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How to Define Social Media KPIs for Your Strategy

Learn how to define social media KPIs while avoiding vanity metrics. Take a look at how to measure what is essential for your strategy.

KPIs para redes sociais - ilustração de um alvo com uma flecha no centro; do lado direito, um círculo com as logomarcas do Facebook. Instagram, Pinterest e Twitter; do lado esqeurdo, a figura de uma lupa sobre um gráfico de linhas e uma engrenagem

Being present on social media, engaging with your audience, and advertising are important parts of digital marketing strategies. You’re probably already building your brand and attracting new customers on the most popular networks.

But do you know how to measure your performance on these networks? Do you know if your actions are contributing to achieving your goals? 

Being present on social media but not tracking metrics, or even worse, tracking the wrong metrics, is a huge mistake! 

You might be using the wrong channels for your brand, wasting time and money, and distancing yourself from your goals.

One of the great things about the internet is that you can quantify data and use it to obtain important insights. 

Through careful interpretation of the data you collect, you can improve your marketing strategies and get closer to achieving your goals.

Despite how easy it is to measure data, and the fact that there are many tools available to do so, most people still have trouble correctly defining the metrics to be analyzed, which is crucial for the creation of a good strategy and for the growth of your business.

In this article, you’ll learn how to define the most important social media KPIs for your advertising strategy, and how to track and measure them correctly. 

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The difference between metrics and KPIs and why they are important for social media 

Properly defining and analyzing your metrics and KPIs is the best way of knowing if the actions you perform on social media are generating real results, and if they are contributing to taking your business to the next level. 

To do so, it’s important to know the difference between these two key variables. 

Metrics and KPIs are linked and work together for a more assertive analysis of your results, however, they’re different.

Metrics 

Metrics are everything that can be measured. They are results that can be grouped together. In other words, they’re various types of collected data that may or may not be relevant in the decision-making process. 

Metrics are ideal for showing the performance of a specific strategy, and not of the business itself. 

KPIs 

On the other hand, key performance indicators (KPIs) are variables that measure the performance of the processes used by a company to achieve their company goals

KPIs are created based on metrics, and measure your business’ results. 

In short, you can think of it like this: when a metric is important enough for decision-making, it becomes a KPI.

At the level of digital marketing, there are a few KPIs and metrics that illustrate the difference. 

Let’s suppose that you’re focused on increasing your profits through organic traffic. In this case, increased conversion will contribute to achieving your goal.

Here, your KPI assumes that there’s no use in knowing if the number of visits or clicks on your blog has increased, if you don’t know which ones were converted into purchases through such visits. 

Therefore, the KPI is your conversion rate and the metrics are the number of visitors to your blog and your click rate. 

(To learn more about KPIs, and how to choose the right ones for your digital marketing strategy, read the article What are KPIs, and do you choose yours?)

The importance of KPIs and metrics for social media

In the same manner in which you define metrics and KPIs for your digital marketing strategy, you also need to define KPIs and metrics for your social media profiles. 

That way you’ll know if your promotion strategy on social media networks is truly working, and if it’s contributing to the achievement of your goals.

It’s necessary to know the purpose of each piece of information you’re collecting, so that you can manage your promotion strategy profitably.

To create and measure your social media strategy, first you need to understand how each social network works.

Develop a content strategy to plan your content, and then, monitor your social media profiles. This will help you understand the impact of your content on these channels, your engagement, and how to create the right content for each network.

Avoid vanity metrics and choose metrics that are essential 

Figure out which KPIs you’ll use to measure your actions on social media at the beginning of your strategy.

This will help in making decisions about various aspects, such as:

  • The planning of content for each network; 
  • The definition of the budget for paid traffic; and 
  • When to modify a promotion strategy. 

When dealing with a social media strategy, there are several indicators and variables that make the measurement of data quite confusing. They can make it hard to know what will really impact your business’ growth. 

Ideally, you should be able to develop strategies that will help you make your business more profitable instead of focusing on measuring vanity metrics.

Vanity metrics can be defined as superficial metrics. Numbers and statistics that seem important, but that don’t directly contribute to the success of your business. 

In short, vanity metrics refers to data that is tracked and measured but ultimately doesn’t contribute to the decision-making process nor to the real growth of a business.

It’s quite common for entrepreneurs to be concerned with vanity metrics instead of focusing on those that really matter to achieve their goals. 

Below are some examples to help you understand:

Number of followers

A clear example of vanity metrics is a high number of followers on social media

Having more followers might seem impressive and boost the ego of the company and its staff. 

However, if they’re not sufficiently qualified, i.e., if they’re not formed by people in your target audience, then this number is a vanity metric. 

You see, in this case, the followers are people who aren’t really interested in your brand, content, or product. 

As such, they won’t become buyers or even promoters of your brand, which doesn’t contribute to the growth of your business. 

Audience

On networks such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, a common mistake is making an effort to create the largest possible audience. Remember, it’s better to have 1,000 engaged followers than 10,000 unengaged followers. 

The real effort must be directed towards creating an audience network that really interacts with your content and is interested in it. 

In any case, even if vanity metrics lead to a false sense of success, you should not ignore them completely! 

If your brand is just starting out and needs recognition in the market to reach a large number of people, vanity metrics can help you analyze your results. It’ll all depend on your business’ goals and on outlining the correct strategy.

For example, you can work on increasing the size of your audience and reaching new people. But don’t rely on a strategy that only has this as an ultimate goal, and doesn’t value the importance of a qualified audience.

The main difference is that vanity metrics shouldn’t dictate your business’ decision-making process. 

Defining social media KPIs

So, what should you do to define the correct KPIs and avoid vanity metrics? 

Focus on your business goals! 

To help you, we’ve listed 4 general social media KPIs for your strategy.

1 – Reach 

Reach might be viewed by many as a vanity metric. So refer to your business goals and decide if this KPI is ideal for you.

If your intention is directed towards building a brand, reaching the largest number of qualified users possible, and generating leads, good metrics to be tracked are: 

  • Follower count;
  • Post, video, and ad views;
  • Mentions – the number of times your brand was mentioned on social media;
  • Share of voice: this metric measures the size of the audience that you impact within your niche. In other words, it’s a comparison of how many people are talking about your brand versus how many are talking about your competitors.  

Within reach, also try to understand your growth rate in comparison to your competitors’.

Measuring your profile and reach’s growth versus your competitors’, is important to know if your strategy is working well, how your market niche is performing on different networks, and your performance within each scenario. 

2 – Engagement

How engaged is your audience? How does your audience interact with your content? 

This social media KPI is extremely important to measure the success of your campaigns.

If this is one of your goals, measuring engagement is more recommended than the previous KPI (reach). 

The following metrics measure how people are behaving in regard to your brand: 

Number of likes

Demonstrates how much your audience likes your content. 

Warning: This metric may become a vanity metric, so keep in mind your goals. Once you’ve created your campaigns, you need to analyze them to find out which types of content are most consumed by your audience. 

This metric is a good way to help you rethink your marketing campaign or find out, by means of A/B tests, which type of posts work better for your audience in a given campaign: photos, video, or text. 

Comments

Demonstrate direct engagement with your content and provide feedback about it.

Shares and retweets 

This metric demonstrates your authority in the market.

Does your audience care so much about what you say and about your content that they want to share it with others?

This metric is important because it also increases your reach and helps you build and promote your brand. 

Recommendations and evaluations (mainly onFacebook business pages) 

Demonstrate your customers’ opinion about your brand. 

This metric is important because it’s one of the best indicators for customers to decide if your product is good enough to be purchased and if you provide quality service. 

In addition, it reflects opinions about your support, after-sales customer service, and if people would do business with you. 

External link open rate 

Demonstrates if your content and ads are interesting enough to make your audience click on the call to action (CTA) buttons and be directed to your website, sales page, or blog. 

3 – ROI – Return on investment 

Measuring the ROI of your social media strategy, as well as having a target number of leads, are two of the main social media metrics that directly influence your decision-making process and your business’ profit. 

These KPIs are important when deciding to increase or decrease your budget for campaigns on social media and paid traffic. 

To measure your  ROI, focus on the following metrics: 

Direct sales revenue from social media

You can measure revenue by analyzing:

  • Conversions performed through traffic on Facebook or Instagram; 
  • Purchases with promotional coupons from campaigns on social media; 
  • Clicks on links to your website that were converted into sales. 

(Read our article to find out where your sales originated.)  

Lead conversion through social media 

This metric varies from campaign to campaign. Below are a few examples: 

  • Number of email addresses collected; 
  • Downloads of free materials.

Cost of conversation

This KPI might be taken into consideration if you wish to decrease the time spent with email support and reduce the costs of phone support. 

Measure how much time and money you’ll save by supporting your product via social media instead of via your website’s chat, email, and phone number. 

4 – Retention and loyalty 

This KPI is important for those who have business goals directed at providing excellent customer support service and retaining customers. 

Focusing on this KPI is a good idea if you have a description and definition of products, i.e., if you wish to sell to people who have bought other products from you or any product for which you are an affiliate. 

The following metrics are important for this KPI:

Recommendations and evaluations

As mentioned previously in the engagement KPI, recommendations and evaluations help you find out what your customers think of your product and brand, and especially if they would buy from you again.  

Problems solved 

Measure how you’re doing in terms of support through social media.

Can you solve the problems and complaints that are posted to your social media profiles? 

Also, measure the time taken to solve the problem and reply to your customers. 

Brand satisfaction index

A good way to calculate this index is through your NPS – net promoter score, which is a survey used to determine how satisfied your customers are, and how loyal they are to your brand. 

In the case of social media, you can create a survey with questions that let you know if your customer-oriented efforts are working.  

Emotion

This is a more subjective metric, but it should be taken into account to measure retention and loyalty. 

Find out how many mentions are made about your brand, read the comments, and find out how your audience feels about your brand and your presence on social media.

In addition, evaluate if the majority of comments and mentions about you are positive or negative. 

This analysis will help you improve your online strategy and can reveal gaps, mistakes, and new opportunities to be explored. 

Analyzing KPIs

Having taken into account your business goals and defined your KPIs and metrics based on those goals, it’s also important that you review everything at least once every six months.  

Remember that social media dynamics are constantly changing and your business goals may also change. Therefore, it’s necessary to always review your KPIs and reinvent them. 

Finally, to help you measure all your defined KPIs, you can use several social media management tools. 

Some of the most popular tools are Hootsuite, Buffer, and Sprout Social.

Find out which ones are free or paid, what features they offer, and keep an eye out for other tools besides those listed here. 

Always remember why you are present on social media and what you wish to achieve with this presence so you can choose the ideal tool to help you measure your defined KPIs. 

What you should analyze on each social media network

Since you already know all of the main KPIs and their accompanying metrics, it’s important to build your social media campaigns in line with each platform. 

You need to know the most relevant aspects of each network, considering their particularities and characteristics.

Facebook 

Facebook is one of the most popular social networks in the world. 

One of the most common issues with Facebook is that your page might have many unqualified followers with low engagement.

Likes don’t really count for much on Facebook because they don’t help promote your posts. They only serve to let you know if your audience is interested in your content. 

So, what you should be analyzing is if the number of likes is high but the number of shares is low. 

Sharing has a much greater impact on Facebook. Therefore, ideally you should:

  • Get the most people possible to share and save your posts;
  • Increase the number of people that access the external links you promote on Facebook;
  • Get more people watching Facebook live streams;
  • Get people to activate their page notifications.  

Keep an eye on your engagement and interaction rates.

You can use the aforementioned management tools or calculate the total number of a post’s interactions divided by its views.

Also, don’t forget about your page’s audience!

Measure how fast your followers and reach are growing, and what type of audience you’re building. 

Try to identify whether or not your audience is formed by your target audience. 

It’s important to know how many visits are engaged and interacting with your content and measure how many of these visits became customers or how many became leads. 

Also, keep an eye on Facebook ads and establish a relationship of paid leads versus organic leads. Analyze whether your organic leads are the result of your actions on Facebook and if the organic actions also generate conversion. 

Instagram 

In addition to the general metrics to be tracked, such as your content’s reach, engagement, URL clicks and views, Instagram has a few particularities as a social media network.

The first one is the option to save posts. 

This is a very important feature because it shows that users thought that your content was so interesting that they decided to save it to view later, and perhaps buy your product at a later time. 

So when you measure interaction on Instagram, measure likes, comments, and the number of posts saved, giving more attention to the latter. 

Another particularity of Instagram is the option of creating stories. 

Measure:

  • Your story views; 
  • The number of times users skipped and stopped watching your stories; 
  • The opening of external links shared through stories;
  • Number of direct messages and reactions each story generated.  

Finally, pay attention to #hashtags, since you can create several campaigns based on them.

Using a specific hashtag per campaign, you can measure the following:

  • The campaign’s engagement;
  • The number of times your campaign was mentioned throughout a given period;
  • The campaign’s performance. 

You can also use your brand as a hashtag to help you calculate the number of user mentions.  

Also, evaluate your competition by following the growth of the hashtags they use.

If you place specific hashtags that are trending in your posts, you must also analyze if this user is bringing results, such as increasing your post’s interactions. 

Evaluate if you’re using the right hashtags to attract your intended audience and which ones yield better results. 

A good tip is to perform tests to find out the best times to post. Management tools can help you identify your audience’s peak times. 

Finally, for paid ads on Instagram, evaluate your ads’ reach and impressions, click rate, and conversions. 

(Check out more tips on how to be successful on Instagram.)

Twitter 

What makes Twitter unique is the retweet feature.

Like Facebook, retweets are important for the following:

  • Organic traffic; 
  • Creating authority;
  • Demonstrating strong public interest in your content. 

Measuring the average number of times your content was retweeted per day is one way to evaluate your performance and authority growth on Twitter. You can easily obtain this information through Twitter for Business analytics. 

Twitter likes also have a special role because they save the tweet to the user’s account. This means that users probably plan on accessing the content again.

Also, keep an eye on your number of mentions because it lets you know if users are talking about your brand, and enables you to measure their conversations and direct interactions with you. Once again, it’s also important to measure your competition. 

Don’t forget the ROI: measure your conversions and profits from tweets that direct users to your sales page and paid advertising. 

YouTube 

There’s a trend in the market towards increased production of videos, both for content marketing as well as to sell products and nurture leads.

Interestingly, YouTube is already one of the largest search engines in the world, second only to Google. Therefore, it’s very important to have a strategy for YouTube with SEO and periodic content creation.

Given the particularities of YouTube, if your goal is to increase your conversions and become an authority, analyze content metrics, such as audience retention. 

Watch Time and Retention Time are two of the most important social media KPIs for YouTube.

Check how long viewers spend watching your videos so you’ll know if you’re reaching the right audience and if people are enjoying your content. 

You can obtain the following insights from this KPI:

  • The most engaging themes;
  • The ideal video length;
  • The audience spikes in your videos; 
  • The best part of a video to talk about sales.

Ideally, you should also measure the engagement of each video posted. Focus on the following metrics: number of subscribers, likes, and comments. 

Be careful with the number of views. This metric is not as relevant as it seems.

Views are only an indicator of your channel’s growth, and that your audience is increasing. But it’s more important to focus on the engagement and watch time metrics. 

Remember that, like any social media, you should define your KPIs based on your goals. 

If you wish to use YouTube to increase sales, or want people to share your content, you might also want to track the number of clicks and link accesses, or the number of shares.

YouTube has an excellent tool to track these metrics and many others, like YouTube Analytics.

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Measure your results 

The most important thing when defining your social media KPIs, as we’ve mentioned many times throughout this article, is focusing on the goals you wish to achieve for your business! 

You need to know how much your social media KPIs contribute to your ultimate goal. 

Thus, your business goals will help you determine the channels you need to focus on and what type of content you need to produce for each channel. 

Without clear and defined goals, producing social media content will be a lot of work while not helping with your business’ growth.  

So, familiarize yourself with the social media networks you wish to use to learn more about their particularities and make sure you track the right metrics.

Be very clear about your current goals before you kick off your social media strategy. Next, think about how each network can help you achieve this goal. 

There are many tools and numerous possibilities offered by social media, in addition to a very large audience base to be reached. 

Finally, avoid vanity metrics as much as possible! Remember that you should be able to see the concrete results from social media in order to act, reinvent yourself, and invest.  

If you enjoyed this post and want to learn more about metrics, check out our article with 4 metrics that digital producers should track.