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.
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:
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.
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:
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:
- Stop Guessing: Here’s a Social Media Strategy That Works
- 6 Steps to Create a Bare Bones and Profitable Social Media Plan
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:
- 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.
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:
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:
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:
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
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.
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.
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).
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:
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:
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.