Updated: Feb 21
There’s no shortage of advice out there about how to measure success using social media metrics.
Unfortunately, most of the advice you’ll find is, at best, misguided and, at worst, flat-out wrong for the current social media atmosphere.
For one thing, it over-emphasizes the importance of increasing followers without addressing whether or not those followers are in your target audience. On top of that, it often positions other vanity metrics, such as likes and impressions, as the measure of success.
But you need to dig a bit deeper to truly discover whether or not your social media presence is successful.
I want to dive into the five metrics that matter for every small business, as well as where to find them and what they mean. And since the majority of small businesses are on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, those are the platforms we’ll focus on.
Direct messages are a powerful way to measure success on social media because they indicate a deeper level of interest than a like, follow or comment.
The good news is that customers want to message you. In fact, one recent study by technology company LivePerson found that two-thirds of customers like to message brands. And of that group, 90 percent were likely to do business with a company that answered their questions immediately.
Facebook and Instagram
You can access direct messaging stats for both platforms under Facebook’s “Insights” tab.
The metrics provided show the number of messages you’ve received in a certain time frame, the average amount of time it takes you to respond, and how many new messaging connections you’ve made.
(As a side note, if your business can reduce your response time to an average of 15 minutes or less, and you have a response rate of 90% or more, your page will get a “Very responsive to messages” badge. This will likely increase incoming messages.)
Looking at metrics for Twitter messages is a bit different because they do not have a similar dashboard. Additionally, message volume may be smaller because Twitter’s default setting means you will not receive messages from people unless they follow you.
To make yourself more available to customers, navigate to the “Privacy and Safety” section of your settings and check the box next to “Receive messages from anyone.” These messages will then appear as a “Message request” at the top of your inbox, so check your inbox regularly to make sure you’re not missing any connections.
Regardless of where you receive direct messages, though, small businesses should track the messages received on platforms each month, as well as a summary of the exchange.
Tracking the context of each conversation will provide insights into what types of messages lead to sales or visits, as well as the common questions or issues customers have. This information can then help you create saved replies to speed up your response time.
Eighty percent of social media marketers recently indicated in a Sprout Social study that their key strategy is to increase engagement.
The reason engagement matters so much to marketers — and should matter to your small business, too — is that it serves as an indicator of what your target audience thinks of your content. Which, fortunately or unfortunately, is also what the customer will think of your business. (As an added bonus, more engagements typically lead to an increase in the organic reach of a post on social media.)
There are two typical ways that engagement is calculated.
Engagement rate, which is the sum of all interactions with a post divided by the number of followers you had when the post went live.
Engagement on reach, which is the sum of all interactions with a post divided by the reach of the post.
Either of these statistics can be helpful to track. But at Fresh, we typically focus on engagement on reach.
So, for example, this recent post on Facebook reached 1,470 individuals and garnered 396 engagements. This means the post had roughly a 27% engagement on reach and a 118% engagement rate.
Comparing this with RivalIQ’s “2019 Social Media Benchmarks Report” reveals that this post outperformed the average Facebook engagement rate of 0.09%. If we were looking on Instagram, we’d compare that to an industry standard 1.6% engagement rate; on Twitter, it would be compared to a 0.048 percent engagement rate.
However, to get a more accurate idea of your average engagement on reach, we recommend looking at engagement metrics monthly, quarterly and yearly.
And while industry standards can be helpful, comparing engagement on reach with historic performance typically provides a more accurate assessment of your success.
3. Clicks to the website
One of the best ways you can measure success on social media is by tracking clicks to your website from posts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, or the built-in buttons in your platform’s profiles.
On Facebook, you can see the “Link Clicks” by clicking on the analytics listed underneath each post.
On Instagram, you can click “View Insights” under each post. You can also click at the top of your profile where profile visits are listed to access “Content” and sort for “Website Clicks.”
On Twitter, you can click individual tweets to see how people have engaged with content, but individual click-throughs are not shown.
4. How visitors from social media interact with your website
Understanding how visitors from social media interact with your website goes hand-in-hand with tracking clicks to the website through UTMs. That’s because the tracking provides context for what posts have a better or worse bounce rate, how much time was spent on page and what converted well.
Historically, visitors from social media channels are more likely to leave (or bounce) from a website to return to the platform. In the words of marketing expert Ann Smarty, “Social media users are usually in a hurry. They click a link in the update, scan though and leave.”
Digging into how visitors from social media interact with your website, though, can reveal improvements that need to be made.
For example, you may notice people are clicking through to read your blog. But they aren’t staying on the page long enough to do so. That may signal:
Content isn’t delivering what you promised it would in your social media post.
Your website is taking too long to load.
The content is difficult to read.
The web page has poor-quality content.
On the other hand, you may notice that people seem to be reading your content but they after consuming it.
This could mean that the page needs a call-to-action encouraging people to delve deeper into your website. But it could also signal that the content is self-sufficient; visitors really don’t need anything else after reading it.
Search Engine Journal covers 11 other reasons people may bounce after visiting your page, including:
Error when trying to load the web page.
Bad design or an obnoxious experience, like pop-up ads.
The page isn’t mobile friendly.
Reach doesn’t mean everything, but it does mean something. Especially if your business’s goal is to increase brand awareness.
That’s because the reach of a post can often reveal good times to post on social. Additionally, the reach metric can reveal what content is less valuable to your followers when you post at specific times, reach a large number of people and get little to no engagement.
Reach can also reveal what type of content the platform’s algorithm values. For example, when Facebook encouraged brands and businesses to create video content, they provided a nice boost in organic reach for that type of content. They did the same thing when rolling out Facebook Live.
Comparing your month-over-month, quarterly and yearly numbers will provide the best benchmark for what your reach typically is and whether or not it’s increasing.
However, these industry standards may also be helpful:
On Facebook, posts on pages with fewer than 10,000 followers have an average reach of about 8.29% of all followers, according to HootSuite’s “State of Digital” report.
A post on Instagram has a global average reach of about 34.37% of the profile’s followers, according to a study by Iconosquare.
A tweet on Twitter reaches about 3.61% of the profile’s followers, according to marketing expert Dan Virgillito.
Track metrics that matter
Don’t fall for the bad advice about metrics that encourage you to track follower counts and likes.
Instead, dig into these five metrics, which help you better understand and serve customers online.
If you’re not sure how to get started, here are a few action items for next month:
Spend 5 minutes each day looking at your social media channels to see what posts are performing well.
Spend 10 minutes every week comparing week-over-week analytics. Also check Google Analytics to see what social media platforms send traffic to your website.
Spend 30 minutes every month finding the best times to post for reach and engagement, what customers were asking in comments or messages, how visitors from social interacted with your website and what posts got them to your website.
And interestingly enough, when you focus on these five things, the vanity metrics often follow. Cover image: Freepik