How to measure social media marketing success

If you Google “how to measure social media marketing success” you will find a myriad articles almost all espousing a few shiny, cool metrics that will reveal to you that all your hard work Tweeting and pinning is paying off. The truth is measuring true social media marketing success is like nailing gelatin to a tree. Even with that example you can conjure up some fakakta metric that will show that you found success attaching that gooey substance to a sycamore. “If I can make this cherry Jell-O stay on the tree for 1 second it’s a success!” But is it? Just because you created a benchmark is it a true measure of success?

We’re going to not only show you a few quantitative methods to gauge your social media efforts we’re also going to get a bit into the feels. Yeah, sometimes impressing your gut is just as important as meeting some snatched out of the sky numeral.

First off vanity isn’t a four-letter word.

Pet peeve, marketers who toss around the term vanity like it’s a live grenade determined to destroy your business from within if you don’t immediately throw it away. Breaking news: All of marketing is vanity. You want to make your business appear beautiful, amazing, the best. That’s vanity. When a customer visits you onsite you clean your office, make sure your signage is crisp and clearly visible, you probably even dress nicer than you normally do. That’s vanity. In truth, your sign, that new Armani suit (looking sharp), or that array of gourmet donuts and coffee you have waiting in your front lobby adds zero value to your client. But it sure makes you look good. Yep, that’s vanity. So, having followers (See our previous post on that vanity superstar “followers”), visitors and general interest in your signup pages is a good thing.  Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Engagement is a good metric.

Engagement is a somewhat important metric to determine if your efforts are targeted correctly, crafted in a way that’s interesting and include the right visuals. It tells you if your followers think your content is cool or it is lacking in one of the aforementioned areas. In other words, if it sucks. Here’s the deal with engagement though, just because people aren’t clicking like crazy on your links, or visiting your profile like you’re the Pope, that doesn’t necessarily mean your content is stinking up the social media world to the high heavens. Sometimes people enjoy content from afar without ever clicking, commenting or liking a single post. Occasionally you may have a client tell you in a phone call, or in an email that they think your social media efforts are stellar. You can’t measure that but if you have enough positive feedback you know your stuff is awesome. Regardless, you want data and here is a quick rundown of a few indicators you can utilize to measure your social media work. (We’ll focus on four that are the most important, there are others but don’t waste your time).


Likes on your posts are quite self-explanatory. A person read your post and, well, they liked it. The more likes, the more people enjoyed your content. Beyond the instant gratification, having followers click the like button can indicate to social media platforms that this is good stuff. It signals “hey more people would like to see this post because it appears to be cool” and presto the algorithm gods become kinder and it can be seen by even more users.

2.       Link clicks

If you included a link in your post this measures how many people clicked it. You obviously wanted people to follow the link or you wouldn’t have placed it in the post in the first place, so you want a high click rate. Not getting the rate you wanted? There are many variables when it comes to diagnosing subpar rates. The content itself may just not be that interesting to your followers. Possibly your description was weak. Maybe the visual was bleh. Tweak different variables one at a time so you can pinpoint which one is causing the issue.


Comments are awesome because this is what social media is all about, well it used to be. Unfortunately, the like button has eased the motivation of followers to make a comment. So, those who are moved to comment might trend toward the negative since there isn’t a thumbs down button…yet. Conversation should be a goal because this is where you can really make meaningful connections. Even if a comment isn’t flattering, take that opportunity to engage. You just might change their minds.


Great content is shareable content. The best way to increase your reach (we’ll get to reach in a few seconds) and increase your followers is by offering awesome content that compels shares. If you want a quantitative benchmark that truly shows if your content is hitting the mark, it’s shares. Aiming for stellar content? Then shares will show you the way. If followers aren’t sharing your posts, it’s time to go back to the lab and tweak your formula.

Reaching for reach is becoming more difficult

You want to know how many people are potentially viewing your posts and this can be achieved through reach. Reach is fine as a measurement, but it only measures how many people possibly saw your content. In other words, it was there for the viewing, but the user may not have read it. This can make using this metric a bit tricky because it’s not as easy to pin down as engagement. Still, the further your posts travel throughout a social platform the better. Let’s look at the two types of reach.

1.       Organic reach

You post your content and people see it without a penny being spent. That’s organic reach. In the past if you had 1,000 people like your Facebook page nearly all of them would have a chance to read your material. That’s not the case any longer. A minuscule percentage of your followers will view your posts thanks to numerous changes in the social media giant’s algorithm. This is the part where we pour one out for our old friend organic reach. We miss you. You can still get traction elsewhere with organic reach but it’s becoming increasingly difficult throughout the social media universe.

2.       Paid reach

This is simply a promoted post. Promoted as in you just shelled out some cash to have it pushed out to more people across the network. But you want your promoted post to reach the most people for the least amount of money. That means you must craft a great post and target it correctly. P.S. if you really want a great deal of users, in some case just followers, to see your post you have to break out the Diners Club Platinum card – is this still a thing? Organic reach is going the way of the dodo, so you must pay to play in the game of reach.


Beyond just clicking a link in your post you want the viewer to perform an action. For example, you have a post that cleverly asks followers to join your mailing list. They click the link (as mentioned in engagement) that directs them to a landing page that includes pithy information and a simple signup field. If they sign up, you just had a conversion. How do you measure conversion rate? First you need a trackable link. If you use a social media scheduler most likely it already shortens your links with tracking. You don’t have that option? Well you are in luck because plenty of URL shortener services exist such as Bitly, Polr, Yourls and TinyURL. Next, you need to have an analytics tool on your website so you can track the actual conversion. Whether it’s for a newsletter signup, webinar registration or purchasing a good or service this will show if your copy is compelling visitors to act. Once again, if your conversion rate is unacceptably low, tweak different parts of your content until it hits the mark you want to achieve. This is a very quantitative area so the only emotional gauge for success you will experience is the giddiness of a high conversion rate.

Quantitative and qualitative measurement of success are equally important. Having 45 people like your post feels just as good as if someone says, “hey your content rocks man.” When you understand that all parts of your social media success aren’t measurable in neat, handy numbers you’ll find digital marketing nirvana. Or at least you’ll feel good about your efforts. No matter how you decide to measure your success. Good luck.

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