Social Media Analytics: The Small Business Guide to Metrics and Tools

Social media marketing can help to increase brand awareness, allow you to reach out and engage with people who are interested in your products or services and act as a customer care channel and much more. However it can be difficult to measure exactly what social media is doing for your business.

Like other more established channels social media teams need to prove their usefulness to a business, but where to begin?

What you should be monitoring

When you look at any kind of metrics or KPIs, you have to know which questions you want answered. Each metric can answer a different question, and looking at a combination of metrics helps to give a fuller view of how your social media campaign is performing:

charlie-osmond-thumb-xs Charlie Osmond (read the full interview)

"the most effective way to measure the impact and value of social media is to create metrics and KPIs (key performance indicators) that align with your key business goals"

1. Traffic & Conversions from social media sites
The source and amount of traffic generated by social media is one of the easiest metrics to measure. Analytics packages allow you to filter by traffic sources, so you can see how many users come from which social media sites. You can also see whether or not that traffic goes on to convert - e.g. purchasing something, signing up for a newsletter etc.

2. Fan or follower numbers
Most social media sites will only track the total number of fans or followers you have, so you will need a third-party tool to track when people have joined or left.

3. Conversation participation
Conversation participation metrics attempt to quantify how people are interacting with your social media campaigns. These metrics will largely include things like comments or likes on a Facebook post or responding to a tweet.

4. Social reach performance
This looks at whether or not people are sharing your content by retweeting or writing a blog post about your social media campaign.

What does success look like?

A lot of companies don’t set the right kind of targets for their social media activity, which makes it really difficult for them to measure success or spot opportunities for improvement. Setting targets for metrics like traffic, conversation participation and the number of fans or followers you have is a great starting point.

With these targets in place it's going to be a lot easier to track what actually works. Not everything you do in social media will be a run-away success, but over time you will be able to build a successful strategy based around the activities that had a positive effect on your metrics.

This can also be applied to the social networks you participate in. If you have well defined metrics, it's going to be a lot easier to spot which social networks are working for you and which ones are just draining your resources and offering very little ROI.

Tips for setting targets

ian-lurie-thumb-xs Ian Lurie (read the full interview)

"Companies over-value followership and under-value participation. Yes, you can go out and buy 1000 followers. But if they all ignore you from that point on, they're worthless"

1. Fans and followers
Increasing your fan and follower numbers is important, but it’s a bit of an unreliable indicator of success. Set reasonable targets to increase these numbers but remember engagement (i.e. conversation participation and sharing) is more important.

2. Conversation participation and sharing
Judging whether or not your followers are engaging in a ‘good’ amount of conversation and sharing is relative, and it can always be improved. For example, there’s no magic number of retweets you need to hit to be "successful" at sharing on Twitter.

Set targets to increase your posts’ average number of comments, likes, or retweets. Track which sorts of content elicit the best sharing responses and use this to inform your social content strategy to ultimately increase engagement moving forward.

3. Traffic v Conversions
Unless you’re in the business of selling ad impressions traffic probably isn’t a terribly useful metric. Rather than seeking to purely increase traffic, look at which social media sites refer the traffic with the highest conversion rate.

Think both in terms of macro and micro conversions - macro conversions are things like purchases whereas micro conversions are things like signing up for newsletters, downloading whitepapers and so on.

The sites that send the traffic with the best conversion rates should become the priority of your social media strategy.

There are also many ways to determine the financial impact of your social media efforts, - depending on your objectives.

How to Monitor Social Media

Below we’ve provided guidance on how to monitor your social media campaign across the most popular social media sites and networks, but clearly some networks are likely to be more applicable to your business than others. You need to be wherever your customers are, so if there are other niche social networks which are applicable to your industry you should participate in and monitor those too.

jennifer-sable-lopez-thumb-xs Jennifer Sable Lopez (read the full interview)

"Since there isn't one site or tool that gives you all the data in one place, you'll need to spend time gathering data and combining it yourself "

Blogs & Forums

Blogs and forums are great for linkbuilding, but they have a lot more to offer than just links back to your site. They can act like purpose-built communities for your brand: a collection of internet users who will be interested in your brand and who have already been brought together. You can use blogs and forums to promote contests, build up an engaged community and provide feedback on your content.

The key metrics and how to monitor them

The number of links can be tracked using tools like SEOmoz’s Open Site Explorer, Majestic Site Explorer or Google’s Webmaster Tools.

These are all free and straightforward to use, and they can provide useful information like where the links come from and how strong they are

Mentions can be monitored using Google Alerts, which sends you an email when it finds a mention of whatever keywords you would like to track. You can then see the sentiment of the blog posts and respond accordingly – whether it’s to thank a positive writer, attempt to reach out to someone who feels negatively about your brand or ignore someone who is being unreasonable.


Traffic can be monitored with your analytics package, like Google Analytics, which is completely free and about as comprehensive an analytics package as you need. It can track where traffic comes from, what it goes on to do and changes over time.

This can all be seen from the dashboard or just a few clicks from the dashboard, but you can also set up filters to track very specific kinds of traffic or actions.


Twitter is a great way to talk directly to your customers and prospects. It can help you provide immediate customer service support, promote blog content and news, get quick snapshots of customer opinions and more.

The key metrics and how to monitor them
The key metrics with Twitter are conversation participation & social reach, followers and traffic driven to your site. Unfortunately, Twitter is a tricky platform to effectively monitor as whilst Twitter do provide an analytics package it’s currently only available to advertisers.

Conversation Participation & Social Reach
On Twitter, conversation participation can be tracked by looking at replies and direct messages. The number and frequency of these can usually be found by using Twitter’s search function, and older tweets that no longer show up in Twitter’s search results can be found using a search tool like Topsy.

More sophisticated tools like crowdbooster can offer social reach data offering based off of impressions and retweets.

The number of followers you have on Twitter is a reasonable indication of how well you are utilising the platform, however conversation participation and social reach are undoubtedly better metrics. It’s far better to have 1000 followers who are engaged with your brand, who mention you and retweet your content, than 10,000 who ignore you.

This can be determined through your web analytics package (e.g. Google Analytics). However, it is important to remember that historically, not all traffic driven by Twitter was actually from Desktop applications and third-party software like Hoot suite, Tweet deck and Twitter feed used to show up as distinct sources of traffic, as they were the way many people accessed and used Twitter.

However, now that Twitter has unveiled its URL shortened – – it is likely that they will unveil a totally new analytics package and that these and many more metrics can be tracked. It does have some immediate effects as well. As of 10/10/11 all click-throughs from Twitter or a third-party application will come through, making it easier to keep track of Twitter-based traffic. You can also see how much traffic individual tweets send to your site.


Facebook is arguably the largest opportunity for social media marketing. Facebook Groups can make it easy to reach out to potential members of your community, Pages allow companies and public figures to talk directly to their followers, and ads allow you to target very specific groups of people.

The key metrics and how to monitor them
Facebook has created their own analytics centre called Facebook Insights.

Through Insights you can see which of your posts has generated the most comments and when there is a spike in ‘shares’ to determine which kind of posts expand your reach most effectively.

Once you see a pattern, you can then tailor your posts to maximise the impact they have. You can also view data on your fans, reach and the people who are talking about you.

There are many ways to track the number and kinds of fans you have. You view your fans in terms of demographics (where they live or the language they speak), and you can create content for the biggest demographic or the one you’d like to grow. You can also track the number of ‘likes’ you get, when you get them and if people subsequently ‘unlike’ your brand.

In a similar vein to the fan metrics you can also see which demographics your content has reached, how many people your content reached and how frequently they saw it.

People who are talking about you
Here you can view data on the demographics of the people who are talking about you, see how they are talking about you (i.e. via likes, stories from your posts, mentions and photo tags, posts by others and check ins).

Unlike with other social media sites, you can track traffic on Facebook one of two ways: you can see how much traffic is sent from Facebook to your site, or you can see which sites are referring traffic to your Facebook page.

To track the traffic sent to your site from Facebook, use Google Analytics or whatever analytics package you have. Facebook Insights, meanwhile, tracks the sites that send traffic to your Facebook page.


It’s probably best to think of LinkedIn as a professional Facebook: many B2B businesses can use it to promote services or products, but most individuals use it as a place to promote their professional side, to recruit or to be recruited. Nonetheless, it can still be used to build your community or promote blog content, particularly to people who need your product or service during the course of their jobs.

Moreover, if you have a group, you can build a community around your brand and encourage customer engagement with your brand.

The key metrics and how to monitor them
With LinkedIn, you can track page views, followers and connections, top keywords and traffic. These are all available from LinkedIn’s analytics for businesses, which is available with their business accounts. They also provide some analytics for individual profiles, as well.

Page views
You can track the total page views and unique visitors to your profile page. If the user looking at your page is one of your connections, you will see their name, and otherwise you will see the sector they work in.

Followers and connections
This tracks the number of people following your profile and how many first, second and third-degree connections you have, which gives you an idea of how large your and your followers’ spheres of influence are.

Top keywords
You can also use the LinkedIn analytics to find the keywords that brought people to your page.

LinkedIn can be a good, steady source of traffic for B2B brands, especially via profile updates and group discussions. This can be tracked through your analytics package.


Google+ is still very new, and at the time of writing Google+ business/brand pages have just been launched. As such the analytics available aren’t as in-depth or sophisticated as with other social media sites. Still, Google intends on allowing Google+ to influence ranking factors in the future, so it will probably become much easier to track your performance in the coming months and years.

Plus, with over 25 million users already it looks like it will form a key part of companies’ social media marketing strategies moving forward.

The key metrics and how to monitor them
The key metrics to measure from Google+ include followers, +1s of your site’s content and traffic. As it becomes bigger, these metrics will likely need to include many others.

Google+ describes this as users who “have you in circles”, and you can see this on your profile page.

+1s of content
This is available through Google’s Webmaster Tools []. It measures the effect of +1s on click-through rates in web searches, and you can track site-wide +1s or just the +1s of an individual page.

Via your web analytics package you can of course see when Google+ sends traffic to your site. Currently, Google+ is populated by early social media adopters who, generally speaking, are fairly tech-savvy and keen to engage with this new social network, so it can send a lot of traffic to tech sites or well-engaged companies.

What Social Media metrics are you currently measuring? What do you see as the most important?

Jump down to the comment comments section and get involved in the conversation.

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