For as long as brands have been active on social media, communicators, marketers – and their bosses – have all asked the same question: Is what we’re doing working?
With social media being a key channel for marketing, accurately measuring and benchmarking your brand’s efforts on its shared channels is critical to calculating ROI, strategizing content, optimizing your approach and ultimately understanding your audience.
Creating engaging content
Reaching my audience
Today’s rapidly growing and evolving social media landscape has made this an increasingly more complex task. But a few time-tested truths remain when it comes to social media benchmarking.
1. There is no one-size-fits-all success metric.
While the social media platforms brands leverage may be the same, what they are trying to achieve on that platform differs from industry to industry and brand to brand. Your brand’s tone, content and messages are inherently unique – and the same should apply to how you measure success.
Remember: Success of your social media posts comes down to whether it influenced your audience to take some sort of action, like learning more, donating, shopping or simply sharing a post.
If the success of your social media posts is being measured purely by their value in “likes,” accurately reporting any wins or opportunities for improvement will be a serious challenge.
To assign appropriate success metrics – plural – it’s important to look at what your posts are trying to accomplish. If the purpose of a post is to build awareness around a new product or service, this may mean looking at share and click metrics, as well as website traffic originated from social posts.
Whatever your specific goals may be, it’s important to paint a bigger picture with your reporting to both understand what happened and identify opportunities to improve your future efforts.
2. Measure what matters to your brand.
The same can be said about measuring the success of your brand’s greater social media efforts. When setting goals and KPIs for your brand social media efforts, it’s even more important to avoid painting with broad strokes by defining exactly what it is your brand is trying to do – and why.
Your brand’s social media channels are critical to numerous communications efforts, supporting everything from PR to sales and marketing to recruiting and retention. To effectively tie your efforts to business outcomes, you need to ensure you’re measuring your brand’s social media efforts against broader communications goals.
For example, if your goal is to demonstrate how your social efforts have supported your brand’s recruitment strategy, you may want to track traffic on your website’s careers page originating from branded social media posts. When combined with more anecdotal insights like how branded search terms related to jobs at your organization have trended alongside recruitment posts, insights like these empower communicators to show how their efforts are moving the needle in tactical ways.
3. There’s little value in looking at metrics in silos.
Finally, as hinted above, there will seldom be a case where a single metric defines your success – because rarely are your posts trying to accomplish one thing.
In addition to whatever action you’re hoping to elicit from your audience, you’re also inherently trying to create engaging content that creates some sort of on-platform response. Both actions should be accounted for in your reporting to measure your results and inform your future efforts.
For example, if you’re hoping to drive volunteer sign ups through a social media campaign, looking at the number of form submissions that originated from social media posts is a great start. (This is where UTM codes come in clutch!) But assisted conversions are real – and this measurement alone may not accurately depict the value of your posts.
Instead, when these form submissions are analyzed in combination with post click rates and relevant engagement metrics, communicators can more accurately measure the impact of their efforts, as well as appropriately refine their approach and optimize future campaigns.
KPIs That Matter
While there are no golden rules to benchmarking the efficacy of your social media efforts, we know communicators – and their bosses – may still be inclined to rely on a few core “vanity” metrics. To avoid providing reports that feels completely foreign, look for opportunities to combine these metrics with one or more relevant insights to provide more contextual KPIs.
Instead of just measuring impressions…benchmark average impressions per post
The total number of impressions a post receives can be dictated by several factors, including how the algorithm ranks the post, how many times the post is shared, the size of any tagged pages’ audiences and more. Measuring your average impressions per post allows you to benchmark your typical post performance. This makes it significantly easier to define when a post is performing above or below expectations for your brand.
Formula: Total post impressions / total number of posts
Instead of just measuring likes…benchmark average engagement rates
Like impressions, the number of engagements (likes, comments, clicks and shares) a post receives can be influenced by many factors, one of the biggest being post format and publishing platform. Benchmarking your brand’s average engagement rate enables you to define when a post is performing on par – and keeping your comparisons apples-to-apples.
Formula: Total engagements on a post / Total impressions *100
For example, video posts typically receive a high number of impressions on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc. However, passive engagements like views are often calculated separately from active engagements like clicks, shares or reactions. This means video posts will likely result in lower engagement rates than image-based posts.
Benchmarking your average engagement by post types is especially important in cases like these, as is benchmarking your average engagement rate per post over time.
Formula: Engagement rate by post / Total posts = Average engagement per post
Example: Post A (2.0%) + Post B (3.0%) + Post C (3.5%) / 3 = 2.83% Avg. Engagement Rate per Post
Instead of asking how many new followers…measure audience growth rate
Of course, you need to know if your brand’s social media audiences are growing, but simply looking at the follower count doesn’t always tell the full story.
For brands with 100 Twitter followers, adding 20 new followers is much more significant than brands with 1,000 or more. Benchmarking your audience growth rate helps keep a consistent finger on the pulse as your audience grows.
Formula: Net new followers / total audience *100 = Audience growth rate
In the end, there are no one-size-fits-all success metrics when it comes to measuring your brand’s social media efforts. While there is certainly a slew of KPIs that can help demonstrate the efficacy of your campaigns, to accurately measure, optimize and otherwise prove what influence your social media posts are making, communicators need to first assess what they are really trying to measure.
Chances are, it’s a lot more than just likes.