What Are Metrics? Demystifying Social Media and Web Analytics

what are metricsSocial media as an advertising and engagement tool is becoming more and more mainstream, and using these channels as a way to promote your business and connect with consumers is definitely worth learning about. But to the neophyte social media manager, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered, and sometimes those answers get buried under lingo and jargon, making it tough to get the information that you need.

One thing you might be asking yourself is “what are metrics?” There’s plenty of information telling you that you must study, measure, and improve them, but figuring out exactly what they are can be a bit of a head scratcher. Not to worry–the learning curve doesn’t have to be as steep as St. Everest once you know where to start. We’ll talk a little about what the different social media metrics are, and then give you some great resources for analyzing and amplifying them. Yes, there’s a lot of questions you may have about social media marketing, but after we’re done, “What are metrics?” won’t be one of them.

What Are Metrics? The Short Answer:

When we talk about metrics in the realm of social media, what we’re referring to is the monitoring of social media channels and content to determine how wide an online presence is, what volume of content is being shared and discussed, and what the overall sentiment or perception of an individual or brand is.

We can measure this in a few different ways, and each individual measuring system is called a metric. It allows you to track content, interact, and grow your audience. There are tons of different metrics, and you will want to monitor the ones that are most important to you as a business or individual; that will change from person to person, and it is up to you to decide where you want to focus your growth efforts.

Now that we have a broad understanding of what social media metrics are, let’s take a look at some of the metrics that are most commonly monitored, what they measure, and how to interpret them.

Reach

Reach is pretty much exactly what it sounds like; the amount of people that you are reaching through engagement, content, and advertising. It isn’t a new concept; learning a little bit of marketing fundamentals will help you see how reach has been traditionally measured, and how that measurement has changed over the years.

Different channels measure reach in different ways, and there are submetrics that fall under the larger metric of reach.

For instance, reach could refer to the number of people who visited your website or a page on your website per day, something that is easily tracked with a program like Google Analytics, or it could measure something like virality. Virality will show you how many people shared your content with other people, who then actively engaged with it. This is another way to measure reach.

Acquisition

The Acquisition metric refers to the amount of people who either searched your content out organically or engaged with a link or post on another site, like Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. This is called referral traffic, and monitoring these metrics can tell you what, if any, additional effort you should put into becoming more active on one of those sites.

The majority of acquisition traffic traditionally comes from search engines, most commonly Google. Understanding how you can increase your visibility on SERPs, or search engine results pages, can drive and ultimately increase your acquisition. You can learn a lot about search engine optimization, and a great place to start is with developing a strategy for SEO keywords.

Bounce Rate

Bounce rate is one of the trickier answers to the “what are metrics?” question, and there’s been a bit of debate on how much emphasis a marketing specialist should place on this particular metric. Essentially, bounce rate measures the number of users who come to a page and then leave without interacting with that page or exploring other content on your site. Basically, they “bounce” off of your content.

Some argue that a high bounce rate is very bad news, while others might say, “not so fast!” Yes, the goal is to get people onto your site or profile and have them stick around and explore, but there are a number of reasons your bounce rate might be high that don’t spell disaster. For instance:

  • Your site could have what are called “hurdles”, like a sign in page or unskippable ad. Or, the website may not be optimized for the browser or device that the person is using. Understanding how to streamline a website and make it appealing can solve these problems and decrease your bounce rate.
  • Social media users are busy; they’re often multitasking, and if they see something interesting, like a link to your content, they might click it, skim it, and leave. This doesn’t mean they won’t be back, or that they won’t turn around and share the content.
  • If a user is a big fan of your site, they may bookmark it, which can also increase bounce rate, especially if they are checking back often and don’t need to backtrack for new information.

Click Through Rate

Click through rate, on the other hand, is essentially the opposite of bounce rate. This metric measures a user’s inclination to come for some particular piece of content or to check out a product, and then stick around for awhile, clicking  through interlinks or tabs to explore the content on your site or social profile. It also measures the effectiveness of online advertising like banner ads and promotions–you can see how often you are getting traffic from those avenues.

Engagement

Engagement is one metric that you should pay attention to, but take with a grain of salt. There are many types of engagement, but the two that social media marketers typically look at:

  • Favorites, likes, shares, repins, and retweets are all ways that people can engage with your content and brand. Think of them as a kind of double-edged sword. The more people that like and share your content, the more visible it will become, which can increase your reach and audience growth. These are good, but they can also be deceiving. It is important to remember that users are busy; they want to share and like things that make them feel smart, funny, or in the know, but that won’t always translate into a lasting connection.
  • Mentions, pingbacks, and interaction are the deeper side of engagement. It’s the difference between someone sharing a link to your content, let’s say, “10 Ways To Measure Social Media Metrics”, and someone tweeting the content out with their thoughts or questions. The former is passive engagement, the second is more active.

Tracking Metrics and Developing Strategy

Now you have a basic idea of what metrics are and how they can be read. But how do you get from knowing to doing? Sometimes this requires a monitoring or tracking program, like the aforementioned and very handy Google Analytics. Some tracking tools are built into media channels, like the metrics you will find on your admin page on Facebook, so knowing the ins and outs of Facebook marketing is essential. An analytics program that doubles as a scheduler like HootSuite can kill two birds with one stone, allowing you to change your strategy as you go.

Once you have a good read on what your metrics looks like, it’s time to start developing a strategy that will help you focus on your weak spots and emphasize your strengths. If you’re going to focus on social media channels like Twitter or Facebook, it’s beneficial to know how those platforms work and what practices are best. If you’re going to focus on improving your website, learning how to develop a WordPress site that is optimized for SEO best practices, usability, and engagement is the way to go.

Finally, you should know what the terms of service are for any platform that you use, and if you know that you would like to build a social media marketing plan, you should take some time to research, draft, and implement a social media policy to keep everything on the level.

Above all, remember that media, metrics, and marketing are always changing and growing. Deciding to be flexible and allowing yourself some trial and error can go a long way in developing confidence and expertise as you explore your options.

Now that we’ve answered the question “what are metrics?” you’re sure to be much more prepared and confident when you’re planning out your own social media marketing strategy. Of course, in such a dynamic marketing field, there’s always more that you can learn about bringing your business online and making an impact with your potential audience and consumers. Infographics are a popular way to spread information and is prized for how easily they can be shared. Learning to create these marketing multitaskers is a great tool to add to your marketer’s toolbox.