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10 Social media metrics to track (and vanity metrics to ignore)

illustration of an upward trending line graph with social media logos as plot points.

One of the great things about social media? Each platform can detail ALL of the actions users are taking – from how long they’re watching videos to how many times they’re liking or sharing posts.

One of the most confusing things about social media? Exactly that: each platform can detail all the actions users are taking…so which ones should you be paying attention to?

With so many social media metrics to track, it can quickly become difficult to understand which is important and which are arbitrary.

But wait: shouldn’t e-commerce brands be tracking ALL social media metrics? Social media is a rich treasure trove of data, so surely the more metrics, the better?

Not exactly. Tracking too many metrics, rather than focusing on some specific performance metrics, can muddy the data, leading to a less than clear ROI.

Let’s dive in.

What are social media metrics?

Social media metrics are specifically tracked data that help determine the impact of a social account on a company’s goals (and overall revenue).

If your company goal is to expand your brand reach to a larger audience, you may want to track your follower growth rate over a certain period of time to determine which content drives the most reach. If you have a social media strategy that includes social commerce, you’ll want to track the number of purchases made through your account.

The goal of social media metrics? To track the efforts taken on each social media platform and understand performance in relation to a brand’s success.

Why you need to measure the right social media metrics

Social media metrics are extremely useful to e-commerce brands. They provide insight into an audience of potential customers and help brands understand what type of content and products are well-received.

Plus, with mobile commerce sales reaching $359.32 billion in 2021, e-commerce brands are likely trying to reach an audience who shops right from the palm of their hands. Social media is one of the easiest ways to do so.

The thing is, it’s very difficult to tie activity on social media to ROI and long-term user behavior.

In fact, many social media metrics that brands may be paying attention to could fall into the ‘vanity’ bucket, meaning they aren’t really worth all of the hype due to their inconsistent and surface-level nature.

For example, a brand’s viral post on TikTok might get 1 million views, but how many of those users followed the account, viewed the brand profile, or clicked on the link to the official website? Those metrics are much more likely to determine the value of the content and whether or not it drove a good conversion rate.

For e-commerce brands to be prepared to dive into their social data, they’ll need access to Google analytics or social media analytics tools that can keep them on the right path, tracking social media metrics that weigh heavily on growth.

What are vanity metrics?

It was Carly Simon who sang, “you’re so vain” to a surprisingly upbeat tune. While her song doesn’t have much to do with social media efforts, it’s worth noting that getting excited about vanity metrics such as likes and followers, without diving into some of the more substantial engagement metrics, can potentially hurt your brand in the long run.

Social media vanity metrics include:

Follower count

Follower count is an exciting metric to track; however, it doesn’t provide much valuable insight into engagement and overall performance. A brand might have upwards of 200k followers, but those users could have followed and then never again interacted with the account.

It’s super easy to track the number of followers a page has and say, “we hit 200k followers today!” But, it could be more valuable to say, “we hit 200k followers today, 10% of which are engaging with our posts on a daily basis.” The difference? It requires a bit of digging and understanding audience behavior.

Page views

Page views are exactly what they sound like – the number of times your page is being viewed. Though it’s exciting to see a spike in page views, this particular media metric has little relevance to how your content is performing unless you’re tracking it in relation to your social strategy or a specific campaign. For example, you might have 800 page views in one week, but if you’re unsure of what drove your social media followers to your page, the metric doesn’t exactly give your marketing team much to work with in terms of reporting or next steps.

Likes

We all know what likes are. Ever since they were introduced on Facebook in 2009, they’ve held their own on essentially every social media outlet. However… likes aren’t as influential as they seem.

Sure, it’s a great thing to see likes on a particular video skyrocket… but the real question is, what is your audience doing after? Is there a CTA on your post that they’re clicking? Are they making their way to your shopping platform? Or, do they simply “like” your video and keep on scrolling? The issue is that there really isn’t a tangible action associated with a goal when someone “likes” content.

Comments

Comments mean people are interacting with your post, but what kind of users are they? Do they fit your ideal client profile? Are they interested in your products? Unfortunately, there’s quite a bit of spam out there that e-commerce brands need to keep in mind.

A post may have upwards of 100 comments, but if 90% of these comments are suspicious or irrelevant comments from bots or multichannel marketing schemes, it actually diminishes the value of the content. Instead, brands should track any CTAs they have associated with the content and the conversion rate.

Shares

At first glance, shares seem like an incredibly important metric for tracking social media engagement. The problem with it, like most vanity metrics, is that it isn’t an effective social media measurement that can be tied back to a larger company goal or ROI.

An image or video might be shared 300 times, but what behavior comes along with that share? Does your account gain new followers? Do your new audience members spend a lot of time on the post? Do they click any CTAs or make their way to your profile page?

10 Social media metrics to track instead

Vanity metrics provide audience insights about the content you’re sharing across social channels. However, most of the metrics don’t align with an actual goal. While they might be worth checking for some real-time feedback on content, they aren’t the stats your brand should be focusing on.

Instead, you can track social media metrics like the ones below for more valuable insights over a reporting period:

1. Engagement rate

Engagement rate is one of the most important social media metrics to track. Typically, engagement rate is used to determine the effectiveness of social media campaigns. It tracks how many users are interacting with a brand’s content in relation to the number of users who have seen the post or the number of followers the brand has.

A brand that spits out a ton of content and has a hefty amount of followers – but has a small engagement rate – won’t make nearly as much headway as a brand that has half the amount of followers who are deeply engaged. Why? Engaged consumers interact with their favorite brands every chance they get and have the most potential for purchasing products.

2. Brand mentions

Brand mentions range from consumers tagging your profile in a post to using a branded hashtag to simply mentioning your brand name in a comment or caption. Why is it such a highly regarded social media metric to track? It leads to increased product discovery and social proof, which directly correlates with an uptick in organic traffic and conversions.

Consumers are looking for recommendations. In fact, almost a quarter of Millennials and Gen Zers admit to being influenced to purchase products by a larger volume of likes or positive comments. They want to know what products their friends are using. They want to see what products are popular within the social media community and what the reviews are. And they LOVE user-generated content.

Brand mentions help get your brand name out there to an ocean of potential customers that might just be looking for their next buy.

3. Follower growth rate

Follower growth rate tracks the number of new followers over a specific time period in relation to the number of existing followers. For example, an e-commerce brand may have gained 100 followers this month, which seems like a good amount of growth. However, if they started the month with 10k followers, the growth rate is really only 1%… which means, they might need to up their content game to expand their brand reach.

When a brand only focuses on how many followers they’re gaining daily, weekly, or monthly, without taking into account the rate at which they’re growing, they begin to lose invaluable insight into their social media marketing efforts. Instead of focusing strictly on follower count, take a closer look at growth rate to better understand your social media performance.

4. Reach

Social media reach measures the number of unique visitors to a social post. Whereas impressions only monitor the number of times a piece of content has been viewed, reach takes into account individuals re-watching your content multiple times. Tracking reach over impressions allows a company to better understand whether their content is getting out in front of potential customers or not.

In practice, using reach to drive your social strategy looks like this: an apparel brand’s Instagram reels are getting the most reach compared to stories and grid posts. Seeing the expanded reach from this channel, the company decides to focus mainly on reels for both organic and paid social media marketing efforts – utilizing grid posts and stories as supplemental channels.

5. Video completion rate

Video completion rate is very different than plain old views.

Whereas views simply count the number of eyes on a video, the video completion rate tracks the number of times a video is viewed until the very end. For social media content, this is a particularly telling engagement metric to track. It provides brands with data on not only how engaging their content is, but also how long their audience’s attention spans are.

If viewers only watch a few seconds of a brand’s video posts every time, they may want to try their hand at shorter content or ensure that the most important information showcased first, so there’s no chance that viewers will miss it.

6. Response rate

two twitter threads where slack is solving a customer issue.

Your customer response rate on social media determines how quickly you respond to your audience, and it’s a wonderful metric to gauge whether or not your brand is meeting consumer expectations.

While social media is usually thought of as more of product discovery and brand community outlet rather than a service platform, many consumers are expecting top-tier customer service along the way. From direct messages to comments, consumers aren’t afraid to ask brands for help on their social media platforms. And, that’s not all. They want a fast reply. Over 70% of consumers expect a same-day response via social media.

7. Referral traffic

Referral traffic tracks the amount of visitors who end up on your website by means other than Google search. This includes via social media platforms like a link on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. Why is it important? Referral traffic from social media can improve your search engine optimization (SEO) since Google will deem referral-heavy pages as the most trusted.

Plus, the number of referrals you’re getting from your posts can give you insight into what time of day your followers are most active. If at 10 am, your followers are more likely to click a CTA to your website and follow it off of a social media platform, you should try to post around that time on the daily.

8. Cost per click (CPC)

Cost per click comes into play in social media when advertisements are being utilized. If a brand has advertisements running on Instagram or Facebook, they’ll get charged based on the number of clicks that are taken. Cost per click can be calculated very easily – it’s simply the total cost of the paid advertising campaign divided by the number of clicks taken.

CPC is an important social media metric to track because it provides brands with insight into what kind of advertising their target audience is responding to, and what ads they may want to scale back on. Because CPC is tied directly to ad spending, it’s easy for brands to determine the ROI for a particular sponsored social media post or ad.

9. Conversion rate

In e-commerce, the conversion rate is king. It tracks the percentage of customers who take an action that you’d like them to take, like filling out a contact form, signing up for a newsletter, or simply clicking on a link to your newest products.

Through the lens of social media, your conversion rate directly points to how much value your content brings in terms of turning prospects into customers and customers into loyal members of your community.

A successful social media campaign will have a high conversion rate. For example, a beauty brand might showcase their newest lipstick colors via an Instagram story with a “swipe up” link to the products. If the post delivers 5,000 website visits and out of those visits there are 500 purchases, the conversion rate would be 10% (which is super!)

10. Click-through rate (CTR)

Perhaps one of the most straightforward engagement metrics, click-through rate defines the percentage of people who view a social post or advertisement and take another action (a click) to gather more information, purchase a product, or visit another site. You can calculate CTR simply by dividing the number of total views on a piece of content by the number of clicks the content received.

CTR is especially important for social media marketing because it sheds light on how well your paid ads, sponsored posts, and organic content are resonating with your target audience. Content with substantially lower click-through rates could be missing the mark – perhaps the copy isn’t resonating or the image/video is taking too long to load. Either way, tracking CTR helps dig into content performance.

How much does social media matter in e-commerce?

Now that we’ve gone through a plethora of important metrics, one question remains… how much does social media really matter?

In 2022, it couldn’t be more clear that having a social channel absolutely matters in e-commerce. Digital brands without a social media presence are missing out on thousands of opportunities to build better relationships with their customers, expand their brand reach, and deliver the best customer experience.

Did you know that 48% of online shoppers between the ages of 18 and 34 have purchased products through social media channels? With the rise of social commerce, social media platforms are becoming the lifeblood of digitally-native brands.

But, there’s something that matters even more…

Developing clear goals and understanding what’s worth keeping an eye on.

It’s one thing to dive headfirst into social media without a care in the world, posting randomly without the proper support or insight.

It’s an entirely different thing to dive headfirst with a well-thought-out social media strategy, proper customer support, and the most important metrics in mind.

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