A Surefire Approach to Measuring Social Media Gains

As social media continues to rise in popularity, it’s important for you to interpret the right analytic information to better understand the value of your efforts. Continue reading as our Marketing Analyst provides her expertise on data-driven social media metrics.

We’ve all been told the importance of promoting our businesses via social media, which is why so many of us have hopped onto the growing bandwagon. While it’s great that you’re working to build your social presence, you might be missing out on social media’s full potential by not measuring the right areas of growth and activity. That’s why it’s particularly important for you to not only begin measuring your social media efforts, but measure the right things in the right way.

First thing’s first: regardless of whether you’re reporting on social media or another arm of your business, goals should define metrics. In other words, you should define your goals first, and then identify metrics that speak to those goals. This is a critical step because goals, and therefore metrics, are case-specific and will most likely differ between businesses and the social channels you’re trying to measure.

In general, start by separating potential goals into two groups:

  1. Goals and metrics that speak to success or adoption of a selected channel
  2. Goals and metrics that speak to how that channel affects the business


Success and Adoption Goals and Metrics

As a general rule, organizations are good at establishing these types of goals and their associated metrics because, quite simply, we all want ears and eyeballs! Over time, we want more of them, (i.e. a larger community), and, of equal importance, want to better understand what content the community consumes and shares so that our dialogue can mature.

Most platforms will easily provide metrics around these types of goals out-of-the-box, such as:

  • Community growth: Total followers, fans, new followers or fans per day, or new organic followers per day
  • Community engagement: Comments, shares, likes, retweets, re-pins


Community Growth Metrics

As you select the best metrics around community adoption, focus on the most important data points for your business. Cut the rest. For example, consider highlighting new followers or fans per day as opposed to just showing numbers in the aggregate. (That is, total followers.) Per day metrics will help illuminate spikes or challenges that you can then correlate to specific efforts or events, such as a new contest or promotion. Per day metrics also show whether you’re growing steadily over time, or if your growth rate is also increasing. This is an important habit to get into now, because after you have thousands of members in your community, these types of incremental wins or losses may be hard to see in the aggregate.

Also, when reporting on Facebook, consider featuring the “organic” or “viral” adoption metrics. I like these because they show folks who found you through their friends’ posts or “stories.” On Facebook, any action (e.g. a like or a comment or a share) can create a “story,” which can then show up in a friend’s feed for that person to act upon. This type of earned media produces much more qualified leads than paid sources, and because it represents an endorsement from a friend or family member, it’s really unlike any other source. In that way, calling out organic growth highlights what makes social media channels unique from other levers a business could pull.


Community Engagement

Along with building a community, you’ll want to improve your interaction with your community members. But with so many individual posts, pins, tweets and tags, it can be difficult to glean actionable information. You’ll have to aggregate counts, such as comments and retweets, together by thresholds or time periods (or both) to make meaningful conclusions that will help you decide what kind of content to post and when.

For example, if you’re reporting on Facebook (using only Facebook Insights), you could consider exporting data by post to Excel, and then grouping a month or week or six month’s worth of posts into the following thresholds: 0 comments, 1-10 comments, 11-20 comments, and >20 comments. With that information, you could start to ask questions around content optimization like, “What type of posts: photos or status updates, receive the most comments?” You could also consider exporting by post, and then generating an average number of comments by month or week or six months to see if you’re getting more interactions over time.  From there, you can start to ask questions like, “What changed over that time period that could have contributed to any growth/decline?”

Beyond collecting and organizing this data, always focus on the most important points. For Facebook, I tend to value shares over comments and comments over likes. Why? Because shares show how content snowballs, which, like the viral and organic growth metrics discussed above, captures something unique about social media as oppose to paid media.

I also really like Facebook’s “virality” metric, which shows the number of people who have created a story from your post as a percentage of the number of people who have seen it. (By story, they mean that earned media discussed above.) In that way, “virality” is another great metric that captures the unique nature of social media.


By clearly defining your goals and determining which areas of growth are most important to your organization, you can begin to more accurately measure your social media impact.


Big thanks to Ashley for imparting her analytics wisdom on us!

Still have more questions? Feel free to leave a comment below and we’ll ne sure to get back with you.


Ashley was a Senior Analyst, Digital Analytics, at Volusion. She has a BA in English from UT at Austin, an MLA from St. Edward’s, and over five years experience as a web analytics practitioner.

One Response to “A Surefire Approach to Measuring Social Media Gains”

  1. Marcus

    Excellent analysis as usual Ashley!


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