Before you get hung up on which social network is best for your business, remember one thing: Effective social media marketing is quantifiable.
About 78 percent of the U.S. population had a social media profile as of 2016, a 5 percent increase from the previous year, according to Statista. Meanwhile, 39 percent of heavy social media users cite finding out about products and services as an important reason for using social networks, as highlighted in the 2016 Nielsen Social Media Report.
These numbers explain why modern businesses feel comfortable pouring so much time and money into social media marketing. Yet, as with any investment, it’s important to ensure a return.
The hard part is knowing where to begin.
Follow your goals
Erin Hancock, Associate Manager of Promotions and Engagement at Brafton, recommended letting your business objectives lead the way.
“The metrics that matter really depend on the goals of each client and campaign,” she said. “It’s important to have a discussion when you’re starting out about what’s most important.”
For most businesses, the ultimate goal is making money. With that in mind, there are certain metrics that should take precedent. Growing a social media audience is likely your first and foremost concern, but once that is accomplished, you must focus on:
The last thing you want is for your social media posts to exist in a vacuum. Even if you get as many eyes on your content as possible, you need users to interact with it.
“Tracking engagement is an extremely important metric when it comes to social media,” Erin said. “By tracking how many people are actually engaging with your posts, you can see what content works the best and what needs to be scrapped from your strategy.”
Engagement will look different depending on the social network. For instance, on Facebook, the global leader with 1.87 billion monthly active users, engagement takes the form of likes, comments and clicks. Meanwhile, on LinkedIn, you’re likely to be more concerned with your number of followers and how many shares your content garners.
While falling under the umbrella of engagement, shares are among the most important metrics for one simple reason: They help you expand your content marketing reach by putting you in front of new users. Even better, this is accomplished by someone else sharing your content on your behalf.
In search engine optimization, backlinks are arguably the most important metric, as they show both internet users and search engines that your content is valuable and trustworthy. Social shares work much in the same way.
Keeping track of shares is also a great way to measure the quality of your content marketing. If you find many people are willing to pass along your content to their own social media followers, you can be sure you’re on the right path.
Without a doubt, conversions represent the single most important metric for social media success. After all, if the people engaging with your content aren’t clicking and becoming customers, what’s the point?
“While the stats from social analytics platforms are important, you should also be tracking website usage on the backend,” Erin said. “You want to know what people are doing once they click onto your website from your social pages, so it’s essential to be tracking that usage through Google Analytics.”
Using Google Analytics, you can create goals that will record every time an individual on your website converts, whether that means filling out a lead form or requesting to speak to a sales representative. From there, you can see the content and social channel that drove this person to your site in the first place.
The tools at your disposal
Each social media network offers its own metrics, from Facebook Insights to Linkedin Analytics. These tools will help you dive down into the minutia of social media metrics, examining reach and engagement on a granular level.
However, it’s important not to get lost in the woods.
“Focus on return on investment instead of metrics that carry the sheen of success but don’t contribute to your bottom line.”
“It can be very time-consuming to report on every stat, so make sure you know what you want before you start a strategy,” Erin said.
In times like these, it’s helpful to focus on return on investment instead of so-called vanity metrics, or measurements that carry the sheen of success but don’t necessarily contribute to your bottom line.
In the end, it’s up to you how social media metrics are weighted and utilized. Stay strategic and keep goals top of mind.
“When I am looking at how to improve a client’s strategy, I take a look at our metrics over the past quarter to see where we succeeded and where we can improve,” Erin said. “I usually filter our top posts by our highest engagement percentage, and then look at ways I can incorporate similar posts into a strategy in the next quarter.”
In other words, social media metrics help you determine what’s working and what needs an overhaul. That said, remember that a million likes isn’t worth much without conversions to go along with them.