The 25 Most Important Social Media Marketing Metrics
Sep 08, 2017 ● 11 min read
Get out of the weeds and into the ROI with your social media marketing metrics. Read to see which metrics really matter so you can work smarter.
Social media is a jungle of metrics. Not only does each platform have its own set of metrics, but even if they happen to use the same terms, different platforms often define those terms differently.
Because we’re all comparing “apples to oranges” so often, it’s no wonder that so few marketers know if their social media work generates a return on investment.
According to Social Media Examiner’s 2017 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, only 38% know their return on investment – a figure that’s actually gone down in recent years according to this particular study.
The upside here, of course, is that nearly four out of ten social media marketers do know whether or not they’re getting positive returns on their work or not.
It can be done! And there are plenty of ways marketers measure their success. According to Ascend2, these are the goals that social media marketers most want to achieve:
This gives us a pretty good framework to use for sorting social media metrics. We know that ROI can indeed be measured (it’s hard to do, sure, but it is doable), and we know what we want to achieve – those goals from the chart above. That tells us a lot about which metrics really matter.
But it’s not the only way to sort metrics. In a webinar from Forrester Research, the “Top 3 Pillars of Social Measurement”, Forrester Researcher Samantha Ngo explains there are three types of social media metrics in her view:
- Metrics that track social media content performance
- Metrics that track social media marketing performance
- Metrics that track social media business performance
This is a smart way to cut this jungle of metrics down to size. It also neatly separates the different levels of success for social media.
So here are twenty critical metrics to track in your social media work, ranked in order of importance. Let’s start with business-related metrics.
Return on investment.
Yes, it’s hard to quantify. Yes, most social media marketers can’t do it. But ROI is the holy grail of social media metrics. If you can get it, or even get a good approximation of it, more power to you.
Also, consider breaking down your return on investment for each social media platform you’re on. This can be important information if you want the budget to expand your work on any of those platforms, or if you get hit with a budget cut and need to know which platforms to let go of.
Given that the average social media marketer is on five or more different social media platforms, this means you’ve already got six metrics to track – the overall return on investment for your social media work, and the return on investment for each platform you’re on.
Hint: don’t forget to include each platform’s contribution to your customer service efforts, or even to your recruitment efforts.
Traffic from each platform to your site.
Before you can calculate your return on investment, you’ll probably want to know how many visitors your social media work is driving to your website. And again, you’ll want to know this for your overall social media work, and then for each platform you’re on. A tool that can help you with this is Rebrandly URL Shortener. This tool allows you to shorten, brand and track every link that you create and share on different social media platforms. It provides in-depth click analytics so you know exactly which links are performing and driving traffic back to your site.
Do those people who click through to your site actually buy anything? Social media traffic tends to convert less well than other channels, but even if your conversion rates are low, this is actual sales we’re talking about. It’s worth tracking.
Some other metrics you might want to keep an eye on for this:
- How many sales (aka the number of orders) do you get from social traffic?
- What’s the average order size from this social media traffic?
- How long do these social media customers hang around? (Are they more or less loyal than customers from other channels)
- What’s the total revenue these visitors generate? (This will be helpful for your return on investment metrics)
- What’s your attribution model for these sales? Last touch (as in, you attribute the sale to whichever source the customer came from most recently)? Multi touch? First touch (whichever channel the customer found you through first gets credit for the sale)?
- Do your social media website visitors come back?
- Do the first time visitors you get from social media help in other ways, like creating a good retargeting audience?
It’s unusual to get a sale from a first-time social media visitor, but you can often convert these visitors into leads.
Once again, this metric can be split into many separate, contributing metrics:
- How long does it take these leads to convert? (Is it shorter or longer than other channels)
- What’s the lead to sale rate? In other words, are these high-quality leads, or not?
- Do these leads turn into high-value customers or low-value customers?
- How do you count a “lead”? Is an email subscriber a lead… or do you want someone to download a white paper or sign up for a webinar to be considered a lead?
Those four metrics conclude the business side of social media metrics. Depending on which ones you decide to track, you might already have more than twenty metrics.
It’s also quite possible that you’ll want to break these metrics into a separate report for certain people at your company (typically, the C-Suite and financial folks, and your marketing manager).
Let’s move on to the marketing metrics.
Do people like your Facebook posts? Retweet your tweets? Share your Instagram photos? All those are measures of engagement.
The engagement was the number one objective of social media marketing for the marketers Ascend2 surveyed, so we’re putting it first here for marketing-related metrics.
To compare your own engagement rates, here are the average social media engagement rates broken down by industry:
Engagement could also be considered a content metric, rather than marketing goals metric. But because we’re referring to this as more of an overall measurement of how your audience reacts to everything you post (as opposed to the engagement rate of individual posts), and because engagement is such a primary concern for marketers, we’re including this metric here.
You may also want to track the engagement rates of your competitors, influencers you partner with, or websites/publishers/other organizations you partner with or advertise with. You might even break them down by the social media platform.
If increasing brand awareness is one of your top goals for social media, this is a key metric. Mentions are defined as just what they sound like – how often someone mentions your brand name or any other keyword you want to track (like products, or major campaigns).
Tip: You may also want to track mentions of your competitors.
This measures how people feel about your brand. So if someone tweets “Love these new shoes from Nine West!” or posts “I HATE Comcast”, you’ll have reports that record those opinions as positive or negative sentiment.
Sentiment is a smart thing to monitor because – so long as you get updates regularly – you’ll know if a social media problem is afoot. A sudden spike in negative sentiment is a sign of a social media / public relations crisis in the making. If you can respond fast and well, you just might be able to calm it down before it gets out of hand.
It’s true that the size of your audience doesn’t directly track with business results, but let’s not kid ourselves – your C-Suite and your own team cares about how many people are following you.
Audience Growth Rate.
This is a metric you probably want to grow slowly, but a big campaign or an audience growth push might well be measured simply by how much your audience has increased on a given platform. And that’s okay.
Related metrics you may want to track:
- Your competitors’ audience growth
- Audience growth broken out by social media platform
How many people see your content on social media? That’s what reach measures. As I’m sure you know, reach has been getting pummeled on Facebook for years now. Recent research from social@Ogilvy and BuzzSumo suggests it has fallen even further.
If you see your Facebook reach falling, that might be a good reason to invest in Facebook advertising to keep engagement rates up.
Who are these people in your audience? That’s what demographics data shows. You’ll need this information to tailor your advertisements correctly and to be sure your audience is who you think they are.
Demographic information is also really helpful for creating marketing personas, too. And it can be interesting to see the difference in demographic profiles between website visitors and social media audiences.
Most active audience members.
Who’s sharing and engaging with your content the most? These are your super-users, and whether they’re customers or not, influencers or not, they can be very helpful to your marketing efforts. It’s smart to know who they are, to say thank you from time to time, and to ponder how you might become even better friends.
Share of voice (aka “SOV”).
SOV = your company’s marketing and advertising / the total market’s marketing and advertising.
Is this a “vanity” metric? Maybe… but it’s also a metric people care about. And if you’re on social media for brand awareness, this is a helpful way to measure that.
These are your social media “greatest hits”.
But “greatest” depends on how you define it – does it mean the posts or shares with the greatest engagement, or the posts that got the most leads or the most traffic?
Consider breaking this out by week, month and even by quarter. And consider breaking it out by different metrics, too.
Number of posts.
This is just how often you share every day. It should vary by platform (anywhere from 15 or more tweets per day, to just one LinkedIn update per day). But your social media team should be tracking this.
Most effective time to post.
Not all posting times are created equal. But again, it’s up to you to decide what “most effective” is. Is it engagement, leads generated, sales… or something else?
Types of posts.
Are you sharing just images? Just text links? Just videos? Probably not – most marketers know to share a blend of content types.
So track how often you're sharing those different types, and leave space on your reports to measure engagement, traffic generated and other metrics by content type. That way, if videos are driving the bulk of your leads (or even your sales), you’ll know to invest more in video production.
Videos just happen to be the most effective type of content on social media according to research from Ascend2, but they might not necessarily be so for you.
Percent curated posts.
Are you sharing only your content? That’s not ideal for your audience, and also means you aren’t demonstrating your knowledge of what’s going on in your industry.
Customer service engagements.
Social media is not just for sharing your content. It’s for helping your customers and your prospects, too. Leave a space on your reports for how often your customer service team is active on social media, too. It’ll help offset some of your social media costs.
Direct messages sent.
With the rise of Facebook Messenger, Instagram Direct and Twitter’s Direct Messages, it’s possible to send personalized, timed, direct messages to your followers. And many marketing automation services let you do just that.
The engagement rates for these direct messages can be very high (up to 20%). They can drive leads and traffic and even sales. So why not track them… and see if there might yet be a way to squeeze more results from your audiences?
This metric may become more and more important as content shock continues to erode organic reach and engagement on social media. Besides, social networking apps get a massive amount of traffic in their own right.
This is a classic, basic metric to measure for any piece of content. It may not mean too much at the end of the day, but it’s still worth tracking.
Comments are a bit more valuable than likes – they take more effort from your audience. They can also lend insights into what your audience really responds to, and how they respond to it.
Ah… the sacred share. Most people don’t actually share too much about brands (few brands can compete with baby pictures, for example), so while these may not directly result in ROI, they’re something most marketers would like to increase.
This is the content-level version of traffic generated. You’ll probably be measuring this in teaspoons at the content level, but it’s still worthwhile.
Hey – they can happen at a content level! And if they do, they’ll give you valuable data on which type of posts to post more often.
The chart below from Smart Insights will give you an idea of general conversion rates for some social media platforms, and how they compare to other channels.
Social media metrics are not one-size fits all. So instead of trying to track all of them, think of them more as a toolbox. You’ve got access to that toolbox at any time, but that doesn’t mean you should be using every tool for every report.
Minimalism is hard to achieve with metrics, but it’s a discipline that could serve you well. Especially when you consider that most human brains really can’t hold more than seven things in their mind at once.
That actually might be one way to trim down some reports. Which seven things does each team member need to know? Do they need to know a different set of seven things for different tasks?
If you’re not sure, ask. Reporting done without inputs from people is as unhelpful as reporting done without inputs from technology.