It’s no secret that many marketers still struggle with social media measurement.

And this is all despite the wealth of analytics and tools available to marketers today.

The problem? There is no one-size-fits-all definition for social “success.”

Spoiler alert: it’s about much more than just followers.

Marketers are focused on a variety of metrics that define what’s working (and what isn’t!) on social media.

Not sure how to make sense of your numbers? Don’t sweat it!

Our guide to social media measurement can bridge the gap between your social content analytics and actually growing your presence.

Social media measurement: 2 must-dos before you get started

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, first things first

#1: Define your social media goals!

Again, success on social media is totally different from brand-to-brand. For example, comparing the social presence of a local bakeshop to an enterprise retailer or software company is apples and oranges.

Do you want to drive sales? Do you want folks to talk about you? A bit of both? Great! Your goals ultimately define what metrics you’ll need to measure. And on that note…

#2: Review your social media metrics and KPIs!

Because 100 likes, link-clicks or new followers don’t mean much without some sort of context, right?

In short, Social media measurement starts with your data (hint: not somebody else’s).

How to measure social media engagement

It’s one thing to have the raw numbers on the different types of engagement we’ll detail below. It’s another to understand why your audience is or isn’t motivated to engage with your content, and how you can optimize your approach based on measuring your social media success effectively.

Based on the 2019 Sprout Social Index™, Edition XV: Empower & Elevate, measuring social media engagement is typically based on a combination of the following.

social media success metrics

By the way, note that new followers didn’t make the list. Interesting, huh?

But how do you actually measure these data points? What do they look like “in the wild?”

Great questions! Below we’ve broken down each of the elements that define social media success in detail. Let’s dive in to how you can move key social engagements from findings in your metrics into meaningful changes to your strategy.

Likes and comments

Likes and comments are perhaps the most straightforward engagement metrics to measure and assess.

Do customers quite literally like what they see? They’ll drop a Like.

Are customers interested in a conversation? They’ll leave a comment.

Plus, Likes and comments are front and center on any given post.

social media measurement means figuring out what's working and what isn't in terms of engagement

Although Likes might be viewed as vanity metrics as they require the least amount of effort from your followers, there’s no denying their value in identifying your top-performing content. The same rings true for comments, especially when put into context.

Take a look at Crosley’s Instagram as highlighted above. The brand’s account scores consistent Likes and comments for any given post, but note the range of engagement of these six snapshots.

What separates the posts that get 100+ Likes versus 1,000+ Likes? A few comments versus a few dozen?

In the case of Crosley, most of their top-performing posts are actually regrams and customer photos with punchy, personality-filled captions.

crosley photo

Based on this, it makes perfect sense for Crosley to encourage tagging and sharing from their customers. With their branded hashtag (#AmplifyYourStyle), that’s exactly what they do.

The takeaway? Meaningful social media measurement means digging beyond the surface of your metrics. For example, factors such as timing, post format, hashtags and captions all impact the engagement rate of any given post.

Once you identify the common threads between your top-performing content, it becomes much easier to produce more of it.

Share and retweets

When someone shares your content, it means they’re taking interested in what you’re posting.

While not all shares are necessarily positive (more on that later), scoring consistent shares and shout-outs means that you have a pulse on what grabs your audience’s attention.

Shares are particularly valuable for brands looking to uncover new followers and customers. Regardless of the platform, social media algorithms typically reward highly-shared content with reach.


brands must measure the performance of their content to determine what their audience actually wants to se

Understanding your most-shared posts, whether they feature your brand’s content or third party content you’ve curated like the example above, can also clue you in on what you should be posting.

Keeping an eye on your social analytics can help you understand spikes in your shares and the impact of your shared content on your overall engagement rate. Similar to reviewing what your most-Liked posts have in common, review these spikes to find out what content was inspiring action and why–did your post sync up with other trending topics or events, or did your own content have viral impact?

Sprout message performance report

Inspiring customer interactions and emotional responses

Conventional wisdom tells us that the more customer interactions we score, the better.

Positive mentions are invaluable social proof for whatever it is you’re selling. By looking at your tags, you can also highlight your most valuable customers and brand advocates.

sentiment analysis can sometimes be difficult to measure without third-party tools

Of course, not all mentions are exactly pleasant. You know this all too well if you’ve ever dealt with a social media crisis, This is why it’s essential to follow up on those engagement spikes we mentioned earlier and make sure you’re seeing positive interactions and shares, rather than seeing your content inadvertently co-opted by a negative trending topic or discussion you don’t want to be associated with.

When it comes to putting meaning behind the numbers you’re seeing, it’s clear that not everything related to measuring social media success is about hard numbers.

Emotions can be difficult to quantify, and yet they’re major indicators of brand health and loyalty. A fiercely loyal and vocal customer base is arguably the best type of marketing a brand could ask for, and the best feedback mechanism.

customer interactions are a crucial indicator of your social media success

Conversations and insights from customers are invaluable for growing closer to your audience. You don’t want to miss these opportunities to reply to compliments and positive posts and further build your connection with your audience.

That’s why whether it’s catching a crisis before it escalates or confirming positive trends your social team is seeing, we can’t stress enough the importance of sentiment analysis when it comes to social media measurement. In short, it’s crucial to monitor your brand’s health via positive versus negative mentions. This is especially important if your company’s social presence is centered around customer service and care.

Sprout sentiment analysis

Inspiring action

The end-game of any social post is for our followers to do something.

Click a link. Use our hashtag. The list goes on and on.

Brand mentions and sentiment are often overlooked when it comes to social media measurement

Followers who take these actions signal that they’re engaged with your brand and its messaging. These sorts of actions go beyond base-level vanity metrics and highlight more valuable leads for your business.

On the flip side, brands who fail to drive interactions need to likewise determine why their followers aren’t engaging beyond social.

Maybe it’s your call to action phrases. Perhaps your messaging is off. Remember: social media measurement is about looking at what isn’t working in addition to what is.

Revenue attribution

According to the 2019 Sprout Social Index™, Edition XV: Empower & Elevate, half of social marketers are focused on conversions and revenue-related metrics. Social metrics are increasingly being seen as more than vanity metrics and as key indicators that factor directly into the bottom line.

After all, brands rightfully want to see an ROI from social media. This means not only determining which organic tactics are seeing returns, but how your paid and organic social media stack up side-by-side. Tools like Sprout can provide snapshots of both at a glance.

Sprout paid performance report

Saving time and money are two key benefits of effective social media engagement. With a clear understanding of your performance versus goals, you can figure out how to make the most of your budget and schedule and how much more to invest in social as a distribution channel.

Tools for measuring social media success and taking action

As you’ve probably already realized, data is essential for social media measurement.

Watching your native analytics is a solid starting point for learning what’s engaging fans and followers.

However, social media analytics tools like Sprout make it so much easier to connect the dots and figure out your next steps on social.

For starters, the platform provides a bird’s-eye view of your social engagement across all platforms in one place. If you’re curious where your audience is most engaged and which pieces of content are killin’ it, Sprout’s reporting features have you covered.

Sprout makes it a cinch to measure short-term and long-term social media growth. For example, the Group Audience Growth report highlights how each platform performs month-to-month.

sprout cross channel report

Meanwhile, advanced features such as social listening drill down into specific customer conversations to clue you in on who’s talking about you and whether or not the majority of your mentions are positive.

Sprout listening topic summary

Through social media measurement and analytics, all of the following is front and center without any second guessing. Here’s a snapshot of how these numbers can help you take action and grow your presence:

  • Figure out your audience demographics
  • Identify your top-performing content and what to share
  • Find the best times to post based on when your unique audience is most engaged
  • Spot industry and competitor trends
  • Determine which social platforms result in the highest ROI for your brand

How to effectively communicate your social media success to others

To wrap things up, marketers today are expected to share their findings and their own insights when conducting social media measurement.

In fact, the Index™ data notes that  63% of marketers say that they frequently discuss social media ROI with their bosses. That number only looks to tick upward as social continues to evolve.

Again, this all speaks to the need to master the art of social media reporting and invest in analytics!

Let’s say your boss wants to review a particular marketing push or campaign. With Sprout, doing so is a piece of cake as you can identify specific date ranges, platforms and actions with easy-to-read graphs. These are perfect for emails, presentations and internal docs alike.

Meanwhile, more robust tools such as Sprout’s Report Builder allow you to create eye-popping reports based on the specific metrics that your managers are interested in.

Sprout report builder

And with so many metrics to choose from, you can tell more of a story with your data, propose new goals and new content types based on your insights.

What does social media measurement look like for your business?

Marketers today know that they need to measure their social media efforts.

That said, many still aren’t exactly sure how.

The metrics and tips in this guide serve as a roadmap for optimizing your strategy with social media measurement. Taking a proactive, data-driven approach to social media has major implications for you and your business.

From securing your budget to figuring out what your audience wants to see, measurement is at the root of making it happen. With the help of tools like Sprout, you can step up your measurement efforts and uncover the data that matters most to your brand.

We want to hear from you, though. How are you measuring your success on social media? Any additional metrics or data points we missed? Let us know in the comments below!