- Shallow sgnals. “Likes” are poor indicators of actual sales or deeper customer engagement.
- Active metrics. Shares, comments and click-throughs provide a better gauge of customer involvement.
- Goal-dependent. Brands should choose metrics aligned with specific objectives, whether it’s sales or engagement.
Relying solely on “likes” and vanity metrics is a limited approach for brands’ social media strategy. Likes don’t equate to sales —a high “like” count has little correlation to consumers actually purchasing products or converting to customers. Additionally, likes measure passive engagement at best. More active metrics like shares, comments, and click-throughs to the site indicate a higher engagement and involvement level. Wise brands take a multi-metric approach to understand users, refine strategy, and determine what social media activities truly drive business impact. This article will examine the relevance of social media likes and the advantages of other social media metrics.
What Are Social Media Metrics?
In spite of all the options that are available, social media platforms are still one of the most popular places for consumers to visit online, with Facebook coming in at the top with over 2.9 billion monthly active users, according to a recent Statista report. This is why it’s so important for brands to understand the metrics that are used to determine their reach and engagement levels with their social customers.
Social media metrics are vital data points that allow brands to analyze the performance of their social media campaigns and optimize their strategy. Reach shows the potential audience exposed to content, while engagement calculates interactions through likes, comments, shares, video views, etc.
Other social metrics include clicks, which specifically track users who click links or ads, lead generation and sales metrics connect social efforts to real conversions and revenue, and sentiment helps gauge public perception through positive, negative, or neutral mentions. Finally, share of voice compares a brand’s presence versus competitors.
While vanity metrics like follower counts or likes provide surface-level data, savvy brands track ROI by tying social initiatives to website traffic, online and offline sales, and growth in loyal customers. Monitoring a diverse mix of metrics beyond likes and vanity numbers is crucial for brands to justify their investment in social media marketing. The key is defining what social media metrics broadly encompass, calling out high-level categories like reach and sentiment, and focusing on actionable metrics that are tied to ROI and business impact.
Lindsey Chastain, owner of The Writing Detective, a content marketing and PR company, told CMSWire that as a social media manager for The Waddle and Cluck and several other brands, she agrees that relying solely on vanity metrics such as likes is a very limited approach. “In my experience, the number of likes a post receives doesn’t directly translate into sales or deeper engagement with our brand. I’ve seen posts with tons of Likes generate minimal website traffic or conversations.”
Chastain said she has had posts with fewer likes that spark much more customer interest — like when a post receives lots of clicks, shares, and comments. “Those actions signal that customers are taking the time to actually engage with the content, visit our site, and recommend it to others. To me, that shows more authentic engagement than just passive Likes,” said Chastain.
Related Article: How Social Media Marketing Has Changed This Year
The Metrics Brands Should Focus on Depend on Their Goals
The metrics that brands should focus on largely depend on the goals of the brand. For instance, if a brand is interested in increasing customer engagement, it should be focused on key metrics such as comments, shares, clicks, and yes, even likes, as a percentage of followers. Because click-throughs indicate real interest, brands would be interested in how often users click on call-to-action links and ad units versus just viewing them. Additionally, the number of comments and their sentiment tell brands how much users interact with and react to content.
Nizel Adams, CEO and principal engineer at Nizel Corporation, an IT consultancy, told CMSWire that likes can be easily falsified and don’t give you a real insight into how things are performing. “Click-through-rate tells you whether people are scrolling past your posts or actually finding them interesting enough to want to learn more.”
If a brand is more interested in increasing sales, it should be focused on tracking website traffic from social media referrals, which can show how often social content is leading users to actually visit the brand’s online store or product pages. Smart brands also implement UTM campaign tagging to measure conversions specifically from social channels. This allows brands to calculate social media’s impact on online and offline sales, and return on ad spend.
Looking at the social media conversion rate — what percentage of visitors from social referrals turn into customers — is crucial. Brands striving for sales want to see this conversion rate rise over time as their strategy takes hold. Lead generation metrics also help connect social engagement to new potential customer contacts. The brand should also pay close attention to click-through rates on calls-to-action and ads leading users to purchase pages or deals. With the right social data, any brand can maximize impact and return on their social investment.
Adams gave the example of a brand with a YouTube presence, and the metrics they should be focused on. “On YouTube, a low CTR (below 2%) could be the result of poor thumbnail or title choices. Another metric for videos is view duration. If for instance, you’re on a platform like YouTube are your viewers watching at least 50% of the video?” Adams explained that if your videos are performing below the norm in terms of view rate then it may be time to spice up your content to keep the viewer interested whether that be bringing more personality, improving the production quality, etc.
Related Article: What Social Media Trends to Expect for 2023
Key Metrics Change Based on the Social Media Platform
Key metrics tend to change from one social media platform to another. Haley Wells, social media team lead at seoplus+, a full-service digital marketing agency, told CMSWire that one of the most critical social media metrics that has emerged as a key strategy for her team is audience engagement, particularly within the comments section of platforms like TikTok. “This approach transcends mere numbers and taps into the core of community building and direct interaction with our audience,” said Wells. “By actively engaging with comments, we can create a dynamic conversation that fosters a stronger connection with our followers.”
Wells said that a prominent example highlighting this strategy’s effectiveness happened on one of their TikTok pages. “We noticed a comment that had garnered about 1,000 likes. Recognizing the potential of this engagement, we replied to the comment with a video.” Wells said that this seemingly simple action triggered an impressive chain reaction, as every person who had liked the original comment became more engaged with their content.
“The results were astounding — our video quickly escalated to a million views. This incident not only amplified our reach but also provided valuable insights into the preferences and opinions of our audience,” said Wells, who added that she learned that authentic, timely interaction with her audience could lead to viral success. “By adopting this method, we’ve humanized our brand, created more targeted content, and fostered a loyal community that actively participates in our online presence.”
Other differences between social platforms include the way metrics are measured. Brands must take into account the difference between reach and pageview. Reach is the number of unique users who have viewed an ad or other content. At the same time, impressions are the number of times the ad or content has been seen, regardless of how many unique users have seen it (meaning a user could have seen an ad or content multiple times, which would show up as multiple pageviews).
Rachael Goulet, Sprout Social’s director of social media, told CMSWire that when determining what social media metrics to analyze, it’s most important to take into account your broader business goals. “Choose the social KPIs that directly connect your strategy and business goals. But keep in mind, adaptability is key. Whether it’s changes in your organization or the social sphere, your social strategy needs to be able to change as well,” said Goulet.
“Brand health metrics across social, such as audience sentiment, brand mentions and share of voice, can provide intel into how your brand is being perceived, and social listening is a powerful tool that provides these insights,” suggested Goulet. “Knowing how consumers are discussing your brand and how you stack up against the competition can reveal crucial insights your teams should take action against and even spot potential brand crises before they occur.”
Final Thoughts on Social Media Metrics
Social media metrics have evolved far beyond vanity numbers such as likes. Forward-facing brands now track actionable data that is tied to business goals including increasing traffic, conversions, and sales. Brands must continually optimize their social strategies based on metrics that are aligned with their objectives. By adopting a multi-metric approach and analyzing actionable metrics, brands can maximize their social media investment and foster authentic engagement with their audience.