How to define true social media success – Formative Content

How to define true social media success

Defining social media success depends on a number of factors. For most companies the ultimate goal of social media marketing is to sell their product. However, social media is not just a sales tool. True social media success should not just be measured in number of sales or conversions alone. Social media is both a sales tool and a brand building tool meaning it can be difficult to measure the true success of your campaign.

So before evaluating your social media campaign ask yourself: what are the goals of my campaign? How long will the campaign run for? Are the goals realistic? And how much time are you willing to invest in making the campaign successful?

All these factors must be considered when reviewing if your social media strategy is a series of triumphant tweets or Facebook flops. Thankfully, there are a number of metrics you can use to gauge the success of your campaign against your goals.


Social media stats:

You can get great value from analytics, stats, and charts inside the back-end of each of your social media profiles. These metrics can give you some idea of how successful your social media strategy is.

So, what are social media metrics?

Here’s a brief run-down:

Engagement = the total number of likes, shares, and comments on a post

Impressions = the number of times a post from your account is displayed. People may see several impressions of the same post. For example, someone might see a page update in their News Feed, and then again if it’s shared by a friend.

Reach = the number of unique people who received impressions of a post

Clicks = the amount of times people clicked a link in your post

Unique Visits = the number of different people who visited your site or page

Page Visits = the number of times people who visited your site or page, counts people multiple times


Ideally any brand would want all metrics to be positive – but which ones are the most important? It depends what your brand is trying to achieve on social media.

Clicks tell you that your social copy is interesting and helpful to an individual – someone has read your post and wants to know more about the story. For many content marketers the aim of social media posts is to encourage clicks on their links and therefore Visits to their brand’s website. Ultimately, measuring clicks and visits are important metrics to consider.

Brands that want to inform their following, or want people to click through to their website, will find Engagement their most useful metric.

Engagement essentially helps gauge the value of your post to your followers. If a follower shares/retweets, or likes/favourites your post it is clear they found value in it. This is a big compliment and one that emphasises why insightful content is king.

Engagement with posts will naturally increase the visibility of your content – when followers share your post with their network you are likely to get more people clicking through to view your content.

However, some brands seek maximum visibility without needing to worry about clicks. For these brand building social media accounts Reach and Impressions are key.

For example, a brand like Innocent rarely tries to get followers to click through a post to read their blog. Their Twitter account often goes days without posting any links. Instead companies like Innocent are trying to make their brand visible because this is the best way to sell their physical product.

For a brand like Innocent, Impressions and Reach are a great measure of whether their social media strategy is a success.


But defining social media success is not all about the numbers

It’s easy for content marketers to view metrics as the way to define social media success. Unfortunately numbers are not the whole story.

Having a high reach and impressions is great, if your content is being seen by the right audience. If your content is reaching a large amount of people but of the wrong audience then you can’t define the campaign as a success.

Likewise, gaining plenty of clicks and visits to your website is desirable, but if the visitors don’t actually read your article and only spend seconds on your site, what’s the point? This is why writing content that engages your target audience is crucial.

Engagement is also a slightly misleading metric because not all Engagements are created equal.  One interaction from an influencer can be worth far more than multiple interactions from an unknown follower.

Essentially, the quality not quantity of these metrics is what truly defines social media success.

This line of thinking also extends to other metrics such as follower numbers. Having a large amount of social media followers is great. But, like all other metrics the quality is just as important as the quantity. You want your followers to be your target audience, and you want them to be engaged in with your content. This is why there is little benefit in buying followers – It just artificially increases one metric without actually increasing useful metrics like Engagement and Clicks.


The takeaway

Defining social media success is difficult because social media is such a flexible and disruptive tool. Every person, company or brand will have different goals on social media meaning that whether a campaign is successful or not can be subjective.

Outlining your social media goals, measuring your metrics and assessing the quality of the metrics are all helpful ways to gauge success.



Adam Shirley is a Content Producer at Formative Content and specialises in digital content and writing for social media.

You can follow Adam on Twitter at @acjshirley

Formative Content is a UK based content marketing agency producing high quality content, live event coverage and strategic communications support for clients around the world.

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Adam Shirley - Senior Social Media Manager, Formative Content
Author:Adam Shirley - Senior Social Media Manager, Formative Content