Beyond Likes, Comments and Shares: Social Media KPIs That Matter

Lauren Durfy

Most companies today agree that social media is an essential part of any marketing strategy. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram are all places you know your organization should be. The question is how do you measure your social media presence once you get there?

In the early days of social media, it was common to focus on getting Facebook likes without looking at any other signposts for success. Likes became the ultimate vanity metric. But likes may not be all they’re cracked up to be, according to recent research.

Going Beyond Likes

Today, savvy organizations are setting the bar higher. They’re going beyond surface social media metrics and digging deeper into what’s really driving their business. That means defining KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) across the sales process.

In this post, we’re going to take a look at the most meaningful KPIs across these three dimensions:

  1. Acquisition (website traffic and social media)
  2. Engagement (on social media and website)
  3. Attribution (influence on sales)

Acquisition – Website Traffic Sources and Reach

By looking at traffic sources, you can find out what you need to do to drive more people to your site. This can all be accomplished in Google Analytics with a little know-how. You’ll also want to understand the scope of your reach in terms of impressions and number of followers and fans. Once you have Google Analytics up and running, here are the top KPIs for website traffic and reach:

Traffic Data

If you have Google Analytics installed, you can learn how to check your website traffic sources to identify what percentage of your traffic is coming from social channels, organic, paid, referrals, and direct traffic, email, etc.

Followers and Fans

The number of followers you have on any network shows the number of people your brand can reach. Although this number doesn’t have an engagement dimension, you have to be able to reach people before you can ever get people excited about your product or service.


Impressions are important to track, because social networks like Facebook may only show about 10% of your posts in some cases. For example, if you have a large number of followers but few impressions, you may want to look into promoting your posts. Checking your impressions is key to understanding whether your messages are getting through.

Engagement on Social Media and Website

Once you get them into your social media orbit or onto your website, what do they do there? Measuring how prospects are interacting with your content can tell you a lot about their level of interest in the subject matter and your product/service offering. By looking at engagement, you can tell how well your audience understands what you do.

By tracking their activities, you can understand what content they’re most interested in. Engagement metrics are key to understanding your audience.

  • Comments and Likes – Yup, we had to mention likes. Although they’re often considered the lowest form of engagement (one click), they’re still a barometer of engagement. A higher level of engagement is to found in comments or reviews that involve expressing feelings and opinions.
  • Social Media Sharing and Retweets – In terms of engagement levels, sharing is a step beyond basic commenting or liking. Most people have higher standards for recommending to a friend than just giving their opinion. When people are sharing and retweeting your content, it’s regarded as one of the highest levels of success for your content. Word of mouth advertising can generate 2x higher sales than paid ads.

Attribution – Measuring Influence on Sales

If acquisition tells you where people came from, and engagement tells you what people do once they get to your website and social channels, attribution tells you how much those actions are worth. Put another way, attribution measures the influence of a channel on your sales and lead generation campaigns. This is where ROI is tracked and measured, so the KPIs are focused on conversions, leads, and the value placed upon customers and actions they take.

The KPIs related to measuring attribution include:

  • Conversions (whatever the desired action you wish your prospects to take, whether it’s a purchase or a download)
  • Transaction value per customer
  • Cost per conversion
  • Lifetime value of customer

What About the Dark Social?

One last note, and it’s about the “Dark Social.” The term describes sharing links without using a sharing mechanism, like a button, so they can’t be easily tracked. It’s when you see something on a blog and copy the URL, then paste it into an email for a friend.

Using Google Analytics, you can triangulate much of the dark social sharing taking place on your site. Get a step-by-step tutorial on how to measure website traffic from dark social. If you have a high-traffic blog and a large amount of content marketing, there’s going to be a percentage of this mystery traffic you’ll want to pinpoint. By some accounts, the dark social represents almost 70% of all sharing activity.

Now, Put These Powerful KPIs to Work for You

Having these robust KPIs in your marketing arsenal serves as so much more than just window dressing for your analytics. They prove how social media affects website traffic and generates quality leads and positive ROI.

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