The Complete Guide to Social Media Measurement for Small Businesses
A quote that is often mistakenly attributed to Peter Drucker reads:
What is measured can be managed.
Another quote attributed to him reads:
There is nothing quite so useless, as doing with great efficiency, something that should not be done at all.
Regardless of whether he said either one of those, they do both apply to social media metrics: the numbers that indicate the effectiveness of your social media efforts and campaigns, and should be monitored by all businesses, irrespective of size. However, the fact that something can be measured does not necessarily imply that it should, and in this article we will attempt to explain what metrics should be monitored and measured, and why, with a particular focus on local businesses and SME’s. We will also look at tools that can be used to monitor and analyze your performance on various social networks.
Writing about content marketing, Jay Baer succinctly stated that
The end goal is action, not eyeballs
And ultimately this is the end goal of all marketing, with a businesses presence on any social media network just an extension of their marketing efforts. You may have written your mission for social media using flowery prose, or stuffed full of meaningless buzzwords, but there is no value in reaching and engaging with a larger audience, unless your sales and business grow as a result of this. And the only way to know that your efforts across various social networks are contributing to this is to measure the impact of each post, status update and campaign.
Most of the key metrics remain the same regardless of your social media focus, and they can be broadly summarized as:
- Conversion – Every post you publish should have some type of goal attached to it, either simple engagement in the form of likes, comments or shares, or something more transactional such as gaining new email subscribers, getting users to download a particular file, or even completing a purchase on your website. While some goals can be measured using various analytic services, including those provided by the social networks, true conversions are found using Google Analytics.
- Engagement – Engagement – in the form of likes, comments and shares – is almost as important as conversion, since it shows that your content is actually being seen by people, and it helps you establish what type of content they respond to.
- Reach – There are two types of reach: actual reach, and potential reach, although neither of them relates strictly to the number of followers you have. Actual reach is the estimated number of people your post was exposed to in a given time period: but just because your post showed up on someone’s timeline does not mean they actually saw it, or paid any attention to it. Potential reach combines the number of followers you have with the number of followers your followers have. The reason for doing this is that each time one of your followers shares any of your posts, you have the potential of reaching each of their followers.
- Activity – Activity relates to how frequently you post across the various social channels, the mix of post types you publish, and how quickly you respond to comments, queries and complaints posted on social networks. Your activity directly influences how engaged your audience is, and how successful your campaigns are. Activity can also include the best times to post to the various channels – while there are many articles on the Internet that purport to discuss the best times and days to post to each network, it is always best to consider the actual activity of your own audience.
Large businesses and corporations whose social media presence is managed by teams or agencies can monitor and measure many more smaller data points, but smaller businesses, who do not have the time or resources, can easily determine the success of their social media campaigns by limiting themselves to the four points listed above. Below we will look at how to measure these metrics using the analytics tools built into each social network, along with a few third-party tools and Google Analytics.
Facebook, like most social networks, provide their own data tools that make it easier to understand the performance of your campaigns, though the numbers do require some analysis to unlock the full value.
Using the Page Manager or Business Manager, select the Page you want to analyze and then select Insights. This will bring up an overview of your recent performance, and from here you can start digging deeper.
- Post Reach – Access a month’s worth of Post Reach data by either selecting Reach in the top menu, or selecting the Post Reach section next to the Page Likes Post Reach is always split between organic and paid, allowing you to properly assess the performance of any paid campaigns you ran. Select any day to see how each of your recent posts performed on that day.
- Engagement – A graph showing the type of engagement that took place on each day (likes, comments and shares) appears below the Post Reach graph. Again, selecting a specific day will show you which posts the engagement happened on.
- Conversions – Conversions are not easily determined in Facebook Insights: although Post Clicks are shown, they only indicate people who have clicked somewhere in each post. If a post included multiple URLs, there is no way to determine which link was followed. Nonetheless, it does indicate some level of engagement with the post.
- Negative Activity – Negative activity is shown as a graph under the Reach Negative activity is any action by users that could affect your reach: this includes users hiding posts, reporting posts as spam, or users who unlike or unfollow your Page.
Post Reach is exactly what it sounds like: the number of people who saw your content during a specific period. All businesses have seen their organic (non-paid) reach severely limited by Facebook’s News Feed algorithm, with posts that users engage with reaching the largest audience outside of a paid boost. Analyze Post Reach in conjunction with Engagement to determine which types of posts reach the largest audience, allowing you to experiment with publishing more posts that use a similar format, or use similar elements.
Engagements are not actions – they’re still only eyeballs; but they are important on Facebook because the more engaged users are with your posts, the more eyeballs it ultimately reaches. Likes are great, but they are also the simplest form of engagement: liking a post requires very little effort from a user. Commenting and sharing requires more effort, but also show a deeper level of engagement. Additionally, commenting provides you with an opportunity to also engage with your audience by replying to them, while sharing helps expose you to new users outside of your network.
Negative activity is often overlooked, even though it is a very important metric in that it can reveal your mistakes. People unfollow businesses for various reasons, but the most common business mistakes that result in people unfollowing are:
- Content that is too self-promotional, or simply boring
- A lack of personal engagement
- An overuse of automation on social networks
- Poor use of hashtags
Whenever you see a spike in negative activity on your Page, go back and look at what content was shared on that day, and immediately preceding that day. If you are able to identify the cause, you will be able to avoid making the same mistake again.
What to Remember
Reach and impressions are not the same: impressions are the total number of times posts were displayed, and it is possible that people will see multiple impressions of the same post. Reach is the number of unique timelines your post was displayed on.
Demographics are not listed as a metric to measure, but they should always be monitored on all channels. It is important that your social media audience matches that of your business – in terms of age and gender – but also that most of them are based in locations that you serve.
Twitter finally rolled out their analytics dashboard to all users in 2014, and if it hasn’t been activated on your account yet, you can do so by visiting analytics.twitter.com and logging in with your account details. Accessing the dashboard is as simple as visiting the same URL, or by selecting your profile image next to the search bar on your Twitter account, and then selecting analytics.
Like Facebook, Twitter analytics provides you with a wealth of information, and it is up to you to decide what information you are going to measure on a regular basis. If you intend on focusing on the metrics mentioned at the beginning of this article, you can do so by following these steps:
Reach & Engagement
Selecting Tweets from the Analytics menu bar at the top of the page will bring up your Tweet activity for the past 28-days, by default, though you are able to change the date range once the page has loaded.
On this page you will find the total number of impressions your Tweets earned over the period, with a graphical breakdown of performance by day, split between organic reach and paid promotions. Below this is a summary of the performance of each Tweet in this period, showing:
- The actual Tweet
- The number of times it showed up on your followers timelines (Impressions)
- The number of times anyone engaged with it (which could be any activity from clicking on any of the links in the Tweet, to favoriting it, retweeting it, or replying to it)
- And the engagement rate as a percentage
To the right of this is a summary of all engagement activity over the period being measured, this time split into link clicks, retweets, favorites and replies.
Selecting any of the Tweets shown on the page will bring up an individual summary of how that Tweet performed, showing impressions per hour, along with a breakdown of engagement.
Additional valuable insights into your audience are found by selecting Followers from the Analytics menu bar, which reveals the growth in your follower count, their interests, and most importantly of all, their location, including top cities.
Knowledge of audience demographics is important for all businesses, but location is especially important for local businesses – the success of any of your campaigns will be of little value if most of your audience is based in another state or country.
Finally, if you have enabled Twitter Cards, you will also be able to see how they have performed over the same period. You can see whether using Twitter Cards results in more URL clicks and retweets, and if you are using multiple cards types, you can also establish which type performs better with your audience.
What to Remember
The short half-life of social media updates, along with varying user behavior, means that your reach will seldom come close to the actual number of followers you have. However, growing your audience size is not the only way to increase your reach; you can also do this by monitoring what times and days generate the most engagement, and try to post more often at these times.
Instagram has grown phenomenally in the past year, reaching 300-million active users in December 2014. It is also the fastest growing social network among US adults, meaning your business should definitely be on Instagram if this is where your target audience networks. The only problem currently is the lack of integrated analytics, unless you’re an advertiser.
Luckily there are a number of tools available that can give you some insights into how you are performing on Instagram, even if this is limited to potential reach and engagement.
Iconosquare is a free tool that provides easy to understand analysis of your content, engagement, community and optimization. When you first register, the app will give you a very basic overview while it runs a deeper analysis of your Instagram account. Once the analysis has been completed you will receive an email containing several snapshots that are graphical representations of key statistics. Log back into your account to get a more detailed breakdown, which is found by clicking on Statistics from the top menu, and then selecting the relevant metric from the menu on the left:
Here you can see how much content you have posted to Instagram, broken down according to:
- History – the total number of posts you have made, broken down further according to month, or week
- Density – this shows on which days you post most frequently, and also at what times. This can be looked at in conjunction with engagement to determine which days and times generate the most engagement
- Filter & Tag Usage – simple graphical representations showing which filters and tags you use most often. Again these can be correlated to engagement, specifically looking for any influence
This gives you a summary of your audience’s engagement, starting with a monthly breakdown of the number of likes received, and the number of likes received in relation to the number of posts published. Further down on the page is a similar breakdown, but looking at comments instead. In addition to these two graphs, you will also find two blocks showing you which posts attracted the most likes and comments.
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This is essentially your potential reach, giving a summary of how many people follow you, how many you follow, and how many of those relationships are reciprocal. Additional statistics show how each of these has grown, followed by a summary of new and lost followers.
When used correctly, the information found under Optimization can lead to increased engagement amongst your audience. This includes the best days and times to post, and the tags that also appear to attract the most engagement. All data in this section is based on activity in the last 90-days. Under Tag impact you will also find a list of the top tags on Instagram, and correctly using any of these can also boost the reach of your posts since they are among the most frequently searched tags on Instagram.
Dan Zarrella’s PicStats (free) can be a little overwhelming at first, summarizing likes, comments and total engagement across 13 different graphs, but what sets it apart is the ability for you to easily analyze a competitor’s performance on Instagram. Apart from the standard summary of your performance, PicStats also includes data that allows you to assess your captions impact on engagement, looking at reading level, caption length and caption sentiment.
What to Remember
Instagram does not support the inclusion of URLs within a post, but this does not mean you should avoid using it as part of your social media strategy. As one of the fastest growing networks, particularly amongst millennials, it can help you improve brand awareness, and reach an audience that isn’t using any other networks.
YouTube media differs from most other social media in that the content distribution is not limited to a single network, and it remains discoverable almost indefinitely. While a post to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram has a half-life measured in minutes and hours, and all but disappears within a few days, a YouTube video has a half-life of 6-days, and can easily be generating views years from when it was first uploaded. So while engagement on YouTube is still defined by likes, comments and shares, reach is replaced by views.
As with other social media analytics, accessing your YouTube analytics will first bring up an overview of your media’s performance over the last 28-days, but the Analytics menu in the left sidebar allows you to access more detailed information.
YouTube layers a lot of information into each section, so while Views reports is broken down into:
- Playback locations
- Traffic sources
- Audience retention
Within each of those sections you have access to graphs that go from showing totals, to showing specific information for each video. While each section provides valuable insights, the most important information is found under views, demographics and audience retention. Views is self-explanatory, but focus on the numbers for each video, rather than the total, and interpret the data in conjunction with the information found under audience retention.
Audience retention shows how much of each video was watched, and a high drop off (people watching less than 50 percent of a video) can indicate a problem with your strategy. Demographics are also important since they show whether you are reaching your intended audience in terms of location and gender and age split.
Finally, also take into account playback locations, traffic sources and devices to see whether where you share the video has any impact on views and engagement.
Engagement reports are made up of:
- Likes and dislikes
- Videos in playlists
And again the most important information here can be found under subscribers, likes and dislikes, and sharing.
Pinterest analytics are only available on business accounts, so before visiting analytics.pinterest.com, make sure you have a business account setup, or have converted your current account to a business one.
Pinterest analytics are divided into three sections:
- Pinterest profile
These can all be accessed via the menu bar at the top of the analytics page. Each of these sections gives you access to specific insights into the performance of your Pinterest account and your Pins.
The data under Pinterest profile is separated into:
- Impressions – the number of times your pins have appeared on the Home feed, category feeds and in searches on Pinterest. Below the aggregate data you will also see your top performing pins and boards over the past 30-days, including clicks, repins and likes. This can help you establish what types of pins, and information, your audience responds to most.
- Repins – the Pinterest equivalent to a share. As with Impressions, you have aggregate data, and top performing. Impressions and repins influence your reach and potential reach.
- Clicks – unlike Twitter and Facebook where clicks represent any click on your post, Pinterest clicks represent clicks on any URL in your Pin.
- All-time – this shows your top performing Pins over the life of your account, based on repins, rank in search, and overall engagement.
The Audience portion of Pinterest analytics gives you access to two important chunks of information: demographics and interests.
Demographics, as always, helps you to understand whether you are reaching the correct audience based on location (for local businesses the Metro section is particularly important), gender and language.
The data under Interests is drawn from your audiences’ own activity on Pinterest, and understanding this can help you to shape and adjust your own strategy. Not only do you get a visual representation of their interests, but you also get to see what boards many of your Pins get shared to, and also what others brands your audience interacts with.
The final section on Pinterest analytics shows activity relating to your own website; however, this is only available if your profile includes your business website, and it has been verified. We have previously discussed enabling Rich Pins on your website, and using the Pin It Button/Widget, and while these aren’t required for anyone to share any information from your website to Pinterest, they do make it easier and more dynamic.
The data under Website is structured similarly to that found under Pinterest profile, but now it relates specifically to any information shared from your website by your audience, with additional information showing how the use of the Pin It button has impacted on information sharing. While the other metrics show the success of your own efforts on Pinterest, the Website metrics gives an indication of how successful your efforts on your website are, which in turn can help influence your strategy in future, both on your website and on Pinterest.
Up until the middle of 2014, Google+ did not offer up any valuable insights into your performance on the platform, aside from Ripples, which only indicated how a post was being shared. If you wanted more information, you had to rely on tools offered by Steady Demand, Circle Count and Wildfire (now part of Google).
Following the launch of Google My Business, business owners finally had easy access to better insights, including:
- Visibility (equivalent to reach) – showing photo, profile and post views. Photo views include impressions across all Google properties, not only Google+.
- Engagement – showing actions (+1 clicks, shares and comments), activity on recent posts, and average activity by post type.
- Audience – showing followers, along with location, gender and age splits.
Using Google Analytics for Social Metrics
The most important metric for any business is also one that cannot be accurately measured using many of the tools outlined above: conversions. In simple terms, conversions are users taking a desired action, where the desired action could be:
- Visiting your website
- Visiting a specific page
- Signing up to a newsletter
- Registering on your website, or for an event, or
- Actually buying something from your online store
Almost all of the tools do provide some information on clicks, but this usually represents any user interaction with social media posts: clicks within the post could be on the image, any URL included, and even clicks on hashtags.
Remembering that one of the main reasons for users unfollowing a brand is that the social media content is either too self-promotional, or boring, many of your posts will be informative, and focused on all areas of the marketing funnel except conversion. The marketing focused posts, and this includes paid campaigns, should all be linked to a specific action that you want the user to take; and this action should be trackable.
Google Analytics has the ability to track multiple types of conversions, through the creation of goals, but through the use of the Google URL builder tool, you can also track visits to your website from social media posts that don’t have a specific action or goal attached to them. Should any of your social media posts include a generic link to your website – not to your online store, or to a registration form – or if you want to be able to differentiate between similar campaigns, Google’s URL builder enables you to create custom URLs that make it easier to identify the exact source of any traffic or conversions.
Visit the URL builder page and complete the form provided, only using the variables you actually need; campaign term and content are not required, so only use them if necessary. Campaign Source should be unique to each and every campaign, while Campaign Medium can be used to identify the network on which the campaign ran: Facebook, Twitter, etc. Submit the form after completing it, and use the generated URL in your social media post instead of just linking directly to your website.
Although this amounts to an additional step in your marketing, it can be very useful when running a similar campaign across multiple networks, or regularly linking to the same URL on your website: now you will be able to see exactly how many visitors each individual campaign generated, and from which network.
There are a host of alternative analytical tools you can use – in addition to, or instead of – the analytical tools provided by each of the networks. Many of them offer free and paid plans, and are worth investigating to see whether they provide better insights for your specific needs.
Simply Measured provides a complete social analytics solution, but their entry-level plan costs $500 per month. They do, however, have a great selection of free reports that anyone can make use of*, including:
- Twitter Follower Analysis – location, influence, behavior and interests
- Twitter Customer Service Analysis – analyze how you are interacting with customers on Twitter
- Instagram User Analysis – engagement, content and trends
- Facebook Page Analysis – audience, engagement and content trends
- Facebook Insights Analysis – in-depth analysis of Page insights
- Facebook Competitive Analysis – benchmark your performance against up to 10 competitors
- Facebook Content Analysis – get optimization recommendations based on your past content performance
- Google+ Page Analysis – audience, content and engagement trends
- Social Traffic Report – various insights into your website traffic in relation to social
- Traffic Source Analysis – deeper insights into where your website traffic is coming from
* Each report is limited to specific time frames, and only available on accounts with a specific number of followers.
The only significant difference between SumAll’s free and paid ($59 per month) plan, is that with the paid plan you get beautiful designed, and easy to understand, reports sent to you weekly and monthly. SumAll allows you to connect a large number of platforms including certain ecommerce and payment solutions.
Only connecting your social networks will provide you with a comprehensive summary of your performance on each network, and you can then delve deeper for more specific insights. You will also receive a daily and weekly summary via email, which allows you to spot any significant jump in activity without first having to log into the web app. The only major platform not currently supported is Pinterest.
Like SumAll, Cyfe allows you to connect multiple services, but unlike SumAll, Cyfe does not provide deeper insights into activity. Instead it presents you with a consolidated dashboard, showing your performance on each platform over a given period. It is similar to the overview you get in each network’s analytics tool, but instead of you first having to visit each network, you now have everything together on one screen.
The free plan limits you to only five widgets, and only 30-days of data, while the paid plan ($19 per month) offers unlimited widgets, dashboards and historical data.
Crowdbooster (from $9 per month) is limited to Facebook and Twitter accounts, but in addition to providing analytics of your performance, the service also sends you timely, and actionable, alerts and recommendations, while also allowing you to schedule posts from within the web app.
Piqora & Tailwind
Instagram and Pinterest have a heavier dependence on high-quality visual content than the other networks, so businesses that themselves rely heavily on visuals (for example, fashion and décor) could benefit from using tools such as Piqora and Tailwind.
Piqora, which works with both Instagram and Pinterest, is more of an enterprise tool, and as such they do not list pricing on their website. Tailwind only works with Pinterest, but is priced from $9,99 per month, which will get you basic insights into your performance, while also allowing you to schedule your pins using a schedule that is derived from past activity and performance.
Steady Demand & Circle Count
Growing your audience, and encouraging engagement, can be a little tricky on Google+, making services such a Steady Demand and Circle Count a necessity for any business serious about creating a presence on this platform. Like Simply Measured, Steady Demand does offer a free analysis of your Google+ page, but making use of the professional services – such as low performance alerts and assistance with growing your connections – costs from $12 per month.
Circle Count is currently free, but a pro service is planned for the near future. For now Circle Count will not only provide you with detailed insights into your own performance on Google+, but it will also show you who the top performers on Google+ are, including people with highly engaging content. This last bit of information can help you in shaping the type of content you share on Google+ to be more engaging.
By following this guide you, as the owner of an SME or local business, should have a better understanding of what the most important metrics are, what they mean, and how you can measure them. However, only you can decide how to implement the measurement of social media campaigns, along with deciding what a successful campaign is in the context of your business. What matters most is that each campaign has a realistic goal or action attached to it, and that you analyze the results – both good and bad – and use them to shape your future campaigns. What works should be repeated, and what doesn’t work should either be abandoned, or tweaked until it works.
As long as your campaigns don’t become repetitive or boring, and they continue to help your business grow.