What KPIs Matter for Social?

Imagine under every one of your brand’s Instagrams, it showed like count, comments – and the number of products sold directly from the post. Tracking ROI on every campaign would be a breeze. 

Of course, that’s far from reality. You can’t look at an Instagram post and tell how many units were sold as a result of the post. Without such information served up on a silver platter, we turn to KPIs. 

KPIs are necessary to measure success on social. There’s no throughline, since Instagram and other social media sites are indirect selling platforms. We’re high at the top of the funnel here, and so social media is worth its weight as an awareness and loyalty platform. That can be measured, and these KPIs will tell you if your social strategy is successful in furthering potential customers down that funnel by increasing awareness and maintaining loyalty.

Social’s key KPIs

When you can’t directly trace sales to social media activity, you have to get more creative in determining what success looks like. There are a few clear ways to tell if your social strategy is gaining traction and moving people in the right direction. Are you increasing your followers? Great work – you’re shouting less and less into the void and more at a potential customer. Many brand clients make the mistake of not equating a new follower with a potential customer. All they did was hit the follow button, after all, that doesn’t mean they’re going to buy anything. Maybe not – but now they’re listening, and they’ve shown interest. Take the ball and run with it. 

Video views and impressions are also key measurements for awareness. If you’re reaching 4x more people via videos than are following your brand’s account, you’re reaching a bigger pool of potential customers and growing awareness for your brand. 

That said, beware of the vanity metric. Growing your followers is a good sign, but followers alone don’t mean a lot if they’re not engaging with your brand. If you can grow your follower count while keeping engagement rates steady, that proves you have a loyal and interested audience who are more willing to be advocates for your brand. 

Know your space

Always play to your platform, and better KPIs will come. Not all social media is equal. At Facebook’s and Instagram’s more mature age, users are settled into their behavior. They’re not discovering as often as they were – especially on Facebook – and they’re less likely to follow a new account. At this point in Facebook’s lifecycle, it’s impossible to grow there without pouring money into the app. That’s important to remember if you’re wondering why organic attempts to grow are going nowhere.

Not so on TikTok, where many users are still finding their groove and shaping who they follow. People are adding new accounts everyday. And while this is rapidly changing, it’s less expensive to run ads and grow on that platform. Know the dynamics of the app you’re investing in in order to make sure you’re measuring the right KPIs.

The same awareness goes for communities on each app. Brands no longer speak outwardly to their followers and succeed – that’s outdated. Community management is critical to growing your presence across social, and that means listening to what your followers are following, taking part in conversations, and speaking with your audience, not at them. 

Good community management can lead to fun interactions. If you’re a brand offering a service to new homeowners, followers are likely to come to you for solutions and tips on how to navigate their new space. They also may want to lament and vent about unforeseen issues. Lean into the conversation, and don’t worry about potentially negative conversations. Stanley – one of the biggest viral products right now – leaned in when a woman posted that her Stanley cup survived a car fire. Stanley joined the conversation and rewarded the customer. 

The social-first generation

Social success boils down to one key understand around how it fits into customers’ lives. For many in the younger generations, they start on social media if they’re looking for more information a brand and need to decide if it’s worth their time. Rather than their website, they’ll go right to Instagram. This is a social-first generation, and it’s only evolving more in that direction.

Only when you understand and embrace the purpose of social media today will you get the right metrics. It’s not sales, it’s awareness, loyalty and engagement – but it’s crucial. Consider social to be the place where you’re building a community of people with similar interests, where you can solve their problem and align with their values. It’s not a third or fourth touchpoint in the customer journey. It’s a community of potential customers.

Paula Ersly is head of social strategy at Acadia.

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Paula Ersly