Chances are you’re already tracking social media shares.

But are you actually using those numbers to optimize your marketing campaigns?

It’s a bummer that only 29% of marketers assess their campaign performance via social data.

Because your social media shares are a treasure trove of actionable information.

From identifying your top-performing content to uncovering messages that resonate with your audience, tracking social media shares should be a top priority for brands today.

In this guide, we’ll highlight how to translate your social share data into action.

8 ways to improve your campaigns by tracking social media shares

Shares sometimes get a bad rap for being a “vanity metric.”

However, social shares can clue you into a variety of ways to bolster your marketing campaigns. This rings true beyond social media, too.

Below we’ve broken down eight ways to do exactly that.

1. Fine-tune your social content strategy

This is the big one and perhaps the most obvious.

Shares are unique versus engagements metrics such as “Likes” or comments. If your audience sees a post as being share-worthy, it’s worth talking about. Literally.

And so share-worthy posts often represent the sort of “high-quality content” that marketers are constantly chasing.

Most brands can consistently score “Likes” and comments. However, there’s often a disparity between posts that score few shares versus posts that make the rounds.

example of social media shares on facebookexample of social media shares on facebook

Tracking social media shares makes it easier to identify your top-performing content. Looking at your most-shared posts, you can find common threads between them to create similar content in the future. These elements include:

  • Captions (short and off-the-cuff versus longer-form with hashtags or keywords)
  • Post formats (text announcements versus images versus videos)
  • Calls-to-action (“shop now” versus “learn more” or a question)

For example, you might find that your video content consistently gets shared around more than text or image-based posts. You might likewise notice that longer-form captions containing hashtags do well, too.

Thing is, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to what makes a share-worthy post. Factors such as your industry and audience will influence what makes “good” content for your accounts.

A couple of quick caveats here. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t just recreate the exact same type of post over and over based on shares. Doing so will fatigue your audience. Tracking social media shares should inform your content strategy, not dominate it.

Also, there are other factors at play that might influence how many shares a post gets (think: timing, algorithms, etc). Some posts might seemingly blow up or go viral for no reason. It’s important to look at social shares in the context of your bigger content strategy versus obsessing over the performance of a single post.

2. Uncover posts that are prime for ads

Most marketers agonize over their social media advertising strategies.

And rightfully so.

Budgets are tight. Even the most minor tweaks in messaging or creatives can impact an ad’s performance.

But by tracking social media shares, you can identify content that might make for an effective ad.

Think about it. If someone takes the time to share an organic post, conventional wisdom says that post is worth engaging with. Engagement is the goal of any given ad, right?

The good news is that most social platforms offer ad types that make it a cinch to take an organic post and transform it into an ad. Below’s a solid example from LinkedIn’s sponsored ads which looks just like a traditional post:

linkedin sponsored content

Although highly-shared posts don’t automatically make for foolproof ads, they can at the very least help you hone in the right messaging and copy for your campaigns.

3. Find the link between social media shares and traffic (or sales)

Most marketers today are tasked with explaining the ROI of social media to their bosses.

Tracking social media shares alone likely isn’t enough to “prove” to skeptical managers that your efforts are actually producing returns. Thus the negative “vanity metric” label we mentioned earlier.

This speaks to the importance of tying your social shares to actual business goals and metrics.

Traffic. Leads. Sales. The list goes on.

You can use tools like Google Analytics to monitor how social shares impact your performance on-site. Below’s an example of what social activity reporting looks like in Sprout Social.

tracking social media shares in google analytics

Additionally, URL tracking can help you assess the performance of individual post links. This makes it easier to track customer behavior and whether or not a highly-shared post resulted in an uptick in traffic, sales or opt-ins.

4. Identify influencers, advocates and potential partners

Tracking media social shares shouldn’t solely be a matter of “how many.”

You should also be looking at the question of “who?”

social shares on Twitter

Again, shares generally represent positive signals about your posts. This also includes people in your space who might be interested in collaborating in some way, shape or form such as:

  • Influencers and relevant names in your industry (think: bloggers, CMOs)
  • Brand advocates
  • Prospects and leads

In short, shares are a subtle way for someone to let you know that you might be on their radar. Companies should regularly comb their social media shares to keep an eye on all of the above.

5. Figure out fresh content ideas for beyond social media

A quick concept, but definitely one worth mentioning.

If a discussion-based post gets shared around, it might be worth expanding on that discussion for the take of a blog post, webinar or other pieces of content.

For example, let’s say you have a Tweet about the best (or worst) holiday marketing emails you’ve received and it gets a ton of traction.

Rather than racking your brain for your next buzz-worthy blog post, your followers have done the legwork of validating the idea for you. From there, you can take the main points of the discussion and turn it into a how-to guide or listicle.

See how that works?

6. Determine which social platforms are your top priorities

We’ll bite: there’s a lot of ground to cover on social media. You can’t realistically be everywhere at once.

Tracking social media shares can confirm the best social media channels for your business. Doing so allows you to prioritize platforms where you’re actually seeing meaningful engagement. You can likewise identify platforms where your presence is lagging or you might need to cut bait.

For example, you should keep track of how many shares a post gets on Twitter…

…and compare its performance to the likes of Facebook.

tracking social shares on facebook

Based on shares and more granular performance metrics like the ones we discussed in point #3, you can figure out where your time is best spent.

And as a side note, tools like Sprout Social can help you cross-post your content across multiple networks so you never have to spread yourself thin.

7. Discover which hashtag combinations result in the most reach

Pop quiz: do you know which hashtags are boosting your most-shared posts?

Because there’s a ton of variables involved in hashtag marketing. As part of tracking social media shares, determine whether your hashtag strategy correlates with a higher number of shares. This means looking at the following:

  • How many hashtags you’re using (one or two on Twitter versus a dozen on Instagram)
  • Which hashtags to use (general hashtags like #fallfashion or branded hashtags like #yourbrandname)
  • How often to use them (every post, every other post, as-needed)
hashtags on Instagram

Again, there are a lot of factors to watch here. You might be surprised at how much (or, in some cases, how little) hashtags impact the shareability of your content.

8. Dig into sentiment analysis to see how your customers feel

By now you know how to track social media shares.

But do you know what those shares actually mean?

Consider how social shares can highlight how your audience and customers feel about you.

Through sentiment analysis, you can understand whether your uptick (or downturn) or social shares comes as the result of satisfied customers.

Note that not all shares are necessarily positive. Brands go viral for all the wrong reasons all the time.

Rather than sift through individual posts to see how followers feel, Sprout can do the legwork for you. In short, our tool allows you to see side-by-side what your customer sentiment looks like and how many shares you’re getting.

tracking social media shares and sentiment analysis

Not only is our tool a time-saver, but it also clues you in on how your customers feel without you having to do any digging.

And with that, we wrap up our guide!

Are you tracking social media shares and making the most of your data?

Listen: shares are so much more than a vanity metric.

This is especially true if you’re able to put those shares into a larger context.

So don’t let your data go to waste! From a better content strategy to smarter ads and beyond, tracking social media shares should remain a top priority for your brand.

And for more insight into the latest social trends and how brands are leveraging their social data, make sure to check out the latest Sprout Social Index™.