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The Importance of Social Media Metrics - Definitions and Calculations

Bryan Gan

Jan 25, 2024

The importance of managing a client’s social media accounts is often underestimated, even by marketers themselves. In our current digital age, social media is no longer an alternative world that people plug into, but rather an extension of the world that we already live in. So, by this logic, your social media page reflects who you are and who you want to be, which is especially true for brands who actively showcase their personality online. As far as the 1 billion monthly active Instagram users across the globe are concerned, your social media is your brand.

With this in mind, running an account or ecosystem—from content creation to community management—is a crucial responsibility. However, it can often be difficult to tell how well you’re really doing. Choosing the right social media metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) is therefore vital in helping you to determine the effectiveness of your campaigns.

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But why do social media KPIs even matter?

As Lewis Carroll (and later, George Harrison) so famously stated, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” If you’re running a campaign on social media without taking the time to use an analytics tool to assess if you’re getting the results you want to achieve, then you really don’t know where you’re going.

Social media KPIs and measurement matters because it tells you where you are in terms of starting metrics, where you want to go (objectives) and it informs what action you need to take if you want your social media marketing campaign to meet those objectives. Otherwise, you're driving towards an unknown destination, with no map to guide you, wasting time unnecessarily.

If your business has been trying to make sense of calculating the KPIs of social media posts, here’s where you should start.

Tip: Learn how to measure your social media marketing campaign success.

Social Media Metrics: Definitions and Calculations

Engagement Metrics

Given how big of an umbrella Engagement is, you'll find a few marketing metrics that fall beneath this category such as: 

  • Likes
  • Comments
  • Shares
  • Retweets
  • Click-through rate

Engagement rate is a metric generally used to measure how involved your audience is with a piece of content that's been shared on social media. This interaction with a post will take on the form of likes, comments and retweets, for example.  

To calculate the Engagement Rate, you'll take the total number of engagements for your post, divide that by the total number of page followers and then multiply that by 100. It is important to remember that each platform will have their own total engagement metrics. For example, you might want to measure retweets on Twitter, reposts on Instagram and reshares on Facebook. 

Awareness Metrics

When it comes to measuring brand awareness, impressions and reach are the two important metrics you'll use to measure ROI, but there is a tendency to confuse the two.

  • Impressions: how many times your post appears on someone’s timeline or feed.
  • Reach: the unique number of users who saw your post.

This may sound like a very basic definition of the two terms but with social media platforms constantly updating their already complex algorithms that determine which content shows up on someone's feed, it is very likely that only a small percentage of your audience actually sees your post whenever you share it on social media. This is one reason why there has been a decline in organic reach across social media platforms, and why reach is often lower than impressions.

In addition to the above, share of voice is another important social media metric that falls under the Awareness bracket, as it measures how many users mention your brand on social media, compared to your competitors. Most likely to be used in public relations, share of voice will look at how many times your brand gets mentioned (volume) and how your brand is being perceived on social media (sentiment). 

When it comes to calculating awareness metrics, in-app analytical tools on social media platforms will provide you with the necessary numbers. However, Meltwater's Social Listening tool can give you an in-depth look into the social data collected to help you make informed decisions about your next social media campaign.

Conversion Metrics

If you are looking to see just how impactful and effective your social media KPIs were, you may want to look into the below conversion metrics:

  • Conversion Rate: after clicking a link in your content, this is the percentage of visitors who took an action on a landing page (such as subscribing to your newsletter or downloading an e-book) against the total number of visitors on that same landing page. 
  • Click-Through Rate: the percentage of users who click on the call-to-action link you have in your social media post.
  • Bounce Rate: the percentage of page visitors who click on a link in your social media post but then leave the landing page without taking an action.

Take a look at this video on how to calculate your conversion rate. 

The Importance of Social Media KPIs

Find the one social media metric that matters

Marketers are often tasked with proposing a set of KPIs for their clients and tailoring content and ads to meet these KPIs as consistently as they can. 

At first glance, choosing social media metrics such as engagement rates and click-throughs may seem like the right approach. However, these metrics may not always be reflective of a client’s overall campaign success. While all metrics are helpful for different reasons, savvy marketers should be able to justify why the ones they’ve chosen are best suited for fulfilling specific marketing goals. For example, you can choose to focus on one or more of the following goals:

  • Getting more blog and website traffic
  • Getting more social media engagement (likes, comments and retweets)
  • Getting more leads and calls
  • Getting more branding, reach and visibility online
  • Getting a reputation as an expert (thought-leadership)
  • Getting more sales and conversions

Is your client launching a new product in the market? Is generating brand awareness their main goal? If so, then metrics such as impressions and reach should be used to gauge the effectiveness of promotional ads and content. After all, you want more eyes on your new product and more time spent viewing it, as opposed to clicks to the brand’s website or engagement on a social media post. 

Conversely, there are times when metrics that indicate a deeper level of engagement should be considered. Have you published a new short video about a brand’s set of kitchen knives on Facebook? In this case, video views is probably the most relevant metric for measuring brand awareness. In this case, 3-second and 10-second video views are a couple of options that are available to you. 3-second video views give you the number of people who have watched your video for 3 seconds or more. However, it might not reflect the true effectiveness of your content as your audience may be dropping off after the first few seconds. Hence, consider measuring 10-second views instead.   

Once you have decided on the social media metrics to measure, tracking campaign performance is next on your list. More often than not, your campaign will run across multiple platforms, and measuring its performance can become tedious. Meltwater Engage reports allow you to view your performance across Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and obtain a cross-channel summary report.

open laptop with meltwater engage tool on the screen

This means that you can view your social performance at a glance, track the number of fans you’ve gained, or review post engagement on individual channels. With this information, you can report on top-performing posts, while optimising content for your audiences simultaneously.

Consider uncommon social media metrics

Sometimes, a post’s intent can matter more than its format in determining your success. Perhaps you’ve published a photo that users are meant to tap on in order to view it in its entirety. Users may find it funny; they may laugh and show the post to their friends, but they may not ‘like’ your post. In this instance, a metric such as ‘Post Other Clicks’ will allow you to measure other reactions on posts that follow this meme format. 

snippet of HELLA advert with car headlights

Image taken from HELLA Facebook page

Similarly, if your goal is to drive footfall to an event, measuring a post’s reach or engagement rate may not be ideal. After all, even if your audience interacts with the post, they may not be interested in your event. In this case, click-throughs to the landing page or to your social media account are more indicative of its reception.

The point is that social metrics aren’t always as straightforward as we may believe. As a marketer, you have to analyse data both quantitatively and qualitatively so you can best propose a set of KPIs that will actually help your clients. For example, it's already a given that ad dollars are an absolute necessity due to declining organic reach. A good ad strategy is what gives you the most bang for your buck, and you'll need the right data and insight to effectively create one.

table with client goals, metrics to use and alternative metrics for social media

Use social media data to guide you in your campaign planning

The social media campaign that you decide to run will ultimately depend on your goals. For example, if you decide to go after leads, you will have to create a lead magnet campaign – which incentivises your prospects to share their email address or phone number with you. If you go down this route, you might want to invest in doing some primary research and use the insights you find as gated lead-gen content. Or, you may choose to run a Twitter card campaign or a Facebook ad campaign to generate leads from these two channels immediately, while creating a blog as a long-term mechanism for generating leads from organic traffic.

Most social media platforms have native engagement metrics (Likes on Facebook posts, Views on Instagram stories, etc.) but these are rarely qualitative. For example, engagement rate itself tells you very little. Which demographic engages the most with your social media posts? What are their interests, and how are your communities connected to each other? Meltwater’s Consumer Insights Reports segment and profile your target audience so that you can better understand the type of content that resonates with them. With these insights, you can create content that not only reaches your audience, but also suits their interests and will boost engagement. 

Audience Screenshot Greenpeace Audience Segmente

Naturally, gaining insight on your target audience will help you during campaign planning. If you’re planning an Influencer Marketing campaign, finding influencers that can bring you sufficient ROI can be quite a feat. Vanity metrics, such as follower count and number of likes, are not indicative of true influence. Additionally, with Instagram removing likes, it will be a lot harder to track the success of your social media posts. Meltwater’s Social Influencer tool allows you to narrow down potential influencers for your campaign based on their true reach and audience demographics. Take a look at how Vans used this tool to identify, evaluate, and activate influencers as an example. In this way, legwork can be automated with great accuracy, freeing you up to run your overall campaign strategy. 

Another reliable tactic when it comes to campaign planning is the clever use of Social Listening tools. On any given day, an average of 1.4 billion people log into Facebook, and an average of 95 million photos are uploaded onto Instagram and Social Listening helps you to not miss out on any important mention.

This high volume of data contains potentially invaluable information on your target audiences. and where tools such as Meltwater Explore come in handy. They provide you with a comprehensive view of the conversations that impact your brand, products, and industry. With unlimited searches and full historical data from up to 15 months, you can access reviews, online news, articles from blogs and forums, and data from social media channels such as Instagram, Reddit, Twitter, and Facebook. In addition, you can perform searches on-the-go with our mobile app, or obtain reports to track your progress. These insights can benefit you in improving your campaign strategy. 

Measurement is important

The wonderful thing about online marketing is that you can measure just about everything. From the content that works best on social media to the path your visitors take through your website, to the signups, leads, sales and follow-up; everything can be monitored, measured and customised to optimise the customer experience.

If you’re using a CRM system, you can customise and track the entire customer experience. By measuring 'moments that matter' touchpoints along the customer journey, you may spot a common pattern where prospects fall off or the conversion rate declines. Armed with this insight, you can create campaigns and track which ones are working and which aren’t so that you can put your time, effort and money into the social media campaigns that are providing the ROI you want.

person pointing to an open laptop with analytics on the screen

A good marketing CRM will have the option of using APIs to connect your social media analytics tool with your internal CRM data. That way, you can understand key social media KPIs such as how many clicks and conversions a certain post is getting you so you can adjust your copy and creatives. We'd advise you to get familiar with tools like Google Analytics, Facebook conversion tracking and strategies like A/B testing to refine your social media campaign further through measuring and optimisation.

See if your social media KPIs were successful

Once you have calculated your social media ROI, it’s time to analyse your results, assess if they are taking you where you want to go and tweak and fine-tune your campaigns to take you on a trajectory that leads to social media success. It's a good idea to benchmark your results against a different period; usually brands do this on a quarterly basis. This helps them see where they've moved the needle with their social media efforts. You can do this for your competitors too. If you decide to benchmark against your competitors, social media share of voice is a key metric to evaluate.

How to calculate social media ROI

Calculating your social media ROI isn't going to be as easy as putting random dollars and cents to some retweets, comments and likes. It is much more than that because social media ROI includes all the time, effort and resources used for your social media activities.

However, not all hope is lost, as it is possible to measure your social media campaign results, as Hubspot shows in the below video:

As netizens blaze through trends at unprecedented speeds, so does the world of digital advertising and marketing. Arming yourself with the right tools is crucial in helping brands to formulate actionable steps in order to stay ahead of the curve.