- Ewan Hamilton
Five organic social media metrics you should be tracking
Although it could be argued that every possible social media metric – there are a lot of them by the way – is important in some capacity, there are a few key ones that I’d argue are vital for brands to be tracking on a frequent basis. In 2020 it seems unlikely that any new revolutionary metrics of tracking social performance will appear, however the ever-changing landscape of social media means the insight that can be taken from each metric is constantly updating.
Although it’s important to make sure the metrics you track for your brand are actually relevant (no point looking into video stats if you don’t actually produce video content), in my view it’s important to track a variety of metrics that encapsulate different aspects of social such as brand awareness and perception, content engagement trends and sales attribution from social.
Followers (Size and Demographics)
In 2019, it felt like every single thought piece I read that included followers on social dismissed its importance and often the term “vanity metric” would be found in the same sentence as followers – Search Engine Journal even wrote an entire article on the subject. Although there is an element of vanity to your audience size, perhaps more so for the personal users’ social accounts than the social presence of brands, looking beyond this there is still so much to learn from who is following your brands social accounts.
From the perspective of a small brand, in particular a start-up business going through an awareness growth stage, follower size may arguably be the most important metric to be tracking. Month on Month tracking of follower size provides a strong gauge on who is aware of your brand, and along the first stage in the journey to becoming a valued brand advocate.
What insight can you take from your follower number as a medium sized brand? Looking purely at the number of followers your brand has doesn’t reveal a great deal and realistically is largely for vanity purposes. But, utilising the audience insights features that the more popular social media platforms provide, you can take insight from the types of people that follow your brand. Perhaps luckily, each of your brands’ social platform followers match your target audiences, but the power of insight tools may reveal something totally different for another brand – audience insight research may reveal that your brand, which is geared to target an older female demographic is actually most prominently followed by a younger female audience. A hypothetical scenario of course, but this would give you a reason to further research why this is the case, and potentially lead to optimising the social media strategy for your brand.
For the larger brands, brand perception among key competitors is an important performance indicator to track on social. This can be analysed by tracking both your brands’ and your competitors’ social followers and brand conversation (covered further down) on a month on month basis. Benchmarking your own social media audience growth, and that of your competitors on a month on month basis allows you to keep an eye on your competitors and analyse any abnormal changes in audience size.
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As a subject matter in itself, brand conversation can reveal a large amount of crucial insight around a brand – as I covered in a blog that examined social conversation along the various stages of the sales funnel. When it comes to brand conversation, two of the more popularly tracked metrics are brand mentions - and sentiment analysis as an extension of this - as Sprout Social noted.
The volume of social mentions your brand receives over a period of time is a relatively meaningless figure beyond comparing against figures from previous time ranges. The real value of tracking brand mentions is doing a full deep dive analysis into the mentions of your brand. Although it becomes a more timely task for the larger brands that receive a larger volume of mentions, examining inbound mentions for trends into what is being said about your brand, and who is saying it (is conversation coming from your target audiences, or large scale media outlets and influencer accounts?) will provide actionable insight for your brand.
As noted, sentiment analysis is an extended analysis of brand mentions. Every mention of your brand will have a sentiment behind it – generally in a good or bad light. Some mentions can be of neutral sentiment that don’t really carry an opinion towards your brand (think factual based mentions from media outlets). Similarly to above, sentiment analysis allows you to examine what is driving both positive and negative conversation around your brand.
Because of the nature of brand conversation being publicly available data, you can also apply tracking brand mentions of your brand, to competitor brands as well. Benchmarking what drives conversation towards your competitors, and drivers of sentiment will again provide crucial pieces of insight that can be utilised in future plans – be it social media strategy, or product development.
Arguably the largest landscape change to social in 2019 was the conversation around engagement hiding, as trialled on Instagram with the number of likes a post received being hidden. These changes have seen marketers question the future of organic content engagement trends on social, and the implications for brands and influencers. Despite the slight uncertainty, it will always be important to take insight from the engagement your content receives.
Calculating engagement rate on a post is your way of assessing how much of your audience finds your content engagement worthy. The exact metrics used to calculate engagement rate varies depending on personal preference, but in general terms, post engagement rate is the total of engagements a post receives, divided by the total audience of the post, expressed as a percentage.
So why is this important? Calculating and then tracking the engagement rate for each post a brand produces will again provide crucial insight for your brand’s social content going forward. Comparing post engagement rate will provide a clear gauge on which type of content works best for your brand, on each platform as well, which can be taken into consideration for future content plans.
Again, it’s possible to both compare and benchmark your post engagement rate, with engagement rates of competitor content. Similarly to what works well for your brand, it’s possible to see what content works well for your competitors. This can provide potential new content ideas for your brand going forward.
Content Recirculation (Shares/Retweets etc)
I could easily write about each post engagement and the insight you can take from tracking each form of engagement, however I’ll focus on the importance of the key takeaways you can get from tracking the sharing of your posts.
Primarily, having a social post shared by somebody else helps boost brand awareness by exposing your brand to audiences out with your followers. Ideally those who share your posts have large audience sizes, where you have a larger pool of people that could be exposed to your content and brand.
If you find your content being shared by the same people, you can also note these people as being advocates of your brand which is the ideal final stage of a customer’s journey. I’d caveat this with a scenario that if the same person happens to share almost every post your brand produces, their social audience may get a bit tired of repeatedly seeing your brand shared onto their social feed: I’m speaking from the perspective of my personal social accounts here.
Between Facebook’s constant algorithm changes that continue to stress the importance of quality video content on the platform, and 2019 seeing the emergence, and rise in popularity, of Tik Tok, it’s becoming increasingly vital to continually gauge how your video content resonates with your audience.
There are an abundance of video stats that social media platforms provide, to the extent that they look overwhelming at first. When it comes to video, some of the more useful pieces of insight can be taken from tracking trends among the video content your brand produces. Although this can be applied to any form of content, it is worthwhile categorising video posts to help track performance over time and identify trends in video engagement.
Over time, your average video view length can give a flavour of your audience’s reaction to video content. Diving beyond the overall average view duration, tracking exactly what content receives the longest view time on average, along with the shortest, can provide crucial insight into what content your audience enjoys the most.
Tracking video completion rate also allows you to look at what type of video is watched from beginning to end by your audience. An alternative to video completion rate, video drop off rate, is used to see how long through a video a viewer stops watching. A combination of these statistics allow you to see which videos are watched the longest and shortest, again providing you with the ability to identify trends in video performance.