The pandemic has sped up digitization significantly as a result of expanded collaborative work, catapulting innovation, e-commerce, and customer demands well into the future. Is it time to up your digital game and harness the power of social media marketing?

Whether your business is new, or you’re established and looking to harness growth opportunities, your social media strategy should build overall brand awareness, help define the experience for your customers, foster loyalty, and generate the results you’re seeking. But, if you’re a busy entrepreneur and you only have time “to do social media” in the nooks and crannies of your busy schedule, AND you’re not formally trained in digital marketing, you may be feeling as though you’re posting and sharing then crossing your fingers, hoping that your messages land.

Do you wish you knew more about what your audience needs and wants from you, or that you had a better understanding of what they’re enjoying and appreciating? Do you feel unsure if you’re hitting the mark, or if you should even bother tweeting or posting on Facebook, because everyone you connect with regularly seems to be on LinkedIn?

This is where social media metrics come in, and why it’s important to take time to review analytics – there may actually be some surprising revelations in the data. Here is some measurement terminology with which you may want to familiarize yourself.

According to Hootsuite, it is helpful to segment metrics into 4 key customer journey stages:

  • Awareness: these metrics illuminate your current and potential audience.
  • Engagement: these metrics show how audiences are interacting with your content.
  • Conversion: these metrics demonstrate the effectiveness of your social engagement.
  • Consumer: these metrics reflect how active customers think and feel about your brand.

Vanity Metrics: In the early days of social media, managers were focused on Page Likes and Likes per post (also called Applause Metrics). While these can help determine overall effectiveness of social media content, they are largely only part of the equation now, not the full picture. Vanity numbers may look good on the surface, but skilled digital marketers need to look deeper and ask questions about KPIs (key performance indicators) that will define campaign effectiveness.

Brand Awareness is the attention your brand gets—across all social media—during a defined reporting period, or a specific span of time that yields statistically relevant data. That attention can be expressed through a variety of social media metrics, including @mentions, shares, links, and impressions. Reporting periods are variable, usually lasting a week, a month, or a quarter.

Audience Growth Rate measures the speed at which your brand’s following increases on social media. It’s how quickly you gain followers, and an assessment of that speed against your competition. Is it a faster growth rate than your competitors’?

Engagement rate is a metric that shows the overall level of engagement with your social media account, website, or app. For social media, this is typically calculated by counting actions – the likes, shares, comments, click-throughs, branded hashtags, etc — and dividing their total number by your total number of followers. For modern brands with an online presence, strong social media engagement is a sign that you’re making an impact in the market, and making meaningful connections with current and future customers. This will serve to boost your brand both on and offline.

Reach and impressions: Reach is the number of unique people who may have seen your content, while impressions are the total number of times your content was displayed. At the post level:

  • Impressions are how many times a post shows up in user timelines/news feeds
  • Reach is the potential unique viewers a post could have (usually your follower count plus accounts that shared the post’s follower counts).

For example, a Facebook post could show up in the News Feed from the original publisher and appear again when a friend shares the publisher’s post. If you saw both forms of activity in your feed, that counts as two impressions. And remember – this can happen organically (as in, for free as original posts), or Paid (for example, when a sponsored post is served up as part of a digital advertising program).

Social Share of Voice measures how many people are mentioning your brand on social media compared to your competitors. Mentions can be direct (e.g., “@JohnnysBistro”) and indirect (e.g., “Johnny’s Bistro”).

Amplification Rate is the ratio of shares per post to the number of overall followers. Coined by Avinash Kaushik, author and Google digital marketing evangelist, amplification is “the rate at which your followers take your content and share it through their networks.” Basically, the higher your amplification rate, the more willing your followers are to associate themselves with your brand, which demonstrates trust and ambassadorship.

Conversation Rate is the ratio of comments per post to the number of overall followers you have. Tracking your conversation rate will help you understand how much of your audience is compelled to add their voice to the content you post on social – which shows brand loyalty and is a particularly important level of engagement.

Platform Analytics & Insights: Every social media platform has native analytics for you to dive into. For Facebook, you’ll find them in the Insights tab, and in Twitter, in Twitter Analytics. In Instagram and Pinterest, you’ll need business accounts to see your data. On YouTube, you can see number of views, comments, shares, etc. There is also a litany of paid social media monitoring tools available that can present you with increasingly sophisticated insights into everything said by you, about you, by competitors, about competitors, about your industry, and about concepts related to your sector.

If this all seems overwhelming and you don’t know where to start, start by building and regularly feeding a content-rich, dynamic website with blog share and e-commerce capabilities (if that functionality makes sense for your brand) and choose a couple of social media platforms to utilize well. These should align with your brand personality, connect with your customers and stakeholders, and drive traffic to your pages and website.

Metrics aside, always keep in mind:

  • Good-quality, value-add content is king. Think of social media as two-way, helpful conversations, rather than just broadcast and self-promotion.
  • Be sure that your business data, such as hours of operation, address and contact info, services offered, etc are accurate and updated promptly everywhere they need to be.
  • Stay tuned to the social media you’ve selected so you can manage engagement, answer questions, and get a sense of what is of interest to your followers.
  • Inject your authentic personality into the mix, and be prepared to launch topics, and to join relevant conversations already in progress.
  • If you’re nervous about making your foray into the social media world, or you really do not have time to do it, consider adding the responsibility to a qualified staff person or onboarding a consultant or agency to assist you.

Finally, measure your performance so you know what is actually resonating with your audience (ie, generating sales, driving interesting conversations?) and determine where best to focus your efforts and time. Your social media goals will determine which metrics matter for you, and your social media goals should be based on your business goals.

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