Basics of Social Media Metrics

Social media metrics are detailed and concrete measurements that help you understand if your social media strategies are working (or not) for you or your customers. These metrics quantify and evaluate your social media efforts and act as a road map that shows how you can improve what you're doing online.

Metrics measure what happens to the content and the conversations you create on social networks, blogs, and websites. Each piece of social media content you generate — whether it's a simple comment, a long blog post, a new website, an app, or a status update — is designed to get some kind of response.

Response, however, is a difficult concept to measure, so it helps to break it down into specific terms:

  • Attention: Attention is a loose way of describing how people see, and how long people see, your content. You see this reflected in time spent on a web page, how many minutes a tweet continues to be retweeted or replied to, how long a status update stays in Facebook's Most Interesting section of the newsfeed, how long a comment thread is, how long the duration of shares lasts on Google Plus, and more.

  • Reach: Reach sounds impressive, but it really just refers to how far your content travels and for how long. As a measurement, reach indicates a combination of quality content, high attention levels, and connectivity to appropriate influencers. A post with a decent reach value gets reshared dozens of times on various social networks and is commented on and discussed as well, especially over the course of hours, days, or months. New attention to your post's content through these shares indicates good reach as well.

  • Influencers: Influencers are people who share or interact with your content and by doing so inspire others to share and interact with it as well. Influencers can often affect actual sales and lead generation, so they can improve your bottom line if you find the right ones to target.

  • Interest: Related to attention, interest helps make content both sticky and shareable. For example, 14 consecutive posts about your lunch may appeal to a small audience, but you would receive a failing grade on the interest measurement scale. Content about your lunch in Italy on your speaking tour, however, may have a much higher interest score. Being picky about the content you generate and creative in how and where you share it will increase interest overall.

  • Views: As you explore the world of analytics, you'll notice several different types of metrics called views. A view can be the first time someone looks at something you shared, or it can be each time a person visits your page. You often see views described as "unique," "repeat," and more.

  • Actions: Actions is a term for the way people interact with your sites and content. Sharing links, subscribing to newsletters, requesting quotes, leaving comments, clicking links, leaving reviews, and downloading files are all actions.

  • Community: Successful online businesses develop a community around their social media activity. Measuring community may be difficult, but it's not impossible. Increasing this metric can help you with your overall success. A solid community often encourages your customers to act as a champion of whatever you do — every business needs as many champions as they can get to succeed in a tight economy!

  • Listening: Keeping your ear to ground is the most important metric of all. If you aren't listening to what people are saying about your brand, and where they are saying it, you can't modify your business plans accordingly to make sure that your online efforts convert into sales.

Don't bother obsessing over individual metrics like page views. Sure, having a site with hundreds of thousands of views looks great, but if your visitors aren't clicking links, engaging with the site, buying your products or services, or sharing any of your content, you won't get anywhere. Cast a wide metrics net instead and evaluate many different aspects of your return on investment to see what works for you.

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