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Business management

Measuring your social media metrics

When navigating the busy realm of social media marketing, which performance metrics are actually worth paying attention to?

Three experts share their tips about which social media metrics matter and how to track them.

What are social media metrics?

You may be dazzled by a huge variety of social media metrics; terms like followers, fans, reach, and referrals are just the tip of the iceberg. But, ultimately, all metrics relate to how many people have seen your content and how they responded. For SMEs, the crucial measure may simply be which metrics help to grow your business.

“If you’re selling products online, the primary metric should always be conversion,” says Max Whicher, co-founder and COO of Spin Brands. “But you should also appreciate success on each section of the sales funnel.”

Marketers distinguish between ‘cold’ audiences, who know nothing about your company, and ‘warm’ audiences, who have already shown awareness or interest. Reach – the number of people who see your content at least once – is important for cold audiences, says Whicher, as everyone within your reach can be converted to a warm viewer. With already warm audiences, click-through rate (CTR) gives a good indication of whether your content entices prospective customers to visit your website.

Beware of vanity metrics

Many metrics are not reliable indicators of any real impact, say experts. Video viewing figures, Facebook fans, Twitter followers, and page impressions should all be viewed with suspicion, they say.

“Facebook defines a video view as three seconds,” says Marie Page, founding partner of The Digiterati and a leading Facebook expert. “But most of us are just scrolling past. Whether it’s Facebook, Instagram or YouTube, it’s better to look at people who watched 50% or 75%. I’d also ignore a Facebook page’s number of fans, particularly if they’ve been there years and years. “Facebook is probably not pushing your content to them. It’s the same with Twitter – so many people have accounts but never look at them.”

Somebody comments, you ask them a question and they come back again, then somebody else comes in. With Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, engagement drives more reach

Marie Page, founding partner, The Digiterati

Impressions is another metric that may deliver less than promised, says Whicher. “It’s usually the most overinflated metric and should not be confused with reach,” he advises. “It could include the same person seeing the content 10 times.”

He believes followers and fans do have merit for young companies but warns against falsely inflating the figures. “Followers are important to new brands that normally lack credibility, trust or even authenticity,” he says. “Never buy fake followers. You cannot fool machine learning, so Facebook and Instagram will probably penalise you on the organic reach of your posts.”

Charlotte Sheridan, of The Small Biz Expert, cautions against getting excited about the reach of paid content. “With ads, reach is just what you paid for. It just means it showed up in people’s feeds.”

Measuring what matters most

Social media users are looking to be informed and entertained. SMEs should therefore focus on cultivating genuine engagement; brands that provide learning and laughter stand out from those nakedly seeking sales. That means creating content worth sharing – and plenty of follow-up interaction. Page has a pithy way of capturing this concept in relation to Facebook: “Likes or fans are vanity – engagement is sanity.”

Facebook’s algorithm “adores” interactions in comment threads, she says. “Somebody comments, you ask them a question and they come back again, then somebody else comes in – that kind of engagement,” she says. “With Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, engagement drives more reach.”

Instagram is testing plans to hide ‘likes’ from public view, saying it wants users to worry less about popularity. This will lead to even greater focus on comments, predicts Whicher.

“Replying to customers or fans is an easy way to show Instagram and Facebook the kind of people who are interested in your content,” he says. “They will therefore be more likely to see your posts and hopefully click through to your website.”

Posts on Facebook pages typically reach just a few per cent of the page’s total likes. Setting up a Facebook group – where people are more likely to see your content and enter discussions – is worthwhile, says Page. “A group is about facilitation, giving information away and bringing your community with you,” she adds.

Sheridan says even the engagement metric comes with a caveat. “My dog’s Instagram has more engagement than my business website,” she says. “I could put him on my business page, but I’d only attract people who like dogs. Small business owners want to reach the right people, not just as many as possible.”

Tracking and retargeting

Facebook Pixel is an analytics tool that can be set up by adding a few lines of code to the header section of your website. You can then track actions taken on your website by people who clicked through from Facebook ads or posts. Learning about your customer’s journeys can help you make your output as relevant as possible – and retarget those you know have some interest in your company.

“Pixel is a nice way of targeting your warm audience,” says Page, who is also the author of the book Winning at Facebook Marketing with Zero Budget. You can also learn more with the free Facebook Blueprint online courses for business use of Facebook and Instagram.

The native analytics functions on each social media platform are useful, says Sheridan. “But Google Analytics gives you a holistic view,” she says. “It tells you everything that happens when they move to your website and which channels are performing. It’s also easy to set up even if you need tutorials or a professional to help you understand what you’re looking at.”

Five key steps to meaningful metrics
  1. Create quality content – videos or blogs showing originality, personality or authority can stand out amid a sea of spam and clickbait.
  2. Set up tracking – use tools like Google Analytics to make sure you know which channels and content are producing results.
  3. Interact – when fans engage, replying can establish a sense of community and train algorithms to recognise key target customers.
  4. Give to gain – go further by giving away knowledge, discounts or samples. You could turn people interested in your brand into loyal customers.
  5. Retarget – use tools like Facebook Pixel to retarget your warm audience with highly relevant ads.

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