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Elise Dopson on December 18, 2019 (last modified on December 17, 2019) • 17 minute read
After all, how can ‘likes’, ‘followers’, and ‘clicks’ measure up to seemingly more substantive metrics like leads, signups, opportunities, and sales in a reporting setting?
But, social media as a channel can play an important role in a company’s acquisition strategy. Like anything else, it’s how you position its utility and performance that will ultimately sell the value to stakeholders.
So, how do you do that?
Which metrics should be included in every social media report? What else, besides metrics, should be included?
We talked to 60+ marketers to find out the answers.
Metrics are arguably the most important part of your social media reports. They’re figures that you can’t argue about, showing the real impact your social strategy is having on other areas of your business–such as sales or content marketing.
But which KPIs do you need to keep an eye on? And which do stakeholders actually care about?
We’ve collected a list of essential KPIs that every social media report should have, including:
*Editor’s note: Before we dive in with the metrics you should include in a social media report, get a rough understanding of how your channels are performing with our Social Networks Overview. You can see how your follower count changes–and spot whether your report has any impact on your growth:
“When it comes to reporting on your social media marketing efforts, I believe one of the most important metrics to touch on is Impressions,” writes Tim Brown of Hook Agency.
“While likes, comments, and shares are very important, and often take the stage in social media reports, impressions are quite valuable in and of themselves. While they are difficult to measure, and really are much less tangible in terms of proved value – people simply seeing your brand has immense value.”
“Marketing is all about touchpoints. And while someone scrolling past your post may not be optimal, it is still an impression which may convert down the road,” Brown adds.
Another metric that shows how much of your content is being viewed is reach, as Colin Mosier of JSL Marketing & Web Design adds: “One thing that should be included in your social media report is the reach of your posts.”
“This is an important metric to track because it gives you a better idea of how many people actually saw your post. Through shares, likes, and more, additional people actually can see your post without actually interacting with the post themselves.”
“However, even if people have simply seen your post, they have a chance of remembering your business or logo in the future. Increasing your brand recognition can lead to many new leads in the future!”
“If followers aren’t engaging with our posts, what’s the point? Social is to build communities, give fans a place to interact, and have conversations. If that’s not happening, then something is horribly wrong,” says Mike Golpa of G4 by Golpa.
But what does “engagement” look like? Project Management Institute‘s Kristin Jones says: “Engagement rate is calculated by measuring the number of interactions with your content relative to the unique number of users who had the opportunity to engage (the content’s reach).”
“Engagement rate is the key to knowing what your audience cares about, what type of content they are interested in, how they want to be communicated with, and how your content is resonating with them. High engagement rate is a sign of great content in the eyes of your audience.”
“Knowing this data is of value to your business because an engaged audience is a more loyal, emotionally-connected audience who is likely to continue to engage with you in the future, as well as recommend you to others.”
Jones continues: “Be sure to keep track of your engagement rates over time so that you can benchmark against not only your industry but also yourself. Your audience is unique, which is why it is crucial to track your own channel and post performance over time.”
However, Annalea Crowe says the team at Leadfeeder break engagement down and “analyze hashtags, topics, and post formats based on impressions, clicks, comments, shares, and hashtags to help me see what content performs best on each separate platform.”
Brandnic‘s Aqsa Tabassm puts that into practice: “Suppose you have increased 10k followers on a page in 2 months. You are getting post engagement from 2-3% fan following on business-related posts. Is it beneficial for you?”
“No, increasing fan base alone is of no use if your followers are not engaged in your content. It would bring no revenue to your table. Post engagement tells you whether your content strategy is right or you need to refurbish it.”
Plus, Madison Vorbrich of Tandem Interactive says: “When it comes to paid social media, engagement is one of the more affordable campaign objectives within Facebook. AND, it gets even better, you can target users who’ve engaged with your brand in ad campaigns!”
“Social media reports should include engagement across all platforms,” says Synthesio‘s Carmen Yeung. “However, you often post links to other content, I’d argue that clicks on the links are more important than engagement.”
Andrei Vasilescu of DontPayFull agrees: “Any social media report remains incomplete without the statistics of clicks and visits.”
“You must include how many clicks your social media contents have got and the exact number of online visitors to your business website driven by social media content. This data clearly shows the success of your social media marketing efforts.”
SyncShow‘s Bri Curran explains: “Clicks on your social posts are a way to see what your audience is truly interested in. Are they drawn in by blog content or maybe videos? If it’s blogs, what are they about? You can gauge what content your viewers resonate with by the posts they click on.”
Dew Smith of 7Shifts Restaurant Scheduling adds: “While tracking followers, likes, or comments may seem the most relevant, they are not a testament of your actual social media engagement.”
“When people click through your shared content to view your website or collateral, it means your social media post is actually providing enough value to them that they want to learn more. Hopefully, further down the line, they would click into sign up or buy your product/service!”
Smith continues: “By showing your clickthrough traffic alongside your follower growth, you can ensure your audience stays engaged as it’s growing—and you’re not just acquiring bot or unengaged followers that do nothing but “fluff” your audience count.”
James Pollard of The Advisor Coach summarizes: “A lot of people focus on reach, impressions, engagement, etc. but I’ve found that the most profitable metric is the number of people who visit your site.”
“After all, your site is likely where the magic happens. The more people you can get there, the better off you will be.”
Jay Simms thinks “Click-Through-Rate (CTR) is an important metric to include in your social media report. It shows whether or not your followers are interacting with–clicking–and landing where your post intended them to be.”
“CTR is the number of people who viewed AND clicked a link in a post compared to the total number of people who viewed the post aka total impressions.”
“It is better to have low total impressions and a high CTR because it shows your post was impactful enough for followers to interact with it the moment they viewed it,” Simms explains.
“The number of leads generated should always be included in a social media report,” says Shannon Lavenia of Brand Builder Design Studios.
“The purpose of social media should be to generate new business for a company and to stimulate more business from the existing audience. Therefore, it’s important to measure the number of leads generated from campaigns to ensure that social media posts are producing actual revenue for the company.”
In fact, the number of leads generated is the metric that stakeholders care most about in social media reports:
Lavenia adds: “While many social media experts will look only to engagement, that can give you the false perception that social media is working when it fact it may not be driving revenue.”
“A great social media manager or team will look to engagement as it converts to driving in revenue.”
The ‘ROI of social media‘ can mean different things, as Marie Belsten of Bootcamp Media explains: “ROI can direct sales, revenue, and even, generation versus money spent. It can also be something like new leads acquired.”
“Come up with an estimated value of a lead based on what your lead conversion rate looks like, then see if you’re making a positive ROI in terms of money spent and estimated value of a lead.”
Belsten adds: “Growing a following and driving engagement is great and worth measuring, but that’s not going to tell you if your efforts are paying off or not.”
Luke Wester of Miva Inc explains that “as marketers, we get a lot of pressure, sometimes misplaced, to earn big numbers from social.”
“Every business should evaluate the quality of their social traffic. Metrics like Time On Page, Pages Per Session, and Bounce Rate will give insight as to whether your social channel is performing well.”
*Editor’s note: View your most important on-site metrics using our Google Analytics Social Media dashboard. You’ll be able to see which platform brings the highest quality of visitors, along with the number of users and conversion rate of each:
Google Analytics allows you to find the paths people take before making a purchase.
Pauline Sell of 10x Studio explains: “Whatever you want to achieve with your social media strategy – if you can showcase the (often not direct) effect of social media on conversion – your life gets easier in terms of justifying budget/spent.”
“Outside of the performance side of social media (bought ads), the real value of a company’s social media strategy is often subtle or indirect. So: build a reliable attribution model and display the real role/value of social media within it.”
Kevin Olson of Capitol Tech Solutions agrees: “Every single campaign that we have ran has had some sort of end goal (item purchased, form filled out, phone calls, buttons clicked, etc).
“In order to track this we either setup Facebook Pixel events or Google Tag events. These conversions are included in every single social media report because that helps us measure the overall success of the campaign.”
“It doesn’t matter how many clicks you receive or how many times your ad is viewed if your ultimate goal(s) is not being met,” Olson adds.
Summarizing, Ellie-Paige Moore of the bolt way says: “Social media is designed so that you’re encouraging your audience to take action. If you have conversions from your social media channels, then the action you have created in those posts have been successful.”
“Make sure these are prominent in your reporting as you’re identifying and showing that what you’re doing is providing value for money.”
The Other Straw‘s Jamie-Lee Kay thinks: “Tracking and analyzing your audience metrics is a crucial component of a social media report.”
“You need to determine whether your target market is engaging with your content. This includes tracking % of male and female, primary age group and location, new followers and total followers.
“Sometimes people use social media for social media’s sake. And whilst social is an incredible tool for building a brand, it’s important you never lose sight of value,” says Alice Corner of Venngage.
“Tracking your branded search queries after social campaigns alongside direct conversions can really help paint the bigger picture.”
You’ve included your most important metrics in your social media report. But looking at a wall of data can mean nothing to your stakeholders or boss.
How can you make sure they read your report?
Our experts also recommend including the following.
Notice how all of the metrics we’ve shared so far are qualitative? They’re all number-based.
However, Helen Bertelli of Benecomms LLC argues that “one of the most important things a social media team can do is to feedback learnings — not just leads — directly to sales so sales can transform these insights into action.”
“Is there a particular piece of content that is performing well, or a platform that is working better than others, etc.? Sales should know as this information may inform their customer research strategies and pitch conversations.”
Sculpt‘s Josh Krakauer agrees: “As social media marketers, we must remind our stakeholders that the value of the channel is in our relationships with other people. We also have to drill down into the data to surface individual moments that tell a bigger story.”
That’s why their team include the following in their social media reports:
“While there are a lot of metrics that should be monitored and included in a social media report, it’s important to include campaign-specific data when relevant,” writes Perfect Patients‘ Randi Grant.
“For instance, if you’re advertising a promotion on Facebook and Instagram, create a lead ad so that you can collect lead information and attribute the leads generated to that specific campaign.”
“From week to week, you’ll likely report on things like engagement, number of followers, traffic sent to your website, but make sure to separate out campaign-specific data like leads generated to inform future campaigns and see clearly what types of promotions work on which social media platforms.”
Our experts think Facebook is the most important platform to pull data from, shortly followed by Instagram and Twitter:
Banish‘s Daisy Jing even advises to break down monetary metrics by post: “How much sales did this post earn? Depending on if it’s a repost, a new project or just a meme – we want to know how much earnings did this post have? What did they purchase from this post? “
Socialinsider‘s Teodora Lozan adds: “The overall engagement looks great when you want to impress clients because they’ll always show big numbers – especially if you boosted some of the content.”
“But to really understand if your efforts are truly working, you need to look at the average engagement rate per post and compare it to your competitors. It will give you a clear understanding of how regular, non-boosted and non-sponsored posts are reaching the audience.”
Jason Myers of The Content Factory adds that “if your social media report includes just one thing it should be the total increase or decrease of impressions for each channel you’re reporting on.”
“As the social managers ourselves we like to include the numeric difference (percentage of increase or decrease) month-over-month of social followers, traffic to site and engagement for each channel.”
Lauren Walter of Social Media Optimism explains how that might look for engagement metrics: “Note how much overall engagements or any of the aforementioned specific engagements increased or decreased compared to the previous month or year to provide more context.”
Colton De Vos of Resolute Technology Solutions adds: “We’ve found its helpful to store that data ourselves and generate reports as some social media platforms only store 12 – 18 months of data themselves. That way its easy to track long-term growth and pinpoint times of high engagement.”
Summarizing, Renty‘s Peter Harrison says: “Include an analysis of what worked well and what didn’t bring expected results. It will help you understand what topics/pictures/messages to avoid and what you should boost in your next campaigns.”
*Editor’s note: All of our social media dashboards are easy to share with your stakeholders. Simply pick your template, add your metrics, and hit the “Share” button. You can invite them by email, send a snapshot, embed it in your PDF social media report, or create a clickable link to send to your team:
“Reports should never just be about telling the client that things are on track,” Edge Marketing‘s Sean Clancy adds.
“I will always include theories, supported by market research, about why certain content worked this month. The report, for me, is a time where you ask and answer questions like: “What made the audience like X content more than Y” or “What content did we create that helped turn people into leads?”
“Thinking these things through will help you to recreate content that performs the way you want it to and stop creating content that doesn’t perform.”
SJC Marketing‘s Randi White agrees: “Business owners struggle to see social media growth through the marketer’s eyes, so it’s important to illustrate things like the fact that comments and shares are more beneficial to business growth because those actions both expand post reach and demonstrate more interest from current and prospective buyers than likes do.”
“Sharing these insights gets leadership on your side, and helps them focus on the metrics that matter,” White adds.
Summarizing, Alistair Dodds of Ever Increasing Circles says: “Like most things in marketing, your reporting needs to be given context. And including benchmarks and trend reports helps decision-makers understand how the campaign is performing, identify areas of strength as well as concern, help inform optimization choices for the period ahead.”
Dittoe PR‘s Skylar Whitney thinks “the one thing that should always be included in a social media report are the steps you plan on taking in the next week or month with the information you’ve gained from reviewing the analytics.”
“The best way to improve is to assess and update your strategy in real-time, learning what works and what doesn’t work for your audiences.”
Search It Local‘s Michael May explains: “For example, a section titled ‘Plans and Predictions for Next Month’ will give you a chance to explain ‘why’ the social data is tracking the way it is (as opposed to just the ‘what’ that is occurring).”
“You’ll also be able to offer proactive solutions that ensure the next report’s month-on-month data will be heading up.”
Boring social media reports are a thing of the past. There are no excuses for putting together a report that nobody reads–especially when you use the tips we’ve mentioned here.
The only thing left to do is set your KPIs, as Blogging Wizard‘s Adam Connell explains: “The most important metric depends on what you’re trying to achieve with social media. It depends on business goals, business model, growth stage, and other factors.”
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