When determining what to measure to calculate the return on investment (ROI) from social media, there are as many opinions and theories as there are proclaimed social media experts. But measurement is important. Shooting at nothing guarantees a hit every time, and utilization without measurement and optimization is a fine method of throwing resources to the wind.

Definitions of Basic Social Media Metrics

Before we begin throwing terms about and adding to the prevailing confusion, let’s begin with some basic definitions of popular social media metrics. There are some variations in definitions depending on where you go or whom you ask, but these seem to be the most common explanations.

  • Conversions: The number of users who performed the desired action. Examples are paying for a product, signing up for a trial, completing a form, or any other goal you’ve set.

  • Leads: Potential conversions. Anyone with the need or interest to investigate your product or service.

  • Engagement: The total number of likes, shares, and comments on a post.

  • Reach: Measures the size of the audience with whom you are communicating.

  • Impressions: How many people saw your content.

  • Funnels: The different paths visitors take toward converting.

  • Visits vs. unique visits: Visits count each time a person visits your site or page, regardless of whether or not they have visited before. Unique visits count each person only once.

  • Bounce rate: The percentage that lands on your page and immediately leaves, or the rate at which people leave your site after viewing only one page.

  • Exit rate: The percentage who leave your site from a given page. These users could have browsed other pages of your site before exiting.

  • Time on site: How many minutes and seconds a visitor stays on your site before exiting.

  • Audience growth rate: A comparison of your audience today to your audience yesterday, last week, last month, etc.

  • Average engagement rate: Individual post engagement compared to overall followers.

  • Response rate: The speed with which you respond to comments and replies on social media.

  • Inbound links: The number of sites linking back to your website or page.

What is Your End Goal?

There’s an important difference between knowing what the stats mean, and knowing which stats have meaning. What do you hope to gain from your social media marketing? Social media expert and popular speaker Jay Baer continually points to the idea that valuable metrics support overall business objectives. If you know where you’re headed, you’ll know what to track. He has a great way of putting it: “The end goal is action, not eyeballs.” So, what do you hope to achieve? More visits? More shares? More sign-ups? More purchases? Your end goal will determine what metrics are important for you to optimize.
One of Baer’s most helpful ideas groups the various metrics into four categories to help streamline how they fit into the social media sales funnel. Each succeeding level builds on the one previous. Here is a basic breakdown of his idea:

  • Consumption metrics: How many people viewed, downloaded, or listened to this piece of content?

  • Sharing metrics: How resonant is this content, and how often is it shared with others?

  • Lead-gen metrics: How often does content consumption result in a lead?

  • Sales metrics: Did we actually make any money from this content?

The ultimate conversion goal from your social media work is a paying customer. If no money is being generated from your business, your efforts boil down to one word: bankrupt. But as we can see in Baer’s model above, it’s a long way from social media to the cash register. There are other metrics to be tracked to ascertain the effectiveness of every level of our sales funnel. Each part must work to guide consumers from one level to the next.

Top Metrics to Track for Success


Click-Through with Bounce Rate

If you are sharing your original content to social media, you should be tracking how many people click-through to that content. Click-through rates show if your social media efforts are compelling enough to gain the interest of your audience. Bounce rate is the percentage of page visitors who leave your website after only viewing one page. Tracking click-throughs with bounce rate allows you to calculate your social ROI by comparing it to your other sources of web traffic. Track the bounce rate of website visitors who came from social networks, and compare that rate to website visitors who visited your site directly. If your social media bounce rate is lower than other sources, you’re targeting the right people on social media.

Applause Rate

Likes are often called the vanity metric (how many people like me?), but they can also be a valuable social media currency when used to calculate your applause rate. Your applause rate is the ratio of likes per post to the number of overall followers (or Page Likes). Your applause rate will let you know exactly how much of your audience finds your content interesting, and how much of your audience finds it boring.

Share of Traffic Driven

If traffic from search engines have a bounce rate twice as high as social media, but it drives 20 times the traffic, social media is still going to look less valuable. For a more accurate metric, start tracking the share of traffic driven by social media. Doing this puts social media up against other marketing channels like search engines or display ads, and gives a more accurate measurement to calculate social media’s real value for your business.

Social Share of Voice

Social share of voice shows the percentage of mentions within your industry about your particular brand compared to the percentage about the competition. This one metric can eliminate doubts about whether it’s worth being on social media by showing just how well your social media efforts are being received.


Leads generated from social media are one of the most important metrics you can track, since they can be directly tied to earnings. Leads means interested users that have a sound probability of becoming customers.

Conversion Rate

How many people actually bought a product or service, registered for your webinar, signed up for your newsletter, or whatever your end goal? This is the ultimate measurement of success, and it can always be higher.

Top Tools for Tracking Social Media Metrics

To gain any meaning from your social media metrics assumes you are already tracking them. If you are new to this concept, here are a few of the top tools for tracking social media data.

Google Analytics

This is one of, if not the, most popular analytics tools available today. Google Analytics can report just about anything relating to your website and traffic, including all the essential social media channel referrals that interest your business.

Buffer or Hootsuite

Both these social media management tools provide analytical features to track all sorts of data. This feature is included on a limited basis in their free versions, but they offer a complete array of tracking data in the paid versions.

True Social Metrics

A newer and more versatile tool, True Social Metrics provides a complete dashboard of analytics for Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, your blog, and even more. You can track important metrics like updates, comments, reshares, and favorites. True Social tracks metrics in a particularly unique way as they follow a method designed to highlight the most relevant parts of social media marketing.

About the Author: Donna Amos

I believe you can achieve anything you truly want to achieve. “It might sound trite, but time and time again, I’ve seen it happen with my clients. They overcome the fear of exposing themselves to the possibility of failure to creating profitable exciting businesses. My clients do great work, and sometimes it only takes someone else believing in them to give them the confidence to step out and take the chance.”