Everyone says you should be on social media, and allow me to add my voice to the chorus. You definitely should.

But I also know that social media can be overwhelming at times– especially if you’re using social media to promote your business. You know that it’s effective, but you don’t know how to make it work for your business.

The key is in knowing what metrics to look for, and how to use that information to create a stronger voice on social media.

So, if you’ve ever felt completely overwhelmed by social media (I’m talking about the “I’m ready to give up, call an Uber, and relocate to a quiet monastery in the Himalayas” type of overwhelmed), then this post is for you.

We’re going to discuss the most important social media metrics to check (and why). Let’s get started.

Why Social Media Metrics Matter

You may be thinking to yourself, Why do social media metrics matter? Isn’t there such a thing as “analysis paralysis”? I just want to get out there and speak to my audience.

Here’s why social media metrics matter:

Metrics help you understand what’s working and what’s not working. Metrics also provide valuable insight into your audience, such as who’s listening and how they respond to your content. You’ll use this insight to create a stronger connection with your audience.

Another important reason to watch metrics is that the nature of social media is changing. As more social media platforms turn to a pay-to-play model, you either need to pay or improve your organic reach. And I’m not going to lie– it’s harder to reach people organically these days because there’s just so much competition.

Also, it’s important to note that only a small percentage of your followers will actually see your posts. This is especially true on fast-moving platforms, like Twitter. The average reach for Twitter is around 3.6% of your follower count.

Your reach on Facebook is shockingly low, too. On Facebook, the average reach is probably 10-23%.

However, if you focus on your social media strategy, you’ll also improve your organic reach. A winning strategy starts with understanding and utilizing your available social media data.

Which Social Media Metrics Should You Care About?

Let’s discuss which metrics to track. For this post, we’ll focus on Facebook and Twitter.

Shares

On a given post, how many people are sharing your message?

Word of mouth marketing is the holy grail for any brand, and it’s extremely important on social media. As I mentioned before, organic discovery is down on social platforms. In other words, the best ways to get found on Facebook are either to pay for it or to get promoted by a follower. If you can inspire someone to share your post with their friends and family (even if it’s only a few people), that’s quite an accomplishment. Make sure you’re tracking those shares.

How to Track:
There are two ways to track your shares.

One option gives you the total amount of shares for a post. You can find this information by going to Insights (located under the search bar of your business page) and selecting Posts from the side bar.

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The second way helps you find out who is sharing your posts: You’ll need to select the “View your page as visitor” option from the drop down menu under your cover photo. Select the ellipsis (…) to access this option.

Next, scroll to the post you’d like to track and click on the shares link to find out who shared your content and when.

What Content Is Shared

But don’t just track shares, also make note of what’s being shared.

What type of content gets the most shares, retweets, reposts, repins, etc. For example, are people retweeting your short videos? Or is it photos? If photos, what type of photos? Inspirational quotes or blog post teasers?

Understanding the type of content that’s shared helps you identify what’s resonating with your audience. It’ll give you a hint about what type of content to create or curate.

How to Track:
You can keep track of your share totals through Facebook Insights. If you’d prefer to keep a copy on your computer, you can also export your Facebook Insights data and download it directly to your computer.

Here are instructions on how to export your Facebook Insights data.

Comments

If there’s anything better than shares, it’s comments– especially positive comments. Welcome comments, and also track them.

Comments show you that people are engaged with your brand and care about your social content. That’s a big deal, for three distinct groups:

Your business: As a business, you’ll learn more about your audience based on the comments they leave behind.
Your community: Not everyone will comment, but people who do inspire others to comment as well. Thank followers who post positive things, and respond immediately to negative comments, so you can control the conversation.
The social platform itself: Social media algorithms decide what content to promote based on key indicators, especially comments. More comments increase your chance of getting found organically.

How to Track:
An easy way to track comments is to use a tool like Agorapulse. It may be a bit of an investment, but it’s an all-in-one monitoring tool for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The more active (and successful) you on are social media, the more comments you’ll need to manage. This tool will help you stay on top of comments quite easily.

To track comments manually, create another spreadsheet where you copy and paste comments from your social media page. It’s a good idea to separate these comments by positive sentiments, negative sentiments, and questions. Hopefully, by doing so, you’ll notice trends in what you need to work on, what questions you can better answer, and also what you already excel at as a business.

Mentions

Are people talking about your business on social media? If they are, you need to know about it because:

It’ll give you insight into how others perceive your company (which is usually not how you see yourself).
It’ll give you an opportunity to interact with the person who mentioned you so you can build a relationship with them and also (maybe) reach their audience, too.

A free tool for monitoring mentions on social media is Social Mention.

If you’d like to go with a paid option (with more features), check out Mention and HootSuite. When you use either of these sites, you can create an alert for your business, and be informed whenever someone mentions you directly or indirectly. Here’s Hootsuite’s guide to social listening for your business and here’s more information about how to track your brand mentions with Mention.

Reach and Impressions

How many people saw your content in a given time period (i.e. over the last 30 days?)

It’s not unusual for your number of impressions to be higher than the number of followers you have. Here’s how that happens:

Your content isn’t just seen by the people who follow you. It’s also seen by the friends and family of people who follow you. For example, in your own Facebook feed, you’re likely to see an article that your friends have shared even if you’re not familiar with the original content or content creator. That’s the viral nature of social media.

By the way, reach is the number of people who see your content.

Impressions are the number of times your post is shown.

A reach can be lower than an impression because one person can see your post several different times.

What Doesn’t Matter So Much

This may shock you, but some of the most prized metrics don’t actually matter. So-called vanity metrics only matter to your ego, but they don’t really make a difference for your business. Let’s look at the two most ineffective metrics:

Page Likes

There used to be a time when people thought that the sun rose and set on how many likes you got on your Facebook page. They were wrong. Page likes don’t matter very much at all.

Here’s why: Page likes can be manipulated.

You can buy page likes (but please don’t do that).

Or you can say, “I’ll give you this wonderful freebie in exchange for a “like” on Facebook.” Businesses do this all the time. (i.e. “Like us on Facebook for an exclusive coupon.”) This works because people don’t really have a lot to lose by liking your page. However, it doesn’t convert into a real relationship with your audience, not in the way that comments do for example.

Followers

The amount of people who follow you is another useless metric. Unless they’re actively engaged with your business (i.e. sharing, commenting, clicking through to your website), they might as well not even exist. That sounds pretty harsh, but it’s true.

Here are some resources on building the right type of audience:

How to Successfully Target a Niche Facebook Audience
6 Science-Backed Strategies to Get More Followers on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and More

Final Thoughts

By tracking your social media shares, comments, and mentions, you’ll learn more about your audience, and how best to reach them. Whether your goal on social media is engagement, discovery, or reputation management, studying metrics will only improve your outreach.

What is your favorite social media metric and why? Let me know over on my Facebook page here.

Janet Chiu, Strategic Team Blog Author

The creatives I work with ask provocative questions about the latest trends in website marketing. Strategic Team is where we work out the answers (and have a little fun).