The 8 Essential Social Media Metrics That Matter

Most social media advice out there is about “more, more, more.”

More followers, more likes, more re-tweets, more click throughs, more ads.

So on and so forth.

And I don’t know about you, but I’ve about had enough of it.

I mean, I know social media is a great thing and is an incredible opportunity for business owners, but at the same time…. I don’t feel like it, okay?!

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I don’t feel like dedicating half a day every day to my Twitter feed. I don’t feel like mapping out a Facebook strategy and then hiring a part-time virtual assistant to implement it for me. And I sure as heck don’t feel like using Pinterest for anything more than collecting delicious vegan recipes and Harry Potter jokes.

And honestly?

I really don’t think I’m the only one.

Sure, we’re all highly ambitious entrepreneurs that get a high from working hard and seeing our efforts pay off.

But we’re human, too. As much as we might like to, we can’t do everything.

We need to relax sometimes and give ourselves permission not to do things.

So, in this post, I’m not going to chastise you for using social media too much or not enough.

I’ll trust that you can find the right balance for you and your business. You’re smart enough to do that and don’t need me policing and micro-managing you about it.

Instead, I’m going to talk about the social media metrics that actually matter, so that when you do sit down to go through your Twitter feed or have a Facebook planning session, you get the most ROI for your time invested.

Because honestly?

You work too hard not to have every minute you spend working count.


Why Number of Followers & Likes Really Doesn’t Matter

If you want followers on Instagram, you can pay a software to do it for you.

I get a spam follow or comment from someone hoping this will work magic for them every single day, and I don’t even have a popular Instagram account.

I can feel flattered that they liked three of my posts, left a “nice photo!” comment, and followed me…. or I can just ignore them, because I know a week from now the software they’re using will automatically unfollow me and this “relationship” they tried to establish with their modern-day spam will be entirely one-sided.

Basically, if you want more followers, you can buy them. If you want more likes, you can post a motivational quote imposed on the top of a gorgeous stock image.

And those things might feel exciting and play into our natural human urges that want us to feel liked and be desired… but those things aren’t playing a part in your overall funnel or doing much (if anything) to increase your bottom line.

Instead, a social media like should only be the very first part of your funnel… and not even a necessary one at that.

It’s where people should start becoming familiar with your brand and your message… so they’ll eventually sign up for your lead magnet and enter your sales funnel “for real.”

(And, hint: you can have a wildly successful online sales funnel without social media. Really. Social media is honestly just icing on the cake.)

So let’s get into the eight metrics that actually matter, shall we?

Note: not all of these metrics will matter for every single business, either. Proceed with caution and try to take notes on only the metrics that feel like they’ve got a high level of resonance with your business.


1. Engaged Commenters & Number of Average Comments

Spamming aside, comments are a sign that people are actually reading what you’re posting and engaging with it on a high level.

Personally, I “like” a lot of pages that show up in my newsfeed, but that I never actually engage with besides that.

Their content is good, but for the most part, I’m not a paying customer.

There are a few brands and bloggers, though, that I follow and answer every question they ask me that shows up in my news feed.

And most of the time, I’m a proud and happy customer of these people… or probably will be in the very near future.

Because here’s the thing: just because people “like” your page or follow you doesn’t mean they’re sold-out loyal fans of whatever it is you offer or teach.

Instead, it’s usually the people who actively engage and comment on your stuff that actually matter the most to your business.

So instead of trying to grow your likes or your follower count so that maybe some of them will be the kind of people who engage via comments, strategize ways to prompt the fans you’ve already got to be actively engaged.

This way you know you’re making the most of the work you’ve already done to collect those followers, and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how having an active “community” in your comments will really draw in others.


2. Bounce Rate

When your analytics dashboard calculates bounce rate, it’s the number of people who come to your website and leave it after only viewing that one page.

So if you’re leading traffic to a landing page with no menu—even if it has a high conversion rate—it’ll have a high bounce rate because people are only looking at that one page.

So if that’s the scenario for your social media posts and ads that lead back to your site, bounce rate is something you can disregard.

But, if you’re using social media to drive traffic to a cornerstone, evergreen blog post, for example, bounce rate is a really important metric to pay attention to.

And basically, it answers this question: Do visitors find your content exciting enough to stick around?

If not, they bounce.

If yes, they click around to check out a few more pages before leaving your site.

So if you’ve got a navigation menu present on the page you’re sending social media traffic to, the goal is to have a really low bounce rate.

By paying attention to this metric, you can see what types of content your social media followings are most interested in, what topics they don’t care about, and which topic generates the most interest overall.

With this information, you can better attune your social media strategy to what those audiences are after, increasing loyalty via those channels and getting the most bang for your buck as far as more bottom-line metrics like email subscribers, clients, and sales.

3. Visits vs. Unique Visitors

Time for some definitions:

  • Number of visits: each time a person visits your website, it counts as a visit.
  • Unique visitors: counts each person only once.

So yes, getting more and more unique visitors is important… especially for those times when you’re hell-bent on growing and scaling your business.

But if you’re only after unique visits, you’re missing out on the real potential of having a social media strategy in the first place.

(Don’t get me wrong. This metric is important because it validates your marketing efforts.)

So in addition to lusting after more unique visitors… also lust after getting them to come back, again and again.

So, for example, if you have 1,000 unique visitors and 1,000 visits every month, that means that every person is coming to your page once and not coming back.

But if you’ve got 1,000 unique visitors and 3,000 visits every month, that means that on average, each visitor is coming back to your site two more times every month, which is incredible.

Social is about driving more and new traffic to your site, but in my opinion, the real power of it lies in “staying in touch” with your target audience on the days and weeks they aren’t on your site. You stay top-of-mind so they remember you even when there’s not one of your unopened emails sitting in their inbox or they’re not going through one of your free email courses.

Because beyond using social to drive more visitors to your site, when you use it to drive previous visitors back to your site, you drive them deeper and deeper into your loyalty and engagement efforts.

They dig deeper into your content every single time they come back, and over time, become “sold” on what you do—which either means they become a newsletter subscriber or they buy something. (And we all want all of our visitors to buy something, don’t we?)

It’s probably lighter and more fun than the seriousness that you get into on your site, but it’s still really beneficial to make sure you’ve got a high-touch strategy going on.

And honestly, the more touches the better.

According to the Online Marketing Institute, it takes 7-13 (or more!) touches to turn someone from a cold visitor into a viable sales lead.


4. Time on Site

Imagine these two scenarios of someone who “bounced” from your site:

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  • A person who scrolled down the page and five seconds later closed your tab.
  • A person who spent time reading your blog post until the very end and opted in for your lead magnet at the end of it.

Obviously, there’s an entire spectrum of options and user behaviors between these two points, but I think every single one of us would favor behavior more closely resembling the second option than the first one, right?

Even if they left without visiting another page and gave us a “bounce.”

So, in conjunction with your bounce rate for traffic that comes back to your site from social media, time on site can give you a big hint about how well you’re doing.

Oh, and remember how you can’t really measure bounce rate if you’re using social media to lead traffic to a leading page with no menu?

This metric… along with actual conversions, of course… is perfect for measuring the success of those campaigns.

By asking your friends and family to read through your site for different periods of time to see how far they get, you’ll get an idea of how far your social traffic is getting down your page. (Or, you know, you could just use a heat map software to tell you this exactly.)


5. User-Created Funnels

Most of the time, when the word “funnel” is thrown around in internet marketing conversations, it represents the steps we design and the emails we send out so our leads and prospects consume the content we want them to consume at the moment we want them to consume it.

Usually, this helps us build ourselves up in their minds, and if we do it correctly, leads to more conversions than if we just let our site visitors take a jab at our site and our content for themselves.

And while you should absolutely construct these funnels to lead visitors through, it’s equally important to pay attention to the funnels visitors create for themselves.

Which means that when they follow a link you share on social media to an evergreen blog post, they might click on the links and call to action buttons you’ve placed within the post…. Or they might instead read the post, click on your About page, look at your pricing, and then read your team profiles before they close your tab.

Of course, plenty of people will follow the funnels you’ve set up for them.

But knowing which funnels most social visitors create for themselves tells you a handful of really helpful things:

  • How familiar the already are with your brand
  • Whether they came for just the blog post or they’re looking for more
  • What pages you need to optimize for funnel conversions if you haven’t already

These funnels are super easy to see within Google Analytics.

All you have to do is log into Google Analytics, scroll down to click on “Behavior” in the right-hand menu, and click on “Site Content” under “Behavior Flow.”

There, you can choose to filter through landing pages, all content, exit pages, or specific content pieces. In my opinion, all content is a great place to start for generic data. But if your social media campaigns are all about landing pages, check those out.

For an overview, just click on “Behavior Flow.” (I LOVE this visual and find it so helpful!)


6. Organic Mentions

Obviously, you want other people to share your content for you.

It’s a big reason why we so compulsively put social share buttons on our websites and actively ask for shares at the bottom of our posts.

So when people share are content via these buttons, it’s great. It means our efforts have paid off.

But what’s even better than this is when readers become so engrossed in everything you’re saying that they give you an online shout out without being prompted to do so just because one article’s social media teaser text was pre-written with your Twitter handle in it.

Particularly if you have a large audience—or dream of having a large audience—a mention tracking tool like Mention is a great way to get notified when people are talking about you without taking any of your active brain power to search for those mentions.

When you’re getting mentioned on social media—that is, in a good way—you know you’re doing something right.

And tracking these mentions is a wonderful way to engage with the people who mention you, join in on conversations about you, and grow loyalty and interest via your social media channels even more.

For example, Ecosia, a company that’s a charitable search engine focused on planting trees, uses Mention to track articles that mention their business model and to make sure that all the information that’s published about them is correct.

It’s an incredible way for them to build brand awareness, and to engage in spots across the internet where interest is building.


7. Subscribers, Leads & Sales

Baseline metrics, in other words.

Or in another, more explicit set of words: your bottom line.

Or, in my “humble” opinion, the only metrics that really matter.

Unfortunately, a lot of social media marketers and well-meaning business owners stop measuring before they get to these metrics because they measure click-through rates.

And actually, (again, in my opinion), measuring the click through rates doesn’t really matter for much.

So what if very few people click through on one of your ads? If you have a small exclusive audience, it only matters that the people who do click through are converting in some way, right?

I think so.

But I think the reason so many people get caught up on clickthrough rate before they ever even consider these bottom line metrics is because the companies who offer their platforms for running ads emphasize click through rates a lot.

But you know why they emphasize them?

Because they charge per click.

So, the more clicks you get, the more money they make.

(Side note: focusing too much on click through rate was how all that annoying click bait was born.)

Click through rates aren’t unimportant… after all, you do want traffic from your advertising efforts. But what’s more important is to not place the importance of a clickthrough rate over the importance of a conversion rate.

Unless you’re getting absolutely zero traffic (or close to it) from your ad campaigns, as long as you’re getting decent conversions from the traffic you do get, click through rate shouldn’t be a top-of-mind thing that you’re constantly concerned about improving.


8. Amplification Rate

Again, this metric is more about measuring engagement than it is about numbers for their own sake.

Basically, what your amplification rate shows you is your opportunity to “amplify” your message from the number of followers you’ve already got.

It measure shares and number of followers, yes, but it puts both of those metrics into a more meaningful context.

The way you calculate it is this:

Take a piece of content and total up the number of times it was shared during a certain period of time. The number of shares can be overall or exclusive to one social platform.

Then, divide that number by how many followers you have on the channels you counted the shares for.

So if you had an article that was shared 300 times on Facebook and you have 5,000 fans there, the equation looks like this:

300 / 5,000 = 0.06

Then, multiply that number by 100 to see your amplification rate as a percentage. So in this example:

0.06 x 100 = 6%

With this number, you know how much you can expect your message to spread just based on your followers.

If you realize it’s a number you’re not happy with, you can find ways to increase it.

But if you realize it’s much higher than you expected, you can pay more attention to that particular social platform to get your message spread even more.


Conclusion: Track What Matters

Alright, now with a show of hands, how many of you who were tracking Facebook likes and Twitter shares are still going to track only those things?

None of you?

Yeah, didn’t think so.

To be fair, you were probably smart enough to not only track those kinds of things in the first place, but I hope I’ve helped you re-focus on the social media-related metrics that are actually important to your business’s growth.

Right now, the most important social media-based metric for my business is what kind of website path the people are taking. What I want to know is what they (my audience) wants to know from me after they come to my site, so I check out the paths they forge after they click through from a LinkedIn or Twitter post.

From there, I know what content they’re most interested in, so I can grow my business with more of that content.

What were the best ideas on social media metrics that came up for you while reading this post?


Lauren is the VP of Marketing at BuildFire. She's an award-winning marketing leader with 20+ years of experience in demand generation, virtual events, marketing automation, and sales and marketing alignment. Lauren is a proven enterprise software marketing expert with an extensive background in SaaS marketing.