Social Media Metrics Compared: Which Are The Most Valuable?



Rather than divide metrics into “vanity” and “non-vanity,” you need to consider how much a metric is worth.


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Most marketers are familiar with the term “vanity metrics.” This is particularly common when talking about social media, where metrics such as likes and followers help you feel that your strategy is working but do little to show you the big picture.

But there’s much more to it. Rather than divide metrics into “vanity” and “non-vanity,” you need to consider how much a metric is worth. Each has a distinct value and purpose.

Clicks vs Bounce Rate and Time on Site

If you’re posting your own content to social media, you should already be monitoring how many users click on the links. However, even more important than clicks is bounce rate and time on site.

By measuring bounce rate, you discover how many users click the link and only view that one page. By adding time on site into the picture, you take this a step further — you see if users even consumed the content on the page.

There are several ways to improve time on site and decrease bounce rate. First, make sure that you are sending the right users to your site — you need to be targeting people who are interested in your offerings as well as your content. Next, instead of creating clickbait, use headlines that describe the content to follow. In the content itself, add links to related posts and an appealing CTA.

Likes vs Comments

likes vs comments boostability

In addition to clicking on links, you need users to like and comment on your posts. But which is better? Think of it this way: it is much easier to like than comment. A “like” is just a click of a button; a comment involves typing a response. This is why the vast majority of posts receive more likes than comments.

Social media algorithms understand this. They give greater weight to comments, meaning posts that spark discussions rank higher in newsfeeds than posts with just likes. Encourage more users to comment on your posts by asking for their thoughts and responding to their questions or feedback.

Comments vs Shares

Just because comments are better than likes doesn’t mean they are the most valuable engagement metric. Yet more important than comments are shared. Shares signifies that users found your post interesting and important enough to make it their own.

To see a boost in shares, post content that relates to trending topics and post at a time when many of your followers are active. Also, make sure that your post is visually appealing and, again, that it contains a description that explains what the content is about.

Shares vs Amplification and Likes vs Applause

You can give more meaning to shares by measuring amplification. This also considers the number of followers of your page, putting shares into context. To calculate amplification, look at the total number of shares from a given period, divide it by the number of followers, and multiply it by 100.

Similarly, you can give likes more meaning by putting them in the context of your total number of followers. This metric is called applause. Use the same calculation as for amplification, but use the total number of likes in a given period.

To increase both amplification and applause, you need a more active audience. Experiment with new ideas for posts and seek out additional social media resources to engage a greater portion of your audience.

Favorites vs Retweets

Twitter uses a slightly different model to other social media platforms — instead of likes and shares or their equivalents, there are favorites and retweets. These are slightly different, as retweets fall into two categories: manual and automatic.

Back in the early days of Twitter, the only way to retweet someone was to manually copy the tweet and username. Although this is less common now, it still happens, such as when a user wants to change a tweet. The majority of the time, users automatically retweet, using the retweet button. This means the tweet stays linked to the original user.

A favorite, on the other hand, usually shows that a user liked a tweet, but it may also be that they want to bookmark the tweet.

An automatic retweet is clearly the best of the three. It expands your reach on Twitter and shows appreciation for your tweet. The next best is a favorite, as it at least shows up on the original tweet. A manual retweet is the least helpful, as it has no connection to your tweet.

Gaining more retweets involves much the same as increasing shares. For instance, you should use images to make your tweets stand out. Other tactics to try include posting some tweets that use headlines and others that use a description of your content, shortening links to free up more characters, and thinking carefully about wording. It is better to make the occasionally high-quality tweet than to push yourself to push often, even when you have nothing to say. Plus, as Twitter is all about discussing real-time topics, focusing on what’s trending is extra important.

Followers vs Audience Growth

social media audience boostability

Knowing how many followers you have is useful. It gives you an idea of how many people you could potentially reach with a campaign. However, there is a much more useful metric — audience growth. This tells you what action is increasing attention for your brand.

To increase audience growth, you need to pay close attention to what strategies are leading to more followers. Use this as inspiration for future tactics and try tweaks to strategies until they are as effective as possible.

Traffic vs Visitor Frequency Rate

If you often post links to content on your website or blog, you should already be measuring how much traffic is coming from social media. Go beyond this by tracking how much traffic is from repeat visitors and how much is from new users.

Both new and repeat visitors are useful — but for different things. A high number of new visitors means that you are reaching a wider audience. A high number of repeat visitors shows that you are engaging your audience and bringing users the content they want.

The percentage you want of each will depend on the goals of your social media strategy, but you can take action to increase either. If you are looking for more new visitors, encourage shares — this will help your page appear to more users on social media. For more repeat traffic, check what worked best in the past. Look at what posts led to the most traffic, the longest times on site, and the lowest bounce rates. Create more posts just like these.

Impressions vs Reach

Many people are unclear as to the difference between impressions and reach. Therefore, before we can compare the two metrics, we need to define these terms.

Total impressions are the number of times a post appears to users. Total reach, on the other hand, is the number of unique users who see the post. Impressions have the potential to be higher than reach, as the same post can appear to users more than once. This also means it is less useful, as it is unlikely that users will react a second time to the same content.

To increase reach, you need to understand your audience to create content users want. Social media algorithms look at engagement to determine how many people see a post.

All the above metrics have some value, but some are much more valuable than others. Bear these differences in mind when deciding what to measure and when choosing your indicators of success.

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