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Line graph showing sessions via social referral from October 15 to November 5 with two peaks exceeding 50 sessions around October 29 and November 5.

3 Social Media Metrics You Should Stop Using

When it comes to building relationships with customers, few online channels are as valuable as social media. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter make it easy to interact with the general public and make your brand more accessible.

Many of them also allow you to monitor the performance of your pages and posts, which can help you improve as you learn what works and what doesn’t. But if you’re an analytics-driven marketer, it can be easy to get caught up in all of these platform-specific metrics.

Unfortunately, some of these metrics are virtually useless for marketing purposes and don’t do much beyond boost your company’s (or your social media manager’s) ego.

Often referred to as “vanity metrics,” the following three metrics are often false indicators of success:

1. Number of followers or page likes

As one of the simplest metrics to track and understand, it’s easy to see why many business owners get caught up in the number of followers or likes they have. However, this number alone doesn’t tell you much about how well your social strategy is performing.

There are a few issues with this metric, but the most important is that not everyone who follows your account or likes your page sees your posts. On Facebook in particular, an average of only only 2.6% of your followers will see any given update.

So even if you have 10,000 page likes, you’ll only show up in the newsfeeds of about 260 of them.

On Twitter, there’s no algorithm that determines how many users see your tweets (since its feeds are just chronological), but the majority of users won’t scroll past an hour of tweets or so. This means you’ll only reach the users who are active when you Tweet, or shortly after.

Plus, now that it’s easy to buy “followers” (that are typically just computer-generated bots), the number itself can be misleading. So instead of focusing on the quantity of your followers, focus on the quality — and don’t use them to gauge your social media success.

2. Impressions

On Twitter, your number of “impressions” refers to the number of times your Tweet showed up in users’ streams. However, if you’re a Twitter user, you probably know firsthand that not everything that shows up in users’ streams gets read.

And even if every user who sees your Tweet does pause to fully process it, this still isn’t a valuable metric since it doesn’t show any sign of interaction. For example, let’s take a look at the number of impressions the WebFX Twitter account received over the past 26 days:


Almost 53,000 people viewed our Tweets.

Not bad! But if all they did was view them – as opposed to like, retweet, or click through the links – that’s not a good sign at all. In fact, high impressions with low engagement would actually signal that even though lots of people saw our content, they didn’t find it interesting enough to click on.

3. Page views

Although seemingly straightforward, page views can also be a misleading metric. From the following graph of our Facebook page views over the past 30 days, you might think we did something remarkable on social media on October 23:

fb page views

However, this spike was actually due to the fact that our company was named one of the 50 fastest-growing companies in PA that day. And while that’s certainly a remarkable accomplishment for the company, we can’t credit the surge in page views to our social media activity.

If you measure your success based on page views, it’s easy to get thrown off track by events that have nothing to do with your posts.

That being said, these events can be an opportunity to capitalize on increased traffic to your profiles if you share the articles and encourage your existing followers to comment.

What should you measure?

So if you shouldn’t measure followers, impressions, or page views, you may be left wondering what you should measure. The simple answer to this is engagement, and there are a few ways to measure it.

The simplest way to track engagement is with in-platform analytics. On Twitter, for example, this is what our engagement metrics look like over the same time period as the impressions above:

twitter engagements

These metrics give a much better indicator of whether or not users are actively engaging with the content we post.

And regardless of the platform, engagement should always be the primary goal.

Beyond this, Google Analytics can provide even more insight. Navigate to the “Acquisition” tab, then select “Social.” From there, you’ll have several options.

GA sidebar

One of the simplest to understand is “Network referrals,” which will allow you to narrow down your referral traffic by platform and landing page.

social referral

You can also use the “Users Flow” tab to see where users go on your site after being referred by social channels. This is useful if your content is designed to keep visitors on your site beyond a single blog post or article.

Depending on your goals, you may also use the “Conversions” tab to determine the conversion rate of your social traffic.

Regardless of which metrics you use, they should indicated that users not only see your content, but act as a result.

This action may be commenting, sharing, clicking through to your website, or possibly even making a purchase depending on what your social strategy looks like.

Which social media metrics do you track?

If you use social media marketing for your business, how do you track engagement? Are there specific KPIs you look at as indicators of success? Let me know in the comments below!

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