Marketing and measurement go hand in hand, and social media is no exception. Marketing initiatives live and die on the metrics they track and measuring the right metrics is just as important as ensuring accuracy. Social media can be one of the most complicated to track with impressions, clicks, shares, conversions, ROI, and cross-device attribution. Whether you’re kicking off a content marketing initiative or investing paid social on multiple platforms, there are a few metrics that are must-have in any marketing dashboard.
If You Can't Track It, It Didn't Happen
Impressions and Reach
While these metrics seem similar and are often used interchangeably they measure 2 very different things, both of which bring clarity to how posts are reaching your audience.
Reach measures the number of unique viewers who saw your post.
Impressions measures the number of times your posts appeared in someone’s feed.
They seem similar, but 1 user can have your post appear in their feed multiple times. Content that is liked or retweeted, or shared by a users followers can cause your post to reappear in there feeds. Additionally, paid social ads can be shown to the same user multiple times.
If your goal is awareness and brand recognition, reach and impressions are some of your most important metrics. Even in a brand awareness campaign though, reach and impressions alone don’t tell the full story. You’ll most likely want to measure reach, impressions, and engagement together in order to gauge the effectiveness of posts.
Social media marketing is all about encouraging an audience to take action, and that action oftentimes starts with a site visit. Measuring the number of visitors to your site from social media gives insight into not only how many people are clicking on links to your site, but gives you access to how they’re behaving once they get there. Bounce rate, time of site, pages visited, and dwell time can all be measured as byproducts of traffic as well. Segmenting your social media traffic by network/source can give more granular visibility into how each network is performing.
A common challenge with tracking social media traffic is “misfiling” of the medium, resulting in social traffic being reflected in Google Analytics as direct or referral. Traffic from Facebook is notorious for this. Many times you’ll see referral traffic from m.facebook.com or lm.facebook.com. It can also show up as direct traffic when the referrer data is dropped. Creating custom channel groupings is a great way to solve this problem in the long run but as an extra precaution, you should use UTM strings in social posts that correctly tag the source and medium, especially for paid ads.
Without likes, comments, shares, and clicks, social media posts are nothing more than digital highway signs. Engagement tells you how well posts are resonating with your audience and are a great barometer for post quality, audience health, and messaging. While engagement is a massively broad subject to try and track, especially across multiple platforms, it’s a crucial metric to track. Each social network has its own engagement metric tracking, but even with different naming conventions (like shares vs retweets), the metrics can be aggregated.
Almost every brand has conversion actions on their site. Lead submissions, phone calls, asset downloads, purchases, it can all be tracked. While it’s fairly easy to track organic social conversions withing Google Analytics, if you’re running paid campaigns within Facebook or Instagram, the conversion metrics from Facebook and Google Analytics might not match up. It’s not uncommon to see large discrepancies between reported within social platforms and Google Analytics.
One of the big reasons for this is that Facebook measures non-linear conversions whereas Google Analytics measures last-click attribution. If a user engages with your ad and then returns to your site 2 days later and converts, Facebook will track that as a conversion, Google Analytics will attribute that conversion to whatever channel the user last came in on. Depending on how your brand measures conversions, you’ll need to pick which measurement makes the most sense.
Once you know what to track and where to find it, pulling all the metrics together into a single spot is the next step. No one wants to visit 5+ sites to try and get the full picture of what’s happening with social media, but luckily you don’t have to.
There’s a host of paid tools that brands can use to track social media performance ranging from under $100/mo up to $500+ depending on the size and scope of social campaigns. While that might be the right fit for some brands you can save some marketing dollars by creating your own comprehensive reporting for free (or nearly).
Google Analytics can’t pull in reach, impression, or engagement metrics, but it can get just about anything else. Within Google Analytics you can create customized reports and dashboards that will display any metric the platform tracks. This is a great place for quick snapshots of traffic, conversions, and campaign performance. If you’re wanting a more comprehensive view of your social program, Google Data Studio allows for a world of customization. There are no direct free connectors to pull metrics from Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Instagram, but you can export your data as a CSV from all the platforms and use that as a data source to pull into Data Studio. If there’s some budget for it, tools like Super Metrics will connect directly to your social channels and can pull social metrics directly into Google Sheets to use as a data source.
Ready to get started building a report? Stay tuned for our comprehensive guide to creating a social media reporting dashboard.