(Some) Social Media Metrics – What to Measure and Why

Yesterday, I read that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has decided to make an offer of $150 billion to buy out Facebook in an effort to prevent people from using it to organize any more protests. So I thought to myself, “Dammit! Now the entire section of this column about Facebook advertising will be useless.” But I was wrong. And so was the article.

Let’s face it. Social media is no longer an optional component of your marketing strategy. If anything, it should be making its way right to the core. With so many channels and outlets for people to talk, the amount of noise out there is both incredible and overwhelming. Are you expected to listen to and measure everything? Not unless you’re a robot.

Yes, as marketers, we are tempted to measure the hell out of everything to justify our decisions. But a wise man once said that “Measuring for measurement’s sake is a fool’s errand. But we’re all fools now and again.” This wise man goes by the name of Jim Sterne.

So instead of letting ourselves get buried under heaps of data, let me help you pick out a few meaningful metrics to monitor and measure. Once you’ve mastered those, you can start digging deeper.

Before we identify what the metrics are, let’s take one step back and consider the channels. With hundreds of social media sites out there, let’s focus on the red hot ones. You guessed it – Facebook and Twitter.


When it comes to Facebook, you’ll want to measure two categories of metrics – users and content.

  1. Users
    • New likes
    • Lifetime likes
    • Unsubscribes
  2. Content
    Start off by measuring interactions that relate to the content you’ve posted. Look at things like:
    • Impressions
    • Feedback. These are things such as “likes,” comments, and shares. Care to dig deeper? Try monitoring clicks or downloads of links you share.

The next step is to dig a little deeper to figure out what kind of content people are most interested in. If you dive into your Facebook Insights page, you’ll see a table that breaks down everything you post, and how many impressions it received and how many times people interacted with it. See any patterns? More often than not, you’ll find that people will interact most when you’re not pushing your product in their face.


It’s not hard to guess that when you think about Twitter, the first two things that come to mind are how many people follow you and how many you follow back. Those are not the most important metrics, so please don’t obsess about them. And to put you at ease, here are the three most common questions I get asked about following/followers:

How many followers should I have?
Quality over quantity. Nine hundred followers who don’t care about your brand, or 100 loyal ones who engage and interact? You tell me.

What is a follower worth?
Two dollars. I’m serious. Or at least that’s what Twitter suggests you spend on acquiring a follower using its Promoted Accounts advertising method.

How many people should I follow back?
Avinash Kaushik has 34,062 followers but only follows 88 back. David Szetela has 54,389 followers and follows 59,831. Do you want to know whose strategy is better? Yeah…me too!

It’s time to put our big marketing egos aside for a minute and look beyond this follower/following ratio. What really matters is if people are interested in what you’re saying, regardless of how many are following you.

So which metrics really matter in Twitter?

  • Impressions (only available if you’re promoting your tweets)
  • Retweets
  • Replies
  • Clicks

If you are using Twitter’s Promoted Accounts feature, you’ll want to look at:

  • Impressions
  • Account views
  • Follows

And just like Facebook, you’ll want to use these metrics to monitor which type of content your users are most interested in.

So why should you care? Because since 2008, search engines have been stressing how important this is by integrating social elements in their results. Google will show tweets and Bing will show Facebook “likes.” Don’t you want to appear there?

Want more? Come on down to Search Engine Strategies New York where I’ll be presenting the Social Media Metrics session and sharing 100 more ways to measure social media.

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