Beyond the Likes: New Ways to Measure Great Social Content
October 31, 2019
In the last decade and a half, social media and the ways that we interact with it, have become fairly routine. Although there are a number of metrics to measure, the general public can agree that a like, whether it’s in the form of a “thumbs up” on Facebook or a “heart” on Instagram and Twitter, provides some sense of validation. Brands and individuals have looked to these vanity metrics as the main currency for social content engagement.
Recently, however, Instagram has been testing removing likes in certain markets, indicating that the same type of experiment is not far off on Facebook as well. So we dare to ask the question, “How will we measure great social content in this brave new world?”
Any social media strategist who is doing their due diligence already can easily answer that question. It is well known that likes are a passive method of engagement and have no correlation with purchase behavior (ContentStandard). In order to execute an effective social media strategy, the focus needs to be on active methods of engagement, like the ones listed below, that paint the full picture.
Click-Through Rate / Referral Traffic
Every brand that uses social media as a promotional tool for other products and services needs to keep a close eye on referral traffic – a metric that highlights which content inspires your audience to take action. You can easily track your web referrals on specific posts and campaigns through shortened bit.ly links on Facebook or dedicated link in bio services on Instagram. When a particular post or campaign is amassing high web referrals, you can use that information to your advantage when creating future content. For example, Gap, an iconic brand finding its place in a new format, ran a ‘Logo Remix’ campaign on Instagram Stories with notable pop culture icons – and saw their click-through rate increase by 73% (Instagram Business).
Raw engagement numbers are almost never as important as the engagement rate – this is the real story and where you’ll get all the information you need to evaluate how engaging your content is. While simple numbers – number of likes, shares, comments, overall view count – can be contextualized to look better or worse, engagement rate is a bit more difficult to argue with. This metric will always show you what type of content is working and also which isn’t, and it’s important to look at both of those things to create a framework with the most potential for success. In the case of WeWork, user-generated content proved to be the most engaging for the brand and now accounts for 90% of their overall Instagram content (ShortyAwards). In other words, when you find something that works – do even more of it.
Audience Growth Rate
We all know that it is easy to fake the numbers on social media – an entire sub-industry has been built on buying followers and likes. But it’s key to remember that a large audience is not as important as an engaged audience. In the case of Glossier, they managed to solidify both – growing to an audience of over 1M users in just six years on Instagram (Drift). The disruptive beauty brand’s strength lies in its clear brand identity and focus on community. With a combination of relatable, shareable content, user-generated content and immediately recognizable ‘millennial pink’ branding, Glossier has become much more than just a brand to their followers – they created brand affinity and established an engaged, almost cult-like, audience.
More often than not, these metrics actually provide you with more information on the actions your audience will take versus a simple, passive like. Each of these is important for anyone using social media to amplify their message and product. But remember, this is a starting point – in addition to these metrics, look into others that are tailored to your industry, brand and specific goals to get the most value out of your social media strategy.