Understanding Impressions, Reach, User Engagement and More
As social marketing becomes increasingly data-driven, the task of providing definition and substance to a practice bursting with jargon presents an ongoing challenge for all marketing professionals. Although there are differing opinions on how to quantify the value of social, the process can only begin with a sound understanding of the elements that could make up such an equation.
For the purpose of simplification, there are three key metrics that all marketers should be aware of. These three metrics should be included in all standard social reports as they provide statistical support of content performance.
- Impressions: the total number of times your content was displayed (by post or page)
- Reach: the total number of people who saw content (by post or page)
- Engagements: the total number of user interactions generated by your content
Facebook: comments, likes, shares, link clicks, video plays, etc.
Twitter: replies, favorites, retweets, media views, hashtag clicks, etc.
Pinterest: comments, likes, repins, etc.
LinkedIn: comments, likes, shares, clicks, etc.
Instagram: comments, likes, etc.
Of course, there are many more metrics to consider when assessing a brand’s social health. As the native analytics dashboards of the major networks evolve in sophistication – Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics, Pinterest Analytics, etc. – it is fundamental for a marketer to delineate between the subtle differences of each social network’s glossary of terms. And when demoing management tools, the definitional differences that exist between third-party social media management software.
For an example, the well known yet incredibly misleading “engagement rate” metric tends to vary by network:
- On Facebook Insights, a post’s engagement rate is quantified by dividing the Lifetime Engaged Users by Lifetime Post Total Reach.
- On Twitter Analytics, dividing User Engagements by Tweet Impressions derives a post’s engagement rate.
These mathematical differences matter greatly because it clouds the process of comparing performance by social network. The problem is further exacerbated by the lack of an industry standard for calculating engagement rate. Some marketers and third-party platforms derive it by dividing engagement by total number of followers, while others divide by reach or impressions. There are also some within the industry that view “engagement rate” as a vanity metric, and choose to disregard it altogether for truer indicators of success. For an example, Social Bakers, a leading provider of social analytics tools, now recommends tracking total social interactions instead of engagement rate to assess performance. At Fahlgren Mortine, our social media practice is also partial to viewing engagement as a composite sum of measurable activities.
Unfortunately, there are no simple answers for the differences that divide social networks and social marketers. But perhaps the solution could lie in data transparency – in possessing a firm understanding of the user activities that are important to a brand’s business efforts, reporting on essential performance data, and omitting usage of buzz-wordy and shiny metrics that simply distract.