Measuring Social Engagement: 3 Ways To Identify High Value Content

Today’s internet users are bombarded with content.  As a result, they are tuning out the noise and raising the bar on the content they choose to pay attention to.

For social media marketers, this means that it is more important than ever to understand what content will resonate with target groups and which will fall flat.   Without good ways to identify the content preferences of target groups,  the only option is to throw marketing mud against the wall and hope that it sticks — an approach that is costly, more likely to fail, and may damage the credibility of budding social media programs in the eyes of senior management.

Measuring the social engagement elicited by different types of content can help social media marketers pinpoint what is effective — and what isn’t worth precious time and budget.  Here are three ways to do it:

1.) Track Cross-Channel Social Interactions

Some social sites, like Facebook, provide engagement data for each content item posted. This is important information because it helps you determine what content works best within the closed walls of a specific site or community.  But how can you determine which content works best overall, across the multiple social channels in your mix?

First, develop a system for keeping track of content.  You may already have this if you are using a social media management tool (some provide a content ID number), but an Excel spreadsheet will also work.  At a minimum, your spreadsheet should include an ID number for each content item.  You can also include additional data, such as date released, post title, and content type (link, photo, video, blog post, etc.).

Next, create a rubric.  A total count of engagement actions (sharing, commenting , liking, etc.) may be enough for your purposes, but if you want to distinguish between different types of engagement, you’ll need to create a rubric for organizing metrics into consistent categories.  For example, metrics like Facebook comments, Blog comments, and Twitter @replies can be grouped into a category called “communications”.   Metrics that represent different types of sharing activities can be grouped into a “distributions” category.  You can come up with your own categories and assign metrics in way that makes sense for you.

Your spreadsheet will look something like this:

This DIY method of tracking engagement takes time and elbow grease (so you may want to limit the analysis to a specific time frame), but it can go a long way toward helping you determine which content topics and formats to focus on.

One word of caution:  This will work best if the content you are using is highly targeted to the audience you are trying to reach.  If it isn’t, engagement levels may not be a good indicator of what your audience wants.  For example, a funny picture posted to your Facebook page might be widely shared by people who are not interested in your product or services.   Consequently, high engagement numbers for this post would not necessarily indicate that this type of content works well with your targeted groups.

If you question whether engagement is occurring among the right people, web analytics data can provide important clues…

2.) Analyze Traffic And Site Behavior of Visitors To Shared Pages

If engagement and sharing in social channels drive traffic and high levels of interaction with your website, it’s a good sign that the right folks are engaging.

True, not all of the content you share in social communities links back to a page on your site, but if it does, measuring traffic to — and interaction with — shared pages can yield valuable insights into which content is worthwhile.

The new Google Analytics Social Reports makes this much easier by providing data on traffic to shared pages, visit duration, and even the number of times the page was interacted with out in the social world (“Data Hub Activities”):

Two important notes about the new social reports: First, Facebook and Twitter are not included in the Data Hubs tracked by GA, so for many social media marketers, the total number of interactions, or Data Hub activities shown will be under-reported.

Second, don’t focus solely on traffic to shared pages.  Even if traffic numbers to shared pages seems low, remember that quality can trump quantity in the ROI equation.  One well-qualified visitor who is eager to consume your content is worth far more than ten unqualified visitors who leave the site immediately.

Bottom line: content that leads to deeper engagement within the site is successful content, so pay attention to visit duration and pages visited.  (You may also want to set up Advanced Segments in GA to further analyze the behavior patterns of visitors to shared pages.)

3.) Calculate Interactions Per Referred Visit

So far, we have looked at two ways to judge content performance:  engagement activity in social channels and website activity generated by shared content.

These two methods can be combined by calculating “Interactions Per Referred Visit”, a metric that captures social engagement relative to traffic.  Interaction Rate is calculated by dividing total interactions or engagement actions in social channels by visits to the shared page.   You can add this metric to your spreadsheet:

Ultimately, how people respond to your content can’t be fully captured by any single number (or even a set of numbers).  However, as is often the case, analyzing the data is an excellent place to start!

Are you using engagement tracking to identify high value content?  If so, what techniques and tools do you use?

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Analytics & Marketing Column | Channel: Analytics | Marketing Metrics | Social Media Marketing


About The Author: has over 25 years of communications experience touching almost every aspect of marketing, including conventional advertising, public relations, and digital. Her current company, Social Snap, focuses on social media measurement, providing marketers with a powerful social analytics platform that combines data from social channels, web analytics, and social media monitoring tools.

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  • Sean Mitchell

    This area of metrics definitely seems to have an opening for a few companies to service this space.  The only one I know off hand that does it at a enterprise level is

  • Michael Kolbey

    Great post very interesting..

    I got 5000 friends on FB…How do i go about monetizing them?

    What will be step 1?

  • ndawkins

    Hi Sean, Social Snap provides a Top Content report that shows total interactions and categorizes different types interactions into segments (communications, endorsements and distributions).  The user can sort by channel (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) or by the type of engagement (for example if you wanted to see the content that is shared the most across all channels, you would sort by distributions).  We think that this is an emerging area of measurement that is going to be increasingly important to social media marketers, so we are investing significantly in this area.

    I would very much like to hear what you and others need/want in these types of reports!

  • ndawkins

    Hi Michael, that is an excellent question.  The first step to understanding how to monetize in the future is to understand whether you are monetizing NOW — in other words, are your Facebook connections buying from you? If so, what do they buy, how often do they buy and how does this compare to customers who are not connected and/or active with your brand on Facebook?  (If you want to know more about how this is done, get in touch with me directly.)

    If you want to directly monetize, you are probably going to have to
    delve into the world of campaigns ( offers, events, contests, etc.). I would suggest taking a look at some campaign examples that are specific to your industry/products/services (I’m not sure what you are selling?).  How to monetize will depend on what you are trying to sell, what you can offer to prospects and customers through Facebook that they find valuable, and many other factors. There is no cookie cutter approach to monetization – how to do it (and whether direct monetization is possible or even advisable to attempt) will vary widely across verticals. 

  • Lisa Lomas

    I would be highly likely to use any tools that made this job less time consuming, I do not agree with the manual way as it takes too long. However you make a highly valuable point in the fact you must measure.

  • ndawkins

     Hi Lisa, if you are looking for a tool to do this, I hope you will check out the Top Content feature in Social Snap.  For those who have more time than money, creating an analysis with an excel sheet for a limited time period is certainly better than no analysis at all!

  • HelpMeWithMyTeenager

    Thanks for valuable information. One of the few articles I’ve come accross that allows for manual analysis for those who are not yet making enough money for lots of online tracking tools!

  • WilliamWynn

    I love the new Google Analytics Social Reports. It really does make this much easier by providing data on traffic to shared pages. Great article by the way!

  • ndawkins

    William, question for you:  Are you doing a lot of sharing on Facebook and Twitter?  If so, do you still see the shared pages report as valuable (since sharing on FB and Twitter aren’t included)?  For me, I find that report very useful in terms of what is happening to visitors that hit ANY shared page, but because Facebook and Twitter aren’t included, I don’t find it useful in helping me to determine which shared content is resonating the most (in other words, I can’t see the value in using it as a way to rank which shared content was most successful since it is missing a lot of the content that was shared).  Just wondering how you and others are interpreting/using this report — would love feedback.

  • Julio Fernandez

    Great article Nan, thanks! I wonder how long it will take for enterprise social relationship management platforms to come down in price (and time) for small business owners to use. With Oracle’s acquisition of Vitrue, the new Adobe Social and the aggressive work by, we should see new solutions soon. But you are 100% right: manual analysis via a spreadsheet is better than no analysis at all. I’ll take a look at Social Snap! Thanks again,  Julio

  • Chris Treadaway

    I’d argue the major players don’t want the SMB segment.  It’s highly fragmented, and quite frankly as a whole most SMBs act as if they’re broke.

    There is a huge battle brewing over analytics/measurement in the Enterprise because brands are dumping so much money into Facebook ads, social software, etc.  And right now, at least on Facebook, the source of the data to tell you how well you’re doing is… Facebook or some abstraction on Facebook Insights!  

    Don’t get me wrong… I don’t distrust Facebook, but there is a lot of power in the data itself.  That’s how we’re approaching it at Polygraph.Chris TreadawayCEO, Polygraph MediaCo-Author Facebook Marketing An Hour a Day

  • ndawkins

    I think you will see more vendors creating a range of pricing as the industry matures.  The lower end of that range will be affordable for some.  Our low end seems very affordable, but the definition of “affordable” will certainly vary.

  • ndawkins

     Chris, can you expound on your comment about the battle brewing?  Or can we talk directly?  Interested in hearing more of your thoughts on this. 

  • Barbara Mckinney

    Hi Nan,

    Thanks for the post!

    I agree to that users are bombarded with content.  “As a result, they
    are tuning out the noise and raising the bar on the content they choose
    to pay attention to.”This becomes a challenge to most of the marketers. It all goes down to the right choice of tactics to be used in order to hooked more readers that will turn into customers. With the right choice of strategies this can be easily go through.


  • William Mougayar

    Ironically, Facebook will monetize your friends way before you do. But if you’re a business and have tons of fans on a Facebook page, then you indirectly monetize by marketing to them.

  • William Mougayar

    Shameful plug, but smack in the middle of social engagement is Engagio. It filters out the replies/mentions/discussions, so it lets you figure out engagement more easily.

  • Brett Cornell

    What are communications and distributions in the IPRV calculation – basically outbound and RT or distributions of other content? Great article. I liked reading your impressions of the GA tools as well as how you can get started tracking easily.

  • ndawkins

      Hi Brett, at Social Snap we define distributions as any sharing action
    that occurs (a retweet, a share on FB, etc.) in various channels.  In
    general, communications tend to be things like replies on Twitter,
    comments on Facebook, comments on YouTube.  For more on the GA Social
    Reports and what you can do with them, check out


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