Selecting suitable social metrics

When measuring social performance there’s a huge selection of social media metrics to choose from. Selecting suitable metrics is key to telling if your social strategy is having real business impact.

When it comes to measuring social performance there’s a huge selection of social metrics to choose from. Selecting suitable metrics is key to telling if your social strategy is making a real business impact. Ensuring that everyone understands the real benefits of social media for business requires more than basic figures showing the number of social subscriptions or followers, but rather those metrics which demonstrate engagement, social reach and relevant conversions.

Why social metrics are important

Any good social strategy will have goals, just like other strategies. These may include increasing customer engagement (+5%) by April or Increasing social site traffic (+15%) by June. This social strategy and associated goals often make up part of a wider content strategy, aimed at driving leads into the marketing funnel through inbound and outbound marketing.

Since social media is pretty top-of-the-funnel, you’ll often have goals around increasing engagement and traffic to your site, or growing community and improving customer service, and not as much around increasing sales or subscriber numbers. – Jennita from Moz: Social engagement metrics that matter

As Jennita from Moz wrote in her article, Social media is often used as an inbound medium – focused on driving traffic and less around increasing sales. But that doesn’t mean that social is therefore less important. Being able to track traffic and engagement back to the top of the marketing funnel (discovery period) through social metrics will help demonstrate social media’s Return on Investment in the longer term, and help identify wider campaign success.

Understanding social performance

Not all social media campaigns are the same. They may have different goals or objectives as mentioned above. Selecting the most suitable social indicators relies on a solid understanding of what makes social as a medium successful, but also what each social campaign is trying to achieve.


Some social campaigns are focused around social engagement. Engagement can be Likes, Re-tweets, Clicks or conversions (As well as many more). This type of social campaign is often focused around promoting a premium piece of content, so social metrics should reflect the number of leads who move towards completing or complete this goal. A successful engagement campaign will have lots of content downloads originating from social presence.

Brand awareness

Brand awareness is a slightly trickier type of social interaction to measure. Typical goals include increasing familiarity, positive discussions and reach on social networks. Metrics associated with these goals are often further removed from the conversion funnel and thus harder to justify in a pure business sense. However metrics such as sentiment and social strength do demonstrate how social media for brand awareness is performing.

Social metrics to avoid

Below are three social metrics that you (probably) want to avoid:


Followers might seem like the natural choice, but the metric really doesn’t give much away. Sure, a load of people have subscribed to your messages (which can go a long way towards calculating social reach) but the figure alone will rarely deviate from a pretty boring diagonal line on a graph.

Number of messages

The number of messages (say per week, month or quarter) is also a social metric that’s best avoided. Even worse than followers, the quantity of messages pushed out (and received, for that matter) are useless without some context. How many people saw it? How many people liked it? How many people replied to it?

‘Traditional’ conversions

This one may be a little controversial, but measuring the number of premium content download or form submissions on a website probably isn’t going to give a true representation of social performance, unless of cause the campaign’s focus is to drive on-page conversions. It’s for this reason that defining proper goals is so important when setting out a social strategy, so that relevant conversions can be monitored (See below).

Social metrics to consider

Below are four social metrics that you (probably) want to consider using to measure social success:


Measuring social engagement is one of the more readily recognized social metrics. This engagement can often be seen as social conversions, as the engagement with most social campaigns is one of the main objectives. Conversations per post is often monitored, as are replies, comments and shares. It is this consumer engagement that makes almost every social strategy a success, so it’s important to keep an eye on those metrics.

Strength, Passion and Sentiment

Following on from engagement, the strength, passion and sentiment of your overall social strategy is a great set of metrics to measure, allowing you to compare between periods of general social activity and social campaigns. Three key social metrics to measure are:

  • Social strength: The amount that your brand is being mentioned across social media
  • Social passion: The likelihood that individuals are talking about your brand consistently
  • Social sentiment: The ratio of positive-to-negative comments received on social media

You can measure these metrics per brand phrase over at

Social reach

Finally, ‘reach’ is a worthy metric to consider adding to social reporting as it can demonstrate the wide-spread ‘social branching’ effect (aka viral marketing). Whilst the majority of social campaigns never reach viral status, shares and retweets are a great way of increasing the range of influence, and worth monitoring during periods of high social activity.

John Alexander Rowley

An enthusiastic digital marketing professional passionately dedicated to increasing the online presence of businesses and individuals in order to improve engagement and ROI.

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