. Conversions

No set of metrics is complete without conversions.

If you aren’t converting social media traffic into customers, then it’s worthless or, at the very least, not effective.

Luckily, Google Analytics makes this pretty easy to track.

If you go into “Acquisition > Social > Conversions,” you can click the button to set up goals (if you haven’t before).

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These goals work just like others.

You can set up a goal that tracks when someone becomes a new email subscriber (counts if there’s a new visit to a thank-you page) or when they buy something from you.

It’s up to you, but you should attempt to put a value on each conversion because this will help you quantify the value of your social media marketing.

Once you have a goal plus some data, you can come back to see the number of conversions you’ve made by network:

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Conversions are one of the final stages of your funnel.

If you’re getting a good number of click-throughs and your visitors are enjoying your content—but not converting—you have a problem.

Unfortunately, it could be many things. Perhaps your store isn’t obvious enough, or your content is attracting the wrong audience for your products.

Or your email autoresponder may need work.

There are too many factors to spell out here, but here are some resources that will help you investigate the issue and find the answer:

Conclusion

Metrics are an absolute necessity if you want your social media marketing to be effective.

But you have to take action.

We’ve gone over the most common social media metrics as well as ways to react to several different scenarios to improve your social media marketing efforts.

To close off, I’d really like to hear from you in the comment section below:

If you’ve ever made an improvement to your social media strategy based on the metrics you recorded, please share with me and everyone else what you’ve learned.

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Comments

  1. Ronak Toshniwal :

    Informative!
    you have a massive following which is really awesome.
    Can you Shed some light on posting content using treading FB and Twitter?

  2. Md Shahzad Hassan :

    Good Guide

    • Glad you liked it!

      • Anil Agarwal :

        I think increasing your conversion rates is really crucial.

        It doesn’t matter how many articles you write and publish in a day, it all boils down to one thing. Your sales!

        Increasing your site conversions is not easy. It’s all about tweaking your design, giving a better user experience, using dedicated landing pages and promoting the right products to the right audience.

        Great insights Neil!

  3. Chris Makara :

    Great post Neil. I find it very important to accurately track your social initiatives to really know if what you are doing is working. Unfortunately, most people just post to their social channels without using UTM parameters which causes their individual social efforts to be lumped with all social data for that channel.

    I have gone into how to fix this and track it more accurately in this post – http://chrismakara.com/social-media/social-media-analytics/

    I would be interested in hearing your thoughts/effectiveness of using UTM parameters for your social efforts?

    • UTM codes work really well. I use them to not just track which sources are driving traffic, but how each campaign from those sources are working out.

  4. Andrew Walton :

    This is awesome Neil. I’ve looked at my social media metrics a lot and wondered how to actually use this data, so this was timely and extremely useful – thanks!

    I also realized while inside Google Analytics that my time on site is way lower than it should be. That was a bit of a rude wake up call, but one I’m glad to get.

    • Awareness is where it all starts. Now that you know what’s going on, you can make the right strategic moves to grow

  5. Hello sir ..
    again Informative! post . and am small doubt sir how to track facebook website clicks track report in analytic.. please let me know sir . thanks

  6. As I am experiencing since last 3 month, I have found that only three type post gets most “reach” and goes viral
    1.Question aaking image.
    2.Imotional Image (aaking to like in image)
    3.Video

    Thanks for your post which describes it in deep.

    Nekraj

    • I notice those types of posts getting a lot of engagement too. Always imagine yourself as the person who is looking at your post, does it move you into action?

    • Darren Keane Storm :

      Very true about images and videos on social feeds – your content can be a killer but without the right image people will “blind spot” it – even if the headline is a killer! Attention spans are getting shorter.

  7. Jeff Jackson :

    “What gets measured, gets managed.” -Peter Drucker

    I recently started doing a weekly review of how I spend my time, by recording everything on a calendar (not just appointments, but everything I do). It has been incredibly enlightening, not to mention anxiety-diminishing.

    Looking at data for trends over time can really yield some surprising insights- thanks for the pointers here!

    • Great idea Jeff! Being aware of how you’re spending your time is the beginning of your growth phase. All that data will help you notice trends and make effective decisions.

  8. The twitter analytic is new for me, I just checked my twitter stats, after clicking that link. I feel good after seeing it.

    • It gives you a whole other world of insight. All these pieces of data will form the context of your audience.

  9. Great post. Calculating goal values for non-monetary goals like email subscriptions is super helpful. Then google analytics will tell you each page’s value (meaning how many times that page shows up in sessions with subscriptions). You can then direct your new followers to your high value pages and increase subscriptions.

    A simple and somewhat accurate way to calculate the value of one new subscriber is the following formula: (total # of subscribers * Purchase conversion rate from email traffic * average order value) / total # of subscribers = value per subscriber. It’ll be more accurate if you get your conversion rate over a span of 13 months.

    • Thanks Peter, that’s a helpful formula. It’s simple really, all metrics allow for fine tuning and and predictability.

  10. Aleric Stone :

    Just recently we started tracking our social media metrics, we didn’t realize how much traffic we got from facebook and twitter!

    • That’s great Aleric! Now this data will help you craft finely tuned content. Keep me posted on how it works out.

  11. Maxanne Durkee :

    We have been working on our social media for years now. We have a more mature target market and are an eCommerce business. It has been more than difficult to build value into our
    Facebook and Twitter audience. Is this mostly for those who blog?

    The article is awesome but I just don’t know if it is for us.

    • If you don’t have a blog, then I highly recommend you get one. Without it, you guys probably aren’t giving enough value to attract an audience that’s interested in hearing what you have to say.

  12. Hey Neil, Very good informative post. As there is wise saying “if you can’t measure it you can’t improve it”, it is exactly true and most importantly for marketing activity. At present era online marketing is changing at faster pace than anything.

    Here Social media marketing is quite different from search and paid marketing and in social media also there is healthy competition compared to search and google adds. As you mentioned “marketers record metrics but never do anything with them” is true some extent. A proper measure gives direction to business in which channel to focus & invest.

    Expecting from you to post a blog on comparative social media channels and their performances.

    • History will continue to repeat itself unless you make changes that help you grow. That applies in life and for your website.

      That’s a great suggestion, I’ll consider it for a future post 🙂

  13. Hi, there — it’s great it see such a helpful article (and website) that helps new bloggers like us grow. We’re new, so we’d love if you followed us and offered your feedback and perspective: pathswewalk.wordpress.com

    All the best,
    S

    • I’m glad this has been helpful! I know how it could be for new bloggers. If you have any questions, please feel to free to ask.

  14. Jerome Perrin :

    Great Neil, as always.

    When I analyze Google Analytics figures, I often figure out that some figures are wrong. But in the other hand, this is so important to have relevant metrics. This is the reason why, when I analyze Google, I always must also analyze Google Analytics relevancy at the same time, which is not always practical, I must say.

    What is your point of view?

    Cheers from Paris 🙂

    Jerome

  15. piastre per capelli :

    great blog neil..nice to learn that thru facebook and twiiter can help improvement of a ones site.

  16. John Falkinder :

    Loved your comment, “Marketers record metrics but never do anything with them.” When I’m training people in the gym & fitness industry I often remind them that “what you measure you can manage”. But you have to do both for it to work.

    • It’s true, a lot of the similarities for effective training at the gym apply to how you effectively analyze and optimize your websites.

  17. Biggest thing I’ve learned Neil is that data is key to understanding what works and where to spend more time. One thing I’m trying is to see which traffic works best by using Leadpages. I direct one stream of traffic to each lead page and see which converts best. Within leadpages it gives a percentage of of conversion and shows me which does best. I’m trying Q&A sites, guest posting, FB ads, and Fb Group Traffic. Reddit is tough and hard to crack right now. Based on this I can see exactly what traffic is best & right now. FB traffic is better (not the ads) and then guest posting. But both of these take time and is hard work. I’ll try to keep you updated on this.

    Thanks Neil for being on my show also. I’ll send you a link soon.

    • It’s great that you’re exploring all these different sources, you must be learning a lot. Reddit is difficult to crack, you need to invest a lot of time into it.

      I’m excited for all the new things you’re going to focus on. Let me know if you have any questions with anything.

  18. Hello Neil

    I like the post, i try copying the excel forms, please can give me an example how compare month by month on excel, you copy the excel format ?

  19. Great post Neil!

    One of the things I’ve been doing with Social Media metrics lately is following the “Do more of the same” mantra.

    And by that I mean I repurpose and repost the tweets, FB posts, etc. that are getting the highest engagement according to my metrics.

    I figure if people really like it then I should ‘hit it’ a few more times to get the maximum exposure and engagement on the things that people really like.

    I’ve noticed when I do that I get a lift in new followers as well because the content goes mini-viral for about a 2 hour period given that people like it so much.

    So, for example, I might write a blog post that I’ve embedded a YouTube video on. I’ll tweet the post, mention in on Facebook, etc.

    If the metrics look good, a week or so later, I’ll tweet and post it again, but this time I’ll change the copy a bit in the tweet/post and I’ll send people directly to the YouTube video this time instead of to the blog post.

    Anyway, that type of reposting/repurposing seems to be working for me on Social Media posts with good metrics.

    Cheers!

    • Now this is something I would like to do more – reposting. I spend so much time on a post and researching the metrics that it warrants another post. Haven’t figured out the ‘sweet spot’ as when it is OK without seeming to forced on my followers.

    • Yes and it gives you the opportunity to try and test out variations of the content and headlines. That way you’re tracking and refining each component of your engine. Cheers!

  20. Really nice post on Social Media Marketing. I’ve seen lots or article on social media but this is really helpful. Thanks for sharing.

  21. Ataib Ur Rehman :

    Thanks Neil for sharing such a nice post. I got a lot of help from this post.

  22. Erik van Dullemen :

    Thanks a lot for another informative post Neil!

  23. Amazing post once again. I really like every time you come with something interesting and informative. 🙂

  24. Thanks Neil for such a informative and valuable post. I like the way you present the data and pictures. So impressive & clear enough to understand easily.

  25. Ritter and Stark :

    I am surprised to see more followers from Google than Facebook. Normally it is the other way around by a magnitude. I thought Google+ was on it’s death bed. Care to explain please?

  26. Matthew Warren :

    Making data-driven decisions is key to being successful in any industry.

    These are great tips for what kind of data to collect, and what to do with it once you have it. Thanks for the great information and examples.

  27. The article was amazing Neil. Though, I have a question for you. Do you think advertising your page in your followers can help in getting more reach for normal posts that are not advertised?

  28. Thank you sharing great article Neil

  29. Thanks Neil for such a great post. I like the way you present the data in a graphical way. So impressive & clear enough to understand the topic easily.

  30. Ben Oliveira :

    Hi, Neil!
    Very helpful. I have a blog and I’m a writer… So it’s really interesting to know how to use these metrics.
    Thank you!

  31. I think most marketers get stuck when they track these metrics in separate silos instead of looking at them as part of a larger narrative. I find the phrase ‘vanity metrics’ a bit too harsh. I guess they become plain vanity only if you fail to tie those numbers to the next logical step. If you view them from the right perspective, vanity metrics can be the first step towards great insights and improved marketing.

    I referenced your article in a recent post that dealt with a similar theme. Do check it out: http://www.epictions.com/blog/content-intelligence/data-cocktail-socialcontentengagement-metrics

    • Good point Cheryl. If you’re using those numbers for “vanity” purposes then they are just that, but if that information helps your next moves, than it becomes strategic.

  32. Hello, Mr. Neil!

    Very Informative and engaging content. Thanks a lot, Keep Sharing

  33. Susan Roberts :

    Hello Neil,
    I am an owner of a cleaning company and your advice and articles are very useful for me because I am a beginner in SEO and the social media. I hope to make the right marketing decisions for my company. Well done and thanks for sharing!
    Best regards,
    Susan Roberts

    • That’s awesome you are are doing this, you can crush your competition with these strategies. Keep me posted on your progress

  34. sonali singh :

    very informative post to crush the opponent.

  35. The twitter analytic is new for me, I simply checked my twitter stats, after clicking that link. I feel exact after seeing it.

  36. Most people recommend avoiding social media at first and fully focus on the email list. but looks like the email list is hard to gain, do you have any suggestion?

    • Leverage social media to build an audience then direct them to your site and landing pages to build your list

  37. Sue J. Maselli :

    Great Post

  38. milon khan :

    Great post!!

    Something I have been leaning on in the doing direction.

    Your thought is like mine:

    really help rank better on yelp listing page. I tried it for few local businesses and it
    really helped my
    Thanks,

  39. adelaide cleaning :

    Thanks Neil for this post.. I will inculcate this one for the improvement of my social media marketing. Kudos to you…

  40. Erica Padmore` :

    Hello Neil,
    I am a beginner in this sphere. Your advice and articles are very interesting and useful for me. Here I found many ideas that I can use in my job. Well done!

  41. Jamie Jamieson :

    What do you think about conversions per impression as a metric when comparing promoted posts and ads?

    • It depends on what you’re trying to accomplish Jamie. If you’re going for impressions you’re also marketing a big aspect of branding vs getting some to take action right then and there. It could be campaign based around positioning your brand so a person buys it when they go to the grocery store

  42. PPC Agency Orange County :

    hey neil, this will really help me finding customers with intent through paid search marketing.

  43. Whooah this weblog is excellent i like readcing your posts.
    Keep up the great paintings! You already know, a llot of people arre searching
    round for this information, you can aid them greatly.

  44. Macey Lewington :

    Very helpful post! Thank you!

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