What are the most impactful social media KPIs?
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What are the most impactful social media KPIs?

Marketing professionals are always deep in discussion about the most effective strategies, measurements, and tactics for success. Each campaign prompts important questions: Are we aiming to create demand, or is it about gathering leads? And specifically in social media marketing, the question has always been which measurement matters more, creating engagement with our audience or bringing new visitors to the company website?

Engagement metrics, such as “likes” and “comments” or even sharing our posts, give us a peek into how our audience is connecting with our content on the social media platform itself. On the flip side, traffic metrics, such as number of visitors and clicks to the website, show us the actions people are taking in response to our posts.

If you’re a social media manager caught in the engagement versus traffic dilemma, you’re not alone.

Let’s explore the benefits of measuring engagement and the advantages of tracking website traffic to bring clarity to the ongoing debate about which social media KPIs are most critical.

Why it’s difficult to know which social media KPIs matter

Why do many brands have trouble understanding what they should be measuring on social media in the first place? It’s because there is no absolute right or wrong. Instead, what you measure depends on your business goals.

For some brands, building a community on LinkedIn or Facebook and sparking conversations is the goal, so engagement metrics take the spotlight. For others, it’s all about driving traffic to their website and turning clicks into customers, making traffic metrics matter the most.

Running social media programs that create engagement and create traffic is a sweet spot that is not that easy to achieve. Once you understand this, you can get a better idea of which social media KPIs you should put in place to reach your goals. Then, you can tailor your work on social media towards the metrics that matter the most. If making sure your followers are visiting your website is very important, make sure there is always a link to visit your website either in your post or in your comments. If you are focused on engagement, make sure to ask your audience questions and polls to help them engage with your posts.

Why measure engagement metrics?

Many great posts don’t lead directly to website visits. The truth is, social media networks prioritize posts that don’t take your followers, their users, out of the platform. Therefore, in order to get more impressions on social networks, it is ideal to create posts that don’t link to your website.

“Not all excellent content can be a link post that drives traffic–and it shouldn’t be. That’s the job of PPC, not organic social necessarily.”- Yael Klass, Vice President of Corporate Marketing at Similarweb

But if you don’t have links how do you know if the content of your posts is impactful? That’s where engagement metrics come in handy. They help you see the value in those conversations and interactions, even if they don’t result in a click to your website. After all, building a strong brand isn’t just about driving traffic; it’s about building relationships and fostering connections. You can also look back and see if a website visitor that asked to see a demo today, has previously engaged with your content on social. Perhaps, social engagement helped them pay attention to your brand.

Examples of engagement metrics can include:

  • Likes
  • Comments
  • Shares
  • Direct Messages
  • Saves
  • Mentions

When your brand is trying to understand the influence of brand initiatives or whether their content resonates with their audience, engagement metrics hold significant importance – it’s how you know if your audience nodding along in agreement, chiming in with their thoughts, or sharing your message with their friends. These interactions, whether they’re likes, comments, or shares, are like little nods of approval, showing that your content is hitting the mark. By keeping an eye on engagement metrics, you ensure you’re creating content that keeps the conversation going and draws your audience to come back for more.

Furthermore, when it comes to planning your content strategy, engagement metrics are crucial. Engagement gives you a peek into what your audience is interested in. Armed with this knowledge, you can tailor your content to fit their interests, creating a community that’s more engaged and invested in what you have to say.

Yet another advantage of engagement is that social media platforms use it to assess the value of your organic posts. Their algorithms tend to prioritize content with higher engagement, leading to broader reach for your posts. When a post you created has more likes and shares, that means it will get more exposure than others.

Why measure the impact on the number of visitors to your website?

You might not be sure if “likes” and “comments” can impact the bottom line. However, once your follower or a person that engaged with your posts clicks on a link from an organic social media post and visits your website, it’s easier to track their journey, activate nurturing and remarketing programs, and see if you are successful in converting them to become a customer.

Measuring website visitors from organic social media allows organizations to quantify the return on investment (ROI) of their social media marketing efforts. By comparing the traffic generated from social media with other marketing channels, you can determine the effectiveness of your social media campaigns in driving website visits, conversions, and ultimately, sales.

This way, you can make informed decisions about resource allocation and campaign optimization, maximizing the impact of social media marketing efforts on revenue generation.

Some examples of traffic related metrics include:

  • Clicks
  • Link clicks
  • Click-through rate
  • Conversions
  • Conversion rate
  • Traffic sources (measuring if social media is a source of traffic to your site)

Here’s how it works in practice:

Measuring Website Traffic from Social Media: This is crucial for understanding how well social media efforts are driving actual visits to target destinations like your homepage, product pages, blogs, or guides. From these pages, you can record deeper actions such as demo requests, subscription to news and newsletters, and trial sign-ups.

Tracking User Journeys: Traffic analytics can show the path users take from social media posts to other digital assets. This helps organizations see which social media channels are most effective at leading users to additional destinations and what content is most effective in converting interest into action. In doing so, we can better understand the content funnel visitors go through.

Conversion Tracking: By setting up specific tracking on links shared on social media (like UTM parameters), companies can see not just who clicks, but who goes on to perform significant actions like asking for a demo, subscribing to a newsletter, requesting a price offer or signing up for a trial.

Which social media KPIs reign supreme?

Now that we’ve established the benefits of both engagement and traffic related metrics, it’s time for us to choose once and for all, which of these metrics social media managers should focus on.

And the answer is…drumroll…both!

In essence, measuring social engagement on the platform vs. traffic to your website metrics boils down to the age-old question about measuring the impact of brand over other measurable marketing activities such as leads and conversions from paid campaigns, email marketing, or ABM.

Both brand and marketing activities that can classically be tied directly to revenue are essential for an optimized marketing strategy. Marketing’s job is to build pipeline for sales–and that’s never going to change. But at the same time, building that pipeline is easier to do when your target audience is familiar with your brand and already has positive sentiments towards it.

Yael Klass, VP of Corporate Marketing at Similarweb explained it best on a recent episode of Radically Transparent.

According to Yael, engagement metrics show content value. Every brand needs to make sure they’re producing the right content for the right audience at all times–and measuring engagement can inform your content strategy and make sure you understand your audience. But traffic is also a crucial metric because website activity can be measured and drive direct impact on sales. When you measure both together, you can get a comprehensive understanding of social media effectiveness for both content marketing and lead generation initiatives.

Closing the debate

The debate between prioritizing engagement metrics or traffic metrics in social media management is a multifaceted one.

Engagement metrics are invaluable for gauging audience connection and fostering community, acting as indicators of content resonance and brand interest. On the other hand, traffic metrics provide concrete evidence of social media’s role in driving tangible business outcomes, such as lead generation, and sales.

Rather than viewing these approaches as mutually exclusive, social media managers should strive to integrate both sets of social media KPIs for an optimized view of their contribution to marketing. This approach not only represents the reach and impact of social media efforts more accurately and also aligns closely with overarching business objectives, ensuring that social media managers are credited for both increasing brand value and increasing revenue.

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