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Which social media metrics matter?

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Written by Eleanor Kilduff on September 24th, 2020
What are vanity metrics and why are they important? We break down social media marketing lingo to help you better understand your metrics and start to make actionable insights.

So, you’ve chosen a social media management tool to help you better track your business’s performance (and if you haven’t yet, click here). Now it’s time to tackle the second hurdle – separating the key metrics from the fluff.

Social media marketing (SMM) tools are designed to neatly package all your metrics into small, digestible nuggets of actionable insights. Still, while many platforms can seem beautifully simple and intuitive, they don’t actually know what you want to see – so they just give you everything.

It’s up to you to sift through the vanity metrics and cherry-pick the data that’ll help you shape and tweak your strategy. But where do you begin? What does it all mean?

Let’s break it down

Getting used to all the lingo can be a bit overwhelming if you’re new to social media marketing, but you’ll probably be familiar with a couple of the terms we use! Here’s a jargon-busting tool to help you better understand social media marketing terminology.

Fans and Followers

Pretty self-explanatory, this is how many users follow your activity on social media – but remember, not all users behave the same way online. Some are casual readers, some are glued to your content, and a few might just be there stir up trouble. Take a closer look at the different types of followers here.

Impressions and Reach

Impressions measure how many times your content is displayed on social media, while reach measures the total number of people who see your content (unique views). Because they sound quite similar, people do confuse these metrics – but they are two very different things! As people often see the same post multiple times in their feeds, your impressions will be higher than your reach.

Engagement/Engagement Rate

Engagement tracks the number of interactions your posts get (this could be reactions, comments, shares or retweets etc.) and, depending on what SMM toolkit you use, this could also cover link clicks (sometimes expressed as a click-through rate, or CTR, showing the number of clicks compared to the number of impressions).

There are two measurements of engagement to look out for: Engagement Rate and Engagement on Reach. The former is calculated with the number of followers you had at the time of the post, while the latter is based on the reach your post achieved.

Keep an eye on engagement to discover which of your posts are doing well, which aren’t, and why that may be. It could be that your content isn’t all that popular, or it could just be down to timing!

Frequency/Posts Published

This bit is all about you! Frequency is how many posts you have published in a certain time frame. Are you a daily tweeter? Do you opt for three Instagram posts a week, or just as and when the content is there to share? Keep an eye on this metric, because your frequency will have an impact on pretty much everything else.

Brand Awareness

Measuring your brand awareness sounds like a challenge – seems pretty vague, no? Splitpixel measures brand awareness scores by looking at page/profile mentions and post shares. Are people tagging you in discussions? Are they retweeting your content with their own thoughts?

Social media management tools (like AgoraPulse) measure your brand awareness score in this way – but it’s still important to do a little manual social listening from time to time.

Social Listening

Another term we throw around a lot – just above, for example! This just means monitoring and interacting with mentions and shares, getting involved in discussions on social media, and connecting with your fans. You can’t just post and walk away; you need to be consistently engaging with your followers.

Referrals, Conversions and CTR

Now, let’s get something straight on this one. Organic social media marketing is NOT all about sales – and you’re setting yourself up to fail if you think you can use the same approach on social media as you do through your other marketing channels.

Paid social is a different story, but if you think you’re going to make a killing on social without spending any money on ads – we’d like to quickly burst that bubble for you.

Still, it’s vital that you track referrals (how people land on your website) and conversions (when a user makes a purchase, enquiry or booking on your website) from your social media channels. Then you’ve got CTR (click-through rate) to help you identify effective ads. Focus more on these metrics when reviewing your paid social activities, but don’t completely write them off when it comes to organic!

Tracking your social media marketing with KPIs

Before you can really begin to understand what all these metrics mean to your business, you need to understand a little more about your own business goals. So, in comes another bit of common jargon – sorry – as we take a closer look at your key performance indicators (KPIs).

Your KPIs are decided based on which goals are most important to your business. Break it down – what steps need to be taken to fulfil your business goals? Remember, your KPIs should also be platform-specific! Once you’ve nailed that bit, you can begin working your KPIs into your social media strategy (your plan of action).

Okay, so how does this all tie into social media metrics? Well, digging into your SMM report on a month by month basis can help you understand what’s working, what isn’t, and what you could try next. Maybe you’ve increased post frequency, and that’s led to an increase in your reach? Perhaps you published some top-notch video content over one weekend and that weekend saw a spike in CTR?

All this will feed back into your strategy and shape what you do next. Remember, high metrics don’t always mean great results. It’s time to talk about vanity metrics – the good, the bad and the just plain useless.

Vanity metrics, exposed!

So, this bit is actually pretty simple. You probably already know what vanity metrics are just from the name. We’re talking about follower counts, likes, subscribers etc. The data that can look great on paper (and leave you feeling pretty satisfied) but doesn’t directly help you achieve your business goals.

A quick Google of vanity metrics and you’ll be met with countless blogs, articles or rants from data-focused and out-dated marketers, hating on vanity metrics while being dragged kicking and screaming into the new digital age. Because the truth is, vanity metrics do matter.

A common argument is that vanity metrics offer “no context for future marketing decisions” but that’s a load of nonsense. While many dismiss follower counts, likes, comments and shares as irrelevant ego-stroking metrics, we recognise these metrics as the currency of social media. This is how you measure the success of your content strategy!

No followers, no audience. Low engagement? You’ll be left struggling against the various (and merciless) social media algorithms used to filter out the bits that platforms THINK users won’t want to see because they’ve not performed well!

Simply put, likes on a post are the first sign that people are enjoying your content – and comments are the first step in you connecting with real people and converting them into customers. Of course, engaged users are more important than your overall following (which is why it’s a waste of money to buy fake fans) but if you nail your content, you will start to turn your followers into engaged users.

Sell yourself, not your business

This all links back to the idea that social media marketing should be delivering you sale after sale – which is wrong. While it is true that social media has become a place for users to check out businesses, read reviews and ask questions, it’s also true that in these cases, the individual is seeking out that business. They are coming to you.

When users aren’t actively seeking out that kind of information, what do you think they’re on social media to do? We assure you, it’s (usually – with the main exception being fashion) not their shopping. So, if you go in hard promoting your products or services, you are probably going to switch people off.

If you want to see an increase in your reach, your engagement, and ultimately your CTR and conversions, you need to put the work in. You need to strike a balance with your content strategy, finding the sweet spot where you can still promote your products and services without sacrificing the attention of your followers.

Keep an eye on conversions

In addition to tracking conversions from the platforms you market on, you’ll also want to look out for assisted conversions – the people who come through via one channel, leave your website, and then return later to complete a conversion via another channel.

There are also non-revenue conversions that can be just as valuable, like downloading an ebook or signing up to a monthly newsletter. These can convert into hot leads further down the line!

Create for both paid and organic social (separately)

Ideally, you’ll apply a combination of organic and paid social media activity. Your organic social strategy will be different from paid, working in engaging topics, notable events, blogs, tutorials or behind the scenes content. Paid needs to be focused and direct, though still have that spark that makes your business unique and exciting.

It sounds easier said than done but, to engage your potential customers, your ads need to stand out from the rest and offer something different from your competitors. That’s where we can help!

So, what next?

Get in touch to join The Pixel Network – our social media consultancy service. We’re giving you the tools to nail your own social media strategy, with monthly video calls, resource signposting, exclusive webinars, blogs and ebooks, design support and more!

We also offer full-service paid social media and search advertising management, for businesses who have made a solid start on social and need help taking their paid approach to the next level.

In the meantime, to find out which social media platforms your business will thrive on, download our free ebook.

Headshot of Eleanor
Written by Eleanor Kilduff on September 24th, 2020

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