Likes. Comments. Followers. Shares. Forwards. Saves. Mentions. Stories. Reach. Impressions. Engagement. RoI. Yes, there is an awful lot going on in the world of social media metrics….
It can be difficult to know what to follow closely and which metrics should be a priority for your business’ social media accounts. Here are some of our tips as to which social media metrics you should and should not be paying attention to and why.
The Social Media Metrics You Should Not Be Paying Very Close Attention To.
One of the OGs of the world of social media metrics. “Our post about the new 20% off Black Friday Sale got 150 likes!”. Great, 150 likes! What does that mean?
The activity of “Liking” on social media is a funny one. The meaning of the action can range from “I love this brand. I’m not going to read this post but I love everything they do! Like.” to “My two best friends liked this video, that probably means I would like it too so I don’t need to bother watching it! Like.” to “That was an interesting piece of content from a page I actively follow. I do like that. Like.”.
We are all guilty of liking content on social media for a whole host of other reasons than you actually genuinely enjoy what has been posted. And to the business that has posted the content, a lot of these likes are not particularly helpful.
You would rather have 30 genuine likes, than 150 likes for reasons other than actually liking what was posted. And of course, social media platforms have no way of knowing a person’s reason for liking a piece of content.
Nowadays Instagram users can buy likes. Here is an example of a comment posted on a piece of content. The 512 likes on the comment pushed it to the top of the comments section, based on the number of likes it got. The majority of “people” who liked this comment are fake profiles, created with the sole purpose of liking instructed content so it can receive more views, notoriety and awareness.
Brands can do the same thing – inflate the number of likes on a particular post or comment to give the perception of greater popularity and greater visibility in a comment section or newsfeed.
While finally, even the social media platforms themselves have been taking the importance away from the number of likes in recent years.
In 2019 Instagram announced that it was planning to hide the exact number of likes on a post. Despite some initial resistance, it went ahead as planned.
Nowadays it is the norm to see “Liked by badgirlriri and others” or “Liked by barackobama and 57.5k others”. Everyone has accepted that the need to know the specific number of likes on a post is not that important. We have all moved on.
Did one of your posts not get as many likes as you would have hoped for? Don’t get too hung up about it, there are plenty of other social media metrics that you can examine in relation to the content you posted that are far more beneficial.
Another of the OGs of the world of social media engagement and metrics. What is important to note is that not all comments are the same. That sounds pretty simple and obvious but let us explain.
Let’s say that you are the social media manager of Nike and you have just posted the following content.
You receive 7254 comments on the post. 30% of comments resemble; “@jon121 these are the boots I have been waiting for!!”. 20% of comments dish out praise like; “Nice boots!”. 10% of comments are ignoring the brand and boots entirely with comments like; “I LOVE NEYMAR!!”. 30% of comments are trashing all of your hard work by saying; “Those boots are absolutely hideous, who would buy them?”. 5% of comments are highlighting another issue like; “Hey @Nike I still have not received my shoes I ordered two weeks ago! You won’t respond to my emails!”. While finally, 5% of comments follow a theme of; “Want to get rich from investing in Bitcoin? Follow my page to find out how!”.
What here is actually helpful to Nike?
The first 30% are your perfect followers; they comment with a positive sentiment, indicating an intention to purchase and are advocating the brand to others. These comments are valuable and worth tracking and even interacting with.
The next 30% are expressing a positive sentiment, but no advocacy to others and are showing no intention to buy. While it is nice to read positive feedback, these comments are unlikely to lead to further awareness or sales.
The next 35% are expressing negative sentiment.
The people who are publicly condemning your product, there is very little you can do about it. It comes part of being active on social media.
The people who are expressing frustration about your product or service need to be taken seriously, interacted with and an attempt at a fair resolution should be made. Negative eWOM can spread very quickly and can be detrimental for a brand. Just ask United Airlines…..
While that final 5% have begun taking over particularly the Instagram comment section in recent years. They are usually fake profiles or bots who are looking to get you to visit their page and click on the link in their bio. They offer your business nothing and should be blocked and reported for spam.
So looking at all of that through the lens of social media metrics, if that social media manager was to report back to the overall head of marketing at Nike and say; “We got almost 8000 comments on that post, it was a success!”. Is that accurate?
Comments should not be looked at in terms of quantity, it is all about quality there. As a pure social media metric, do not get too hung up on the amount of comments your content does or does not receive. Focus more on what is being said instead.
Many of the points raised with likes and comments can also be applied to the numbers of page likes or followers a brand or business has. The number at the top of the page can be misleading and deceptive.
Let us create a situation around followers as a social media metric.
There is a new clothing brand WarmWoolies that has grown to 15,000 followers on Instagram. They are looking to grow to the next level and have decided to partner with a local influencer that has 75,000 followers to engage in some influencer marketing to grow awareness, following and sales.
This influencer could potentially be the perfect choice, but simply going by the number of followers he/she as a single metric could also be a very bad idea. Why?
Followers can be broken into three different categories; inactive, active and advocates.
Inactive followers are following the influencer, but do not like, comment, share, save, forward or even view stories posted. They would be of no use to WarmWoolies.
Active followers engage with the influencer by liking, commenting, privately sharing content and viewing stories. These are the people that WarmWoolies would be paying the influencer money to get their product in front of.
Advocates are the kind of followers that will publicly advocate something through nothing other than absolute loyalty to the influencer. They publicly enter competitions, tag the influencer and products, will tag other people, etc. These advocates are so loyal to the influencer that they are most likely to purchase a WarmWoolies product once they see the influencer wearing it.
So from the point of view of WarmWoolies looking to work with this influencer; the inactive followers are pretty useless, the active followers have potential and the advocates are valuable.
But how is this clothing brand to know what percentage of this influencer’s 75,000 followers could be active, inactive or advocates? They need to request information that digs deeper than a stand alone follower number, information like;
- What percentage of their followers view a story over a 24 hour period?
- What percentage of their followers generally click through to a sponsored link?
- On average, how many “saves” will they get per sponsored post?
- On average, what percentage of their comments are advocacy comments?
The answers to these questions will determine the potential success of an influencer marketing campaign and should dictate whether this potential influencer is worth working with or not. Presuming because the influencer has 75,000 followers means that anything posted on their story will get 75,000 views is likely very wide of the mark.
A final point on followers, just like “likes”, followers can now be bought as well to inflate their perceived popularity. A follower number can be inflated with an agreed upon number of fake profiles (see below) that will never be of marketing benefit to anyone.
Just like with comments, followers should be looked at in terms of quality not quantity so as a stand alone social media metric, the amount of followers is not a metric to get too hung up on. Yes you should always be trying to grow your number of followers, but in the right way.
So, right there is a whole lot of negativity regarding social media metrics and what is bad and what not to focus. Time for some positivity and advice on what to do!
The Social Media Metrics You Should Be Paying Attention To.
- Reach & Impressions.
These two social media metrics go hand-in-hand with one another and are easily accessible. They tell you how many times your piece of content has been viewed and by how many people.
For example, Instagram will provide you with a breakdown of where the impressions on your posted content came from (see below). This is particularly helpful for a number of reasons.
Let’s say that the above figures were the reach and impressions figures from a photo on Instagram of a beanie hat that WarmWoolies posted. They see that they generated 389 impressions from the hashtags they used on that particular post.
They could then post similar content the following week related to beanie hats again, but change up the hashtags. When the numbers come in on that photo they could assess how many impressions they generated from hashtags on that post, thus telling them which are the more engaging set of hashtags.
Similarly when dealing with paid ads on social media, reach and impressions will generally give a good indication of whether you are likely to meet your campaign goals and will also give tips as to how to better optimise reach and/or impressions.
If you ever run a campaign on Twitter, the very first metric given is ‘Impressions’. The number of impressions then becomes the basis for all other metrics, so when combined with things like ‘Spend’ or ‘Results’ can create new metrics such as ‘Results Rate’ and ‘Cost per Result’.
These social media platforms will provide you with reach and impression metrics, it is then up to you to record and track them and then use them to inform some of your other metrics.
- Shares, Stories, Reposts, Retweets.
Having a piece of content shared, storied, reposted or retweeted organically is the best form of free and mass advertising there is.
Advocate followers usually participate in this kind of online behaviour and will share content based on brand loyalty, an excellent customer experience or wanting to spread a positive message or sentiment about the company.
Of course this can work against a brand or business as well, in that negative comments or sentiment towards a brand can be shared to a mass audience. But it is up to the brand to have contingency plans in place to combat this sort of negative eWOM.
We have all seen countless businesses offering a giveaway of some sort in return for a few small social media actions being taken in return. You can guarantee every single time some element of sharing, reposting, storying or retweeting will take place with it.
It is the quickest, easiest and cheapest way of getting more eyeballs on your content and when analysing social media metrics, this is a metric that should be looked at closely, followed and valued quite highly.
- Organic Brand Advocates.
Mentioned already a few times in this blog, but organic brand advocates are hugely valuable to any brand. They will share positive messages on social media without being prompted to.
They are essentially unpaid brand ambassadors and brands should be doing all in their power to keep them sweet and onside. This could be done as simply as replying to their comments, dropping them an occasional DM or reposting their stories that have tagged your brand in them. These actions require little or no effort but will go a long way in keeping these brand advocates onside.
If your business is doing well enough that you can afford to send out some free samples to these loyal brand advocates, we recommend it is an avenue you should explore!
Keeping an Excel spreadsheet with the names of your most loyal and vocal supporters and how often they are reposting your content is a very simple and worthwhile exercise that brands should be doing.
- Click-Through Rate (CTR).
If you are spending money on a campaign to increase newsletter subscriptions on your website for example, and are receiving a tiny percentage of people clicking through from a large number of people viewing the ad, you are failing at your objective and are instead just spending money on an awareness campaign.
Websites can track exactly where traffic is coming from, just like social media platforms can track how many people clicked on the link in an ad or clicked on the link in a bio.
Your click-through rate is often there staring at you in the face and it should be tracked and monitored to make sure it is meeting your goals.
For example – WarmWoolies plan to run a Facebook ad campaign with an intended reach of 10,000 people and from this campaign are hoping to get 500 people to the website with the intention of subscribing to their mailing list. Their projected click-through rate is therefore 5%.
WarmWoolies then hit the 5% target and 500 users click-through to their site. Great! But then only receive 50 new subscribers to the mailing list. They would then need to start looking at website functionality, product offering, among other things, as to why the conversion number was so low.
CTRs are vitally important for any business to ensure that their activity on social media, both organic and paid, are having the desired effect on business goals.
- Return on Investment (RoI).
Social media marketing spends, just like spends on production, warehousing, transportation, sales or general marketing, should be tracked in terms of how much each cent will make as a result of this activity.
If WarmWoolies decided they wanted to partner with an influencer at a cost of 1000€ and brought in 3000€ worth of sales directly linked to the influencer, their RoI is 3x for that campaign. Is that satisfactory? That depends on the goals and expectations set by the company and/or investors.
In the same way, if WarmWoolies spent 200€ on Facebook Ads to advertise a Black Friday sale and made revenue of 1800€ from it, they made a return 9x that of their investment. The success or failure of these goals campaigns depends on goals outlined in the planning stages of the campaigns.
Your RoI is a very easy metric to track and it is highly likely that you are already, especially if dealing with external investors. But if you are starting up your own business and advertising using social media ads, make sure you track your RoI on every single spend or campaign you run.
The save feature on Instagram was introduced in 2017 and we believe is often a very underappreciated social media metric.
When someone saves a post on Instagram it is showing a much higher level of engagement and intention than a like for example. When someone saves a post, what are they actually saying?
“I don’t have time to look closely at this right now, but that necklace is perfect for my sister’s birthday. I will have a proper look at it later on.”
“Those chocolate brownies look delicious, I must save this and get the ingredients next time I am in the shop”.
A save shows a level of higher consideration or intention. Saves are often underappreciated and if you are active on Instagram and are selling physical products, saves can be a good benchmark of what people think of the content you are putting out.
- Average Response Time.
A recent case study found that 67% of dissatisfied customers will go to a company’s social media accounts to try to resolve an issue or problem that they might have.
As well as these dissatisfied customers looking for answers or resolutions to a problem, people also reach out to social media pages of a business to ask general questions, to shower them with praise, to send them pieces of content containing their products, to enquire about a job, the list goes on!
What your business should be tracking is how responsive and in what time you are to these queries.
Does this situation sound familiar?
You DM a business on social media a specific question in relation to their product / service offering. Days go by with no response and in the meantime you work it out for yourself or make other arrangements. Days later a reply comes in; “Sorry only seeing this now……”.
What does that say about this particular business?
They are not closely following their channels. Maybe they are not highly competent on this channel. Perhaps they do not highly value DMs that come in. Unfortunately they are too busy and need help with their social media management. These are mostly negative things unfortunately.
A recent survey carried out by Hubspot found that the satisfactory waiting time that customers nowadays expect to hear back from a business on social media is within 60 minutes. While in reality the industry average is closer to 5 hours.
Be monitoring all social media accounts closely at all times and try to respond to customer DMs as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Depending on the size of your operation and the level of expertise you have available, the number of different social media metrics that you are closely monitoring will vary.
The OGs of the world of social media metrics such as ‘Likes’, ‘Comments’ and number of page likes or ‘Followers’ have lost some of their power and should not be obsessed over. Who would have thought that ten years ago!?
There are plenty of other, more valuable metrics that deserve your time and attention instead. Nailing your understanding, implementation and optimisation of metrics like; reach & impressions, shares, number of organic advocates, click-through rate, number of saves, average response time and return on investment will give you a very solid basis for healthy performance and growth on social media.