Updated: Feb 7, 2019
It’s the first rule of marketing: Know your audience.
Luckily, there’s never been a time with more data available on your customers (or potential customers), more ready access to analytics and A/B testing, or a greater possibility for iterative growth in your campaigns.
Designing a social media marketing campaign is hard work — we know. But it’s only the beginning if you want to hone a marketing strategy that’s truly effective, long-term. That’s because, no matter how well you think you know your audience or customer base, they will surprise you.
Sometimes, you’ll publish a piece of content that you think is pure gold, only to have it fall flat. And the next week, you might put something up that you consider “filler,” and watch it rack up so many impressions and clicks, you wonder if your analytics service has made a mistake.
Moments like these are learning opportunities, of course. But here’s the secret: marketing online is basically a string of small learning opportunities, every day, with no end — or at least it should be, if you’re doing it right.
That’s why it’s so important to track the metrics available to you — and, moreover, to track the right metrics — and then to adjust your campaigns accordingly.
With that in mind, here’s our GSMM-approved list of the 5 social media metrics you should be tracking. At minimum, they’ll help you determine what kind of content your audience likes. And this will show you where your time and money — both precious commodities when working on a small marketing team — are best placed.
This is the most basic metric you’ll find on your analytics dashboard, and it’s a foundational one.
Impressions measure the number of times your post is displayed on someone’s feed — or, if you’re paying for advertising, the number of times your ad loads on someone’s screen.
Impressions are a good, simple way to measure the exposure level of your social posts. It may not be the most important metric to measure, but it is the first metric that leads to other, more meaningful metrics, such as engagement, click-throughs, and so on.
How many likes, comments, shares, and followers your posts get will always be relative to the amount of times your social media post is actually displayed one someone’s device: impressions.
An astounding amount of content passes over our screens on an average day. Whether you’re on Facebook, Instagram, your go-to news website, or your favorite blog, it’s easy to get lost in the “scroll vortex” — scroll, scroll, scroll…
Until you see something that makes you stop.
One of our hardest, but most crucial, jobs as marketers is to anticipate this moment — what will make someone stop and pay attention?
We can measure this by the actions people take on our posts: likes, comments, shares, retweets, etc., (otherwise known as “engagement”). At GSMM, we like to think of all marketing as a mutually beneficial conversation with our audience. The engagement metric tells you which of your posts communicate well enough to inspire them to answer back.
Your highly engaging posts can also alert you to a topic or subject matter that your audience (and potential customers) are interested in hearing and learning more about. And once you consistently produce and release highly engaging posts, it positions you and your brand as a credible thought leader. This is one of the ultimate goals of content marketing and social media marketing: becoming the authority in your industry.
3. Clicks and Click-Through Rate (CTR)
Clicks are as old as the internet, and are certainly one of the most important metrics you have available to you. Clicks are fairly self-explanatory. It measures the number of times your social media post is clicked on. If you post a link to your website, a click on your social post can drive traffic to your website or blog (like this one).
Clicks can be measured as a simple raw number, but click-through rate (CTR) is not just a simple number. Rather, CTR is the percentage of the people who see your post who then go on to click your link. For example, if your social post is displayed 100 times and 20 people click on it, your CTR is 20%.
Like the engagement metric, a high CTR can help you understand which content and messaging is interesting to your audience, adding value, and getting to the right people.
But clicks and click-through rate are also more than that: they help measure the traffic that your posts are driving to your website, which is significant because it is the first step in converting a social media audience member into a lead or client.
4. Followers/Subscribers (and rate of follower/subscriber growth)
Keeping track of the number of followers you have may seem a bit shallow, almost like it’s only worth measuring for the bragging rights. However, follower/subscriber count can be a good indicator of the effectiveness or relevance of the social media content you’re generating. Having and growing a following also increases the immediate exposure of your content that you’ve worked so hard to create, and this in turn leads to an increase in other more meaningful metrics, such as engagements and clicks. So measuring followers is important.
Paying attention to the rate of follower growth can also be very useful, and may lend further insights regarding the effectiveness of your content. For example, if you see a spike in followers gained on a certain day, ask yourself why — is there something you did differently? Maybe you attended an event and posted about it. Maybe you did a live-stream for the first time. Maybe you put up a really cute picture of your dog. Regardless, this can be a great clue to the type of content your audience is looking for — or might even tip you off to a new audience/market that you weren’t aware of.
Building a following on social media isn’t easy, but it brings great rewards, so it’s worth paying attention to and setting goals around. And when you do start to see your numbers grow, it will tell you which social platform your core audience is on — and this should help you decide where to focus your (limited) resources.
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5. Video Views and Video Engagement
You’re using video content on social media, right?
If you aren’t, you really should be. In our experience, video posts are the most engaging forms of social media marketing, and an absolute necessity, regardless of the size of your business.
Video content gets its own analytics: at the most basic, 1) number of views and 2) how long viewers watched before leaving, aka video engagement. It’s the second metric that’s really interesting. Drop-off in viewer engagement is expected (and perhaps unavoidable) as the video plays, but it’s important and interesting to see how long you can keep their attention on the video — and to A/B test different video structures to optimize for it. Longer engagement can help determine the relevance of the video content to your audience.
If you’ve recently started down the rabbit hole of analytics tracking, we know it can be overwhelming, and we’d love to hear how it’s going for you. Whether you have tips not mentioned here, or a question for one of our team, feel free to leave a comment below or to message us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also reach us on LinkedIn or any of our other social media profiles.
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