Which numbers matter on social media?
Social media is full of metrics: How many impressions did your advertisement have? How many likes, shares, retweets, and faves did your post generate? How many people clicked through to your website? How many followers do you have?
All of these mean different things depending on the channel you’re on, but the question is, which of these numbers are the most important? The metrics can largely be broken into three groups: audience size, views, and engagement. Here’s a breakdown of what they mean and how you should value them in relation to your sales efforts.
How big is your audience?
On Facebook, your audience size is determined by the number of people who like your page, while on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn, your followers are your audience. Different nomenclature, same concept. These are the folk who have asked to hear from you, specifically, and your posts will appear on their feed. You don’t have to pay anything to speak to these people, so the larger you grow this number the lower the cost of getting your message out.
As we said previously, you want to give your fans a lot of love, but don’t push a sale too hard or you’ll push them away.
Who’s seeing your content?
When you make a post, you want to know how far it goes. This is usually measured by the number of impressions the post received, or by how many people the post reached. The difference between the two is that while reach measures the number of people who saw your post, impressions measure how many times it was seen (even if it was seen by the same person multiple times).
The number of impressions can get quite high, particularly if you’re putting money into an advertising campaign. However, their value is limited. Imagine you’ve put up a billboard on the side of the highway: the number of people driving by who see your billboard are equivalent to your impressions. But you don’t know if “seeing your billboard” means if they responded to it, or even if they read it fully.
This doesn’t mean impressions are worthless. They do help build awareness for your brand, meaning that if someone sees your advertising repeatedly they may become more familiar with who you are. It is, however, important not to be too focused on them simply because they are a large number.
What is your engagement rate?
Engagement is measured as your cumulative likes, shares, retweets, clicks, comments, etc. In short, any time someone interacts with your content in a meaningful way, it counts toward engagement. These numbers will always be significantly smaller than your impressions, but they carry much more weight because they express interest. Track your engagement numbers month-to-month and compare them against averages in your industry to get an idea of how you’re doing.
Will these numbers help me build sales?
When you get down to the brass tacks, marketing efforts that don’t lead to sales at a certain point waste your time and money. Selling on social media can be fast for some (online retailers) and slow for others (B2B services), but only dedicated effort will get you there.
With all the excitement and publicity viral videos bring, there can be an illusion that social media is a fast track for success. In the real word, social media is much more like a workout: show up every day, put in your best effort, and over time you’ll build your brand and see the result in sales.
Just don’t expect it to happen overnight.