Social media metrics and measuring success

Ruth G. | October 21, 2020
18 mins

Your business' success can depend on engaging users where they spend the most time online. That means using social media. That sounds simple, but you need to determine what works for your brand and what doesn't.

The only way to do this is by measuring your success with social media metrics.

What are social media metrics?

The simple definition of social media metrics is the usage of statistical data to measure your audience's engagement in your social media presence.

Audience engagement can take many forms. On Facebook, liking a post is a type of passive engagement, whereas sharing and commenting is an active engagement. For Instagram, engagement can take the form of commenting and bookmarking. Twitter has its unique form of engagement too. For example, retweeting is unique to Twitter's platform. Social media metrics gauge the impact of your marketing strategy on platforms such as (but not limited to) Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

It can be easy to get overwhelmed with all the different levels of engagement and click-rate that can be measured and researched but don't worry. For the vast majority of businesses, there are just a few key ones you should focus on. By sticking to these as a baseline, you're on your way to becoming proficient in social media stats and how they affect your business.

You'll want to be on the social media platforms where your audience is, and those can change over time. Each platform also has its rules of engagement. On LinkedIn, for instance, it makes more sense to publish content that elevates people's professional profiles, or is useful for their work or job search. The metrics for these platforms are simple to track, and there are a variety of key features on which to focus. Below are five basic metrics that are important to understand and become proficient in reading:


Volume can also be considered 'relevance.' This metric is fairly simple to monitor and useful to think about in terms of yes or no, love or hate, enthusiasm or disgust. There is rarely a high level of volume for a topic or brand that is considered bland or boring.

It's important to drill down into the numbers when you see a spike in volume.

With Facebook's Insights page, you can accurately see how many people are posting in the conversation box, sharing the post, or just like-ing the post and moving on with their scrolling behavior. Take a look at what day of the week, and time of day, your volume spikes. This will provide a good marker to help you figure out the timing of future announcements that will get the most attention.

Volume notes interest, but now it's time to see if that specific interest is a good thing for your brand.

Share of voice

Size up the competition by measuring the 'share of voice.' This is the metric that measures how your competitors are doing when it comes to who has the most engagement. If you're selling homemade artisanal soaps, are your customers engaging with your promotions on social media as heavily as your nearest competition? If not, what are these other companies doing that works?

Moz's deep dive into the topic offers this calculation to determine Share of Voice:

Brand advertising ($ or #) / Total market advertising ($ or #) = Share of voice

Here is a way to make it even simpler:

Your Brand Advertising / Total Market Advertising = Share of Voice

For instance, let's say a popular brand of headphones has a total of 1000 ads on social media.

If the total views for all headphone ads are 400 and this particular brand has 200 of those ads that are seen, then the Share of Voice owned by that company is 50% in the social media space.

Therefore, your brand's footprint online and your brand via online audience engagement is the total number to compare with your competition.

Third-party tools can make these calculations much easier. Awario monitors brand mentions and gauges statistics with the ability to respond directly from the Awario platform. The tool allows you to analyze reach, sentiment, and influencers too.

Another popular tool is Brand24. It lets you see what's going on in real-time. Track your brand, campaigns, mentions, and also relevant keywords to stay on top of the competition.

When you understand where you fall inside the overall share of voice, your company can gain insight into how to grow your position within a competitive market.


Reach differs from the volume in that it measures how far your content is spreading across a social media platform. Sometimes the audience for your post will be larger than the number of followers you have.

For example, when checking your metrics on Instagram, a post may have a thousand likes, even though your business account may only have 300 followers. With this information, you can see if a certain topic or hashtag has broadened your reach to engage a large portion of the population.

Reach brings other metrics into perspective. By understanding the reach of your content, you can calculate the amount of engagement in a post instead of just views.


The term 'influence' comes with some bad press that can make one think of slyly sponsored Instagram posts and the Fyre Festival. All controversy aside, when we talk about influence, we talk about how high a profile those that are engaging with your content have online. Influence doesn't always mean that a particular person has a lot of followers, but rather that they are seen as a thought-leader or respected member of a certain community. This can be anything from a high-profile tech reporter to a YouTube make-up artist.

A trusted voice in the community which shares and engages with your content is a valuable influencer. Measuring the value of an influencer is possible with tools like Talkwalker and Brandwatch Audiences. Sophisticated tools like these offer free demos to test if their product is right for you. On average, prepare to spend a few hundred dollars per month. Prices always vary, however, depending on the level of analytics you need. It's worth testing these out and seeing how much easier the process can be with the proper software at your fingertips.

Talkwalker is a simple metric tool that helps you find out who your influencers are and where they are engaging their audience. You can measure sentiment along with other social media analytics to combine for a complete view. Brandwatch Audiences focuses on Twitter influencers with clearly designed dashboards and real-time analytics that help you measure who is reaching your target audience.

With this information at hand, you can then decide how and when to personally reach out to influencers when you have content or promotions that may be of interest to them.


What is your goal on social media? Engagement is a vital key to understanding if you're meeting that goal. Engagement is the most vital key to measure when it comes to social media metrics. It will tell you how your audience participates, where, and their methods of sharing your posts.

Across all social media platforms, reactions to content can be passive and dynamic. 

The passive platforms will be just a simple viewing of the post or, at best, a 'like.' It can also be a shorter viewing of a video. For example, if your video is three minutes long, the viewer may click away after just halfway. This still counts as engagement but it is not ideal.

On the next level of engagement, a user may share your post on Facebook or retweet on Twitter. They may also choose to join or spark a conversation with comments and replies. This is where your engagement levels rise and worthy of taking note as to which pieces of content garner the most attention. It is highly useful to watch which content gets the most attention since it might surprise you that an audience latches on to a topic that you never expected would be popular.

Engagement will help you track if your goals are the same as the reality of the type of engagement that is happening. In other words, if you want your videos shared, but the audience is simply 'like-ing' them, then your engagement is not meeting your needs. However, if that audience is talking about the videos a lot, then this might be a new way to attract people to your content. Without that engagement metric, it would be very difficult to know what is going on with your efforts.

In a practical manner, engagement works differently on each platform. However, it can be viewed through the same definitive lens of strengthening bonds with your customer base. These bonds have the potential to lead to sales, greater brand awareness, and trust.

Twitter engagement

  • RT (ReTweet): When another user chooses to share your Tweet on their personal Twitter feed. This can include a comment or just simply a republishing without comment.
  • Mentions: Another user mentions your Twitter handle in their Tweets. For example "@BrandX"
  • Likes: A user clicks the heart below one of your Tweets.
  • Clicks: When a user clicks on a link you've published within a Tweet.
  • DM (Direct Message): A user sends a private message to your profile, similar to a private email, as the public cannot see this.
  • # (Hashtag): Users mention your brand with a word or brand-name with the "#" before it, thereby making the term easier to find and searchable.

Facebook engagement

  • Likes: A user clicks the 'like' option below your post or comment. Like can take the form of a number of sentiments spanning from enthusiasm to anger. This helps you to gauge sentiment on your posts.
  • Share: A user shares your post on their timeline.
  • Comment: A conversation starter or comment on one of your brand's posts.

Instagram engagement

  • Likes: A user clicks the ‘like’ option below your post or comment. This is similar to Twitter and Facebook (without the option for sentiment).
  • Comment: A conversation starter or comment on one of your brand’s posts.
  • Views: A passive form of engagement, views shows how many people are making the effort to watch your Instagram Stories or videos on your feed. It requires the user to click on the content, therefore counts as an engagement metric.

How to measure social media effectiveness

Measuring your social media presence's overall effectiveness will be primarily determined by the goals you've set for yourself. This will help you identify what you're looking for and save time from over-analyzing every single tweet and conversation answer. For example, if you want to track how many shares of your Christmas promotion deal, you should take a look at URL shares specifically over 'likes.'

You may be asking yourself what kind of social media metrics tools you'll need. With the rise of social media came the rise of third party software to measure and monitor. There are so many options on the market, both free and paid subscription, that it can look overwhelming at first. Let's break it down into simple terms.

  • How many social media platforms are you using?
  • How large is your audience?
  • What type of content are you posting?
  • Are you posting more organic, or more paid content?

The answers to these questions will help you decide on the complexity of the monitoring tool you'll need. Once you've determined which social media platforms are of the greatest importance to your specific business model, it's time to look at their available metrics. Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram offer their own dashboards and insights. However, you may want to consider third-party software to have all these at a glance in one place.

Here are a few easy-to-use popular social media monitoring tools to help get you started:

RelateSocial offers curated analytics reports that allow you to track the engagement and reach of your content across social media. You can measure the reactions your posts get on each network and truly understand what's working. This tool even allows you to set keywords to find new customers and stay ahead of your competitors. You can also track links in posts and identify popular content, even on mobile.

Sprout Social's comprehensive social media monitoring tool covers all the platforms we've mentioned above: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. A major player in the analytics space, Sprout offers a one-month free trial to take a look and see if their product is right for you. In addition to analytics, you can manage all your social media accounts through their software. This convenient all-in-one-place tool can take some of the labor out of continually switching accounts and dashboards.

Mentioned in our section above as a strong tool for evaluation and sourcing of influencers, Talkwalker is a standout platform in more ways than one. A centralized social media analytics tool with an easy-to-view dashboard, Talkwalker also offers a free 30-day trial. A great feature of theirs is the option to plug in your competitors' social media URLs and compare the effectiveness and reach. With sentiment analysis, Google Analytics tie-ins, influencer evaluations, and more, Talkwalker is a contender in the metrics monitoring tool's competitive space.

Shortstack is focused on promotions and contests. If you've ever featured a promotion, coupon, or referral program, this is the analytical tool to help you drill down on your success metrics.

When you've chosen which platform to use, create a schedule to check your metrics. Rather than stressing out every day over how one Tweet is progressing, create a time and day of the week on which to take a look and evaluate your progress. Keeping to a schedule will help you make an informed assessment about changing your tactics or building on current success rates.

Sometimes you'll need to be online and checking the activity every day. If you're promoting a new product for a limited time only, or if your customers need assistance due to an unpredicted problem with your product, you'll want to pay attention to your metrics daily. Using a centralized metrics measuring tool makes this task simple. Just check in on your mentions and shares each hour and see where your attention is needed most. 

If your Twitter feed is the most active, then focus your replies there. If your Instagram comments are getting lots of additional chatter, spend some time responding and monitoring sentiment on that platform.

All of these third-party tools will help you not only track your targeted marketing strategy roll-outs but also keep an eye on your ongoing presence. If your customers are suddenly asking questions or talking about something that didn't occur to your marketing team, this could help put out any fires before they get out of hand. Social media metrics helps you not only measure success but be aware of any pitfalls along the way.

“If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.”

This popular phrase has evolved from its 1970s roots as a conceptual art-piece by Richard Serra and Carlota Fay Schoolman, challenging the world of television advertising. The internet age has adopted it as a warning against free social media that gathers data from its users, Facebook being the biggest culprit.

In terms of small business marketing via social media, when utilizing the free, or oftentimes referred to as organic options, you are at the mercy of whatever internal choices that platform makes for itself. This can create more hoops and uncertainty to reach your target goals.

Facebook started out as the leader of the pack when it came to social media marketing. With the rise of different platforms and younger generations shifting their focus, Facebook is now seen as another tool in your toolkit, but not necessarily the most important one. Treat Facebook as a potential avenue, one of many roads to success.

When it comes to a serious promotion or outreach strategy, paying for visibility on social media can be considered a wise budgetary expense. Before you start putting money toward investing in every paid promotion offered, consider organic first.

With the ultimate goal of engagement leading to acquisition and conversion into repeat customers, the organic reach can create a sense of trust with your audience from the start. Organic reach uses the free tools available on social network platforms that offer engagement and the ability to converse and share information. It does not, however, target audiences or appear at the top of a feed. By using third-party tools such as Hootsuite, you can schedule when to publish organic posts.

Bear in mind that the amount of internet 'noise' can be overwhelming, and thus finding your audience organically without any paid outreach will be a big job. Social media companies are starting to focus on who pays them for advertising and featuring those customers.

The decline in Facebook's organic reach has been noted since 2014 with EdgeRank's published study noting a 60% drop off within two years. Social@Ogilvy suggested that a page with 500,000 likes might only gain 2% organic reach.

SocialFlow said in 2016 that an even further 52% decline in organic reach occurred.

With numbers like these, it's hard to ignore paid advertising as a viable option.

Since your goal of engagement should lead to conversion and acquisition of new and returning customers, paid outreach in conjunction with organic is a must. If you're not spending some of your budgets on social media, you cannot rely on your efforts to receive the desired impact.

Paid outreach has the benefit of targeting demographics that are interested in your products and services. You can specify geographic regions, ages, and interests to make the most of your specific promotions and communications.

For example, if you are selling tickets to your New York City Off-Broadway one-woman show, you'll want to focus on people in that geographic region who are interested in things such as performance, theater, and nightlife may be older than 21 years of age. With paid outreach, you can enter these specifications.

Building an audience with paid outreach, maximizes your time and energy for social media advertising.

To help you on your way to social marketing success that will be easy to follow and measure, consider marketing guru Avinash Kaushik's ground-breaking 'See, Think, Do, Care' method.

Social media requires a different tactic than traditional advertising ways of 'awareness, consideration, purchase, and loyalty.' Customers in the 21st-century view products in a completely different manner than before. Consider this new framework as a ladder to successful outreach, be it paid or organic:


This is your targeted demographic in a general sense, those that are interested in the topic and related topics of your goods and services. Knowing who this audience helps you to create content that will be of interest to them.


The next step is creating content and conversation starters, making it easy for the audience to make a purchasing decision—for example, product comparison lists, how-to videos, and more.


Add actionable items to your marketing strategy. Calls to action such as easy-to-click promotions, coupon codes, customer care chat, and add-to-cart buttons can be included in your social media paid promotions in addition to being on your website.


Follow up on the enthusiasm of a promotion, even if the offer is for a finite period of time. By continuing to engage with your audience on social media organically, you increase the amount of trust and the potential for repeat customers with word-of-mouth sharing potential.

This new strategy for online marketing is easy to follow, more personable than ever before, and of course, easy to track in your social metrics toolkit.

While measuring your social media metrics, you'll constantly be asking yourself about ROI, return on investment. How you measure this success ultimately depends on the brand objectives you set for yourself. If it's awareness, engagement, or sales, monitoring your presence will give you the answers you need to either stay the course or pivot to a new strategy.

By learning how to use metrics monitoring tools, you'll save time and money by tracking if all your efforts are working the way you intended. Instead of a guessing game, metrics help you see your strategy in action in terms of critical thinking and assessment. Keep clear objectives in mind and track your performance metrics diligently, and you'll be on your way to using social media successfully to build up your business' online footprint.


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Ruth G.

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