Social Media Metrics – Separating Vanity From Valuable


Thanks to Simply Zesty for an introduction to metrics to pay attention to, especially when getting started.

No matter what industry you’re in, data will always play a key part. Data provides certainly and cold, hard facts that can help businesses thrive. It’s no surprise that by their very nature, the Web and social media have sped up the progress of analytic tools, becoming faster and more accurate. It’s why the majority of social media sites offer up their own analytics tools and why there are many so many are looking for real stats to work from.

Yet sometimes having a lot of data at your fingertips can be a hindrance. Our analytics can be filled with so much data that it can be difficult to determine what data is useful. It can be dangerous to take one metric on its own at face value so a combination of different metrics can help paint a picture of how well your social media activity is going.

Type of Metrics

There are a number of different engagement types out there, but here are the ones you should keep in mind when you’re devising a strategy.

Perhaps the most important metric you can find, knowing the type of engagement levels is paramount to success on social media. These are the conversations, the likes, the retweets, the mentions and shares that happen online around your brand and page.

Some sites provide an engagement figure for you to work from, but it’s usually better to look beyond that and analyse each post in particular. How many people commented? Did anyone share it? What was the quality of comments like? Has the post sparked a discussion? Delving into how people interact can provide greater results, as you’ll discover what topics resonate with your fans.

For most social media analytics, this figure is made up of likes, shares and comments and while it’s fine to take this figure at face value, but sometimes a deeper analysis is required.

Basically how many people are able to see your posts when you first publish something, making this the second most important metric for a business. More importantly, you’ll be able to see whether your audience is growing or not. Again, you shouldn’t use this figure at face value simply because reach only tells part of a story (for one, it doesn’t tell how many people actually engaged with your content), but using it in conjunction with engagement figures can tell you how much of your audience is actively engaging with your content.

Views/Time Spent
Mainly for visual mediums like slides, images and videos, views basically tells you how many people have watched or looked at your video. For the most part, YouTube relies upon this metric to say whether a video has become a success or not, but it’s introduced another new metric which shows you how many minutes were spent watching a particular video.

Mainly for those using web tools like Google Analytics, referrals tells you where your traffic is coming from, be it from search engines, social media and third-party sites. The aim for any site is to ensure that more people stay on the site so looking at this figure alongside the amount of time spent on your site. If you’re using a particular site to drive traffic (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.), this is a good way to see what content works and engages with users the most. It’s better to compare it with two different sites as you could have vastly different audiences for each.

Another area worth looking at is the bounce rate (the percentage of visitors who enter the site and immediately leave). A high bounce rate is common for blogs and any content posted via social media as it means that people are only visiting your site for that particular link.

Sentiment analysis
A recently formed metric, this looks beyond the hard data and measures the overall mood of people on social media. This metric is imperfect at best as there hasn’t been a sophisticated enough algorithm to properly measure this. The best to currently measure this, provided you aren’t overwhelmed with mentions every day, is to take each tweet/comment individually and determine whether’s it’s positive, negative or neutral. Tools like Social Mention can calculate this for free, but it’s best not to rely on this method too much.

Share of Voice
Another metric that’s been around for a while, but has received a new lease of life through social media, Share of Voice refers to how many times your mentioned is mentioned in comparison to other brands who are in the same category. Calculating it is by dividing the number of conversations or mentions of your brand by total overall mentions. A number of tools like Radian6 offer features that can calculate this for you

Danger Of Vanity Over Real Metrics

While there are a lot of metrics to choose from, it’s important to know which ones are worth noting and which ones are just nice to look at. Some of the figures that are thrown about in social media tend to be vanity metrics – those that look nice or sound important, but provide little overall value.

A good example would be Facebook, pretty much everyone knows that using likes as a way of measuring success is shortsighted at best. Instead, you focus more on engagement metrics like “People Talking About This” and combine them with other metrics to get a better idea of how you’re progressing.

Social Media Metrics

As mentioned earlier, don’t resort to likes as a way of measuring success. Instead what you should focus on is engagement figures like “People talking about this” and delve into insights. For each post that you publish on the site, you will also get figures for engaged users, the reach and the overall virality (those who created stories out of your post).

While LinkedIn provides the usual impressions and engagement statistics, one features that you should keep an eye on as well is follower demographics, most specifically function. This shows you exactly what industries your audience is in, which gives you an idea as to what content will resonate with them. Region and industry can come in useful too, but since your audience will be looking for content that relates to their positions, it’s better to plot your updates this way.

The number of views your video gets is still king, but you should also take into consideration the other metrics at your disposal. One that will be very useful in determining the success of your videos will be the “estimated minutes watched” section. Dividing this number by the number of views your video has received should give you an idea as to whether people are watching the full video or not.

Google Analytics
If you’re new to Google analysis or just want to simplify the experience, there are a few metrics you should focus on. The first should be traffic sources. This can be broken down into four main sections, search traffic (from Google. etc.), referral traffic (from social media, third-party sites), direct traffic and campaigns. If your traffic from search is high (more than 70%), you may want to address it as any changes to Google’s search algorithm will hurt you badly.

The second is visitor count which comes up when you first login to analytics. While this can be a vanity metric at the best of times, you should monitor it for any notable change in the number of people visiting your site. If a change occurred because you modified your site or tried a different social media strategy, then the results will begin to show themselves here.

The other factors to take into account is average time on page/site and bounce rate. The latter tells you what percentage of people who visit your site leave without viewing a second page on your site. If the bounce rate is high and the time spent on your site is low, you might want to reconsider the type of content you’re putting out there.


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