The Minimalist’s Guide To Social Media Metrics

The buzz around startup culture lately is all about “minimum viable product.” It’s the idea of creating a product as quickly as possible — in its most minimum viable form — so you can then make it better by adapting it to what your customers really want.

It makes sense as a way to build things, but I think it has other implications, too. What if “minimally viable” was the way we looked at social media metrics, as well?

After all, one of the biggest challenges we face in social media marketing is that there are hundreds of different elements we could measure. Sometimes it seems like we’re measuring for the sake of measuring, or clinging to meaningless figures just because they’re easy to get. Yet, the only question we really need to answer is: Is social media worth it?


What if we could pinpoint the metrics that provide the biggest bang for our buck in terms of telling us whether our efforts are paying off while taking the least amount of time to measure?

Focusing only on what matters (and nothing more) could satisfy the ROI demons, keep bosses and clients happy, and give social media marketers more time to do what we’re supposed to be doing: engaging and connecting with our communities.

So, whether you’re still struggling to measure social media effectiveness or simply want to declutter your measurement efforts, here’s your minimalist guide to social media metrics.

Define Your Goals

The bedrock of minimalist social media metrics is knowing what you are, what you do, and what you want.

In other words, you have to start by working out how social media fits into your brand’s overall business goals and objectives. Is social media the introduction, the deal-closer or something else altogether?

Are you in it for great customer service? New ideas for products and product improvements? Or maybe it’s traffic to a website or a physical location. What outcome of your social media strategy will make all the tweeting, posting and pinning worthwhile?

Know What Makes A Good Metric

To measure just what matters, we have to be able to distinguish a good metric from a bad one. Luckily, it’s pretty simple. A good metric:

  • Is understandable to all parties
  • Can be consistently collected
  • Informs or changes your behavior

Report a good metric in a meeting, and you’ll see a light of recognition in people’s eyes. A conversation about what happens next should naturally follow. (“If X caused Y to happen, then we should do…”)

Report a bad metric in a meeting, and it’ll just kind of sit there, garnering confused looks and/or blank stares.

Choose From The Metrics Menu

No matter what channels you’re working in, most social media campaigns have at least a few major elements in common. In all likelihood, you are doing work that allows people to discover your brand or product, engage with you, visit your site and – eventually – become your customers.

Your minimal metrics are likely going to reside within one of these five places: activity, reach, engagement, acquisition and conversion. Let’s look at all five a little more closely.

Activity Metrics

These are the workhorse metrics – the numbers that show exactly what you’re doing, including posting, scheduling and optimizing content, answering questions, and solving problems.

Sample Metrics: Post Rate, Response Rate, Average Response Time, Customer Service Savings

Reach Metrics

Reach metrics are all about quantifying who is hearing your message and how your brand is perceived. These metrics determine how large your potential audience is and at what rate it’s increasing. They may also delve into the sentiment surrounding your brand to determine what your audience really thinks of you.

Sample Metrics: Audience Growth Rate, Brand Awareness, Sentiment, Share of Voice, Share of Conversation

Engagement Metrics

These metrics focus on the effect your message is having on those who hear it — how engaged you audience is, including how likely they are to talk to you, spread your message and more. By dissecting your engagement metrics, you’ll know what types of content resonate most with your audience.

Sample Metrics: Applause Rate, Conversation Rate, Amplification Rate, Overall Engagement Rate

Acquisition Metrics

Acquisition metrics gauge a brand’s ability to turn engagement into action. An engaging social media presence is great for brand awareness, but it should ultimately lead to something more (generally, targeted traffic to your website). Acquisition metrics work to tie your various social campaign activities to specific goals and events on your brand’s website.

Sample Metrics: Click-Through Rate, Social Visits, Visitor Frequency Rate, Visit Duration

Conversion Metrics

These are the metrics that tie social media activity directly to making money. Depending on your business and its goals, a conversion can mean different things. Purchasing a product, signing up for a trial, renewing a membership, subscribing to a newsletter and downloading software are all examples of potential conversions that are – or lead to – sales.

Sample Metrics: Assisted Social Conversions, Last Interaction Social Conversions, Assisted/Last Interaction Conversion Ratio, Social Media as a Percentage of Total Conversions

Choose the metrics from this list that will give you the most value and insight, or treat this as a jumping-off point to find and focus on a different metric altogether.

For example, a social media strategist tasked with building awareness of a new product might measure audience growth rate, sentiment and share of conversation. A strategy focused on sales alone might focus on last interaction social conversions and social media as a percentage of total conversions.

Measure, Act, Repeat

Figure out how to measure just the things you’ve chosen, and throw out everything else. No second guessing. There – you’ve officially cleaned up your social media metrics clutter.

The social media metrics that matter most are those that tell you how successful your campaigns are at meeting your specific goals — which could be anything from becoming better known in the marketplace to engaging with influencers to selling more products.

Once you know what you’re looking for, determining the value of social media doesn’t have to be complicated. Minimalist social media measurement is within reach of every social media marketer.

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

Related Topics: Channel: Social Media Marketing | How To Guides | How To Guides: Social Media Marketing | Social Media Marketing | Social Media Marketing Column


About The Author: is a content crafter at Buffer. She has been an editor and writer at publications including Allure, Time Out New York, Playboy and The Tennessean. She speaks frequently on social media marketing and community management topics.

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  • Jeff Skal

    Nice write up, Courtney.

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head about the problem that social media marketers face: what metrics should I focus on? There are definitely a lot of choices, and if the answer to that is the “Reach” group of metrics you’ve described, we came up with a cool way to evaluate social campaigns we call the Social Contribution Index.

    Essentially, it’s a way to measure which campaigns are generating the most positive sentiment for your brand so you know which tactics to repeat and which to nix. You can check it out in detail at

  • RavenCourtney

    Thanks for reading, Jeff. Seems like the metric you describe makes a lot of sense. How do clients react to it?

  • Jeff Skal

    Fairly well, actually. A lot of our clients come from traditional marketing backgrounds- as complicated as it may seem, we came up with the metric to cater to their analytical sides.

    It’s hard to explain why engagement is good, but most marketers will understand share of voice, sentiment, etc.

  • tracysestili

    Great post! I believe more than many marketers miss out on tying the metrics back to their original goals or setting those goals in the first place.

  • RavenCourtney

    I believe you’re right. And if you miss that, you’re doomed from the start!


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