A woman with a curly blonde afro looks at the red smartphone in her hands with a smile. Out of focus in the background is a line of palm trees, with some buildings further off.
A big following on social media looks impressive, but those numbers only matter if followers are engaging with your content and clicking on your links. — Getty Images/Xavier Lorenzo

There are dozens of social media metrics you could track, from follower count to reach to likes and shares. The challenge for many small business owners is determining which metrics provide the best insight. It’s easy to get caught up in the details of each social media channel and miss the bigger picture: How well is your business performing?

Ultimately, the metrics you track depend on the size of your budget and your business objectives. For a new business, for instance, follower count and brand awareness are likely more important than overall sales and conversion rates. A more mature brand will want to see high engagement and click-through rates.

As you think through how to leverage different social media platforms, these metrics can help you assess whether your strategy is working or whether you need to adjust course.

Reach

Reach is a measure of the number of people who have seen your post. This data point can help you determine whether the timing and the content of your post are meeting the needs of your target audience. If you see low reach, it could be that your post went up at a time when your audience was offline. Or it could indicate that your audience doesn’t find your content valuable. Paying attention to how the algorithms of each social media channel work — and the types of content they reward with higher visibility — can help you improve your reach.

[Read more: Understanding Facebook Stats and How to Measure Success]

Brand awareness

If you imagine the customer sales funnel, brand awareness is at the very top. Before someone decides to buy from your store, they must learn about your company for the first time. Brand awareness measures the number of people who are aware of your brand; this stat is tied to word-of-mouth marketing.

Measuring brand awareness is tricky — and you may need a specialized analytics tool to help.

“Your true level of brand awareness is how many people are and become aware of your brand over a given reporting period, like a quarter,” wrote SocialPilot. “To determine this, look at your mentions, impressions, shares, and clicked links across your social media platforms. Add them together and see how much attention you’re getting over the time you’ve chosen.”

It won’t be a perfect measurement, but it can help you determine whether your audience engagement is growing over time.

Social media is best used to build familiarity with your brand so that when the time does come to buy, the customer is primed and ready to go.

Engagement rate

Lots of brands prioritize growing their following, but a large follower count is only useful if those people are engaged with your content. Engagement rate can help you understand how often audiences like and comment on your social media posts to see if people are paying attention.

The basic formula for engagement rate is: total likes, shares, comments / total followers x 100 = average engagement rate.

Click-through rate

Click-through rate (CTR) measures how often people click a link in your social media to access additional content, such as a landing page, blog post, or your online store. It’s a good way to understand how many people saw your content and decided it was interesting enough to learn more. If you’re running a marketing campaign, click-through rate is one of the ultimate measures of success.

According to research from Hootsuite, average click-through rates on social media are pretty low: around 1.1%, on average, for paid social ads. You may be able to boost that number through organic social media, but don’t be discouraged if your CTR looks small.

Conversion rate

Once someone decides to click through and explore your products or services, are they becoming paid customers? Conversion rates measure how often your social content leads to someone taking the desired action: signing up for an event, buying a product, downloading more information, etc.

Conversions are the ultimate goal for most social media outreach, but set your expectations accordingly. Many customers don’t see an ad on Facebook and immediately decide to complete a purchase. Social media is best used to build familiarity with your brand so that when the time does come to buy, the customer is primed and ready to go.

Therefore, purchases aren’t the only type of conversion you should aim to initiate. Use your conversion rate to encourage people to subscribe to your newsletter, register for an event, or join your loyalty club. Over time, you can nurture these initial conversions into sales.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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