Social Media Measurement

Digital advertising has emerged as the leading medium in the US, capturing 59% of all advertising dollars spent in 2020. One of the reasons for this is the ability to measure. Rather than rely on survey data for viewership or estimates of readership, we understand with a great deal of precision how many people were exposed to our ads and what actions they took as a result.

This is especially true in social media. Advertising on these networks is unique in that users can interact in many different ways. When banner advertising first emerged as the dominant digital advertising tactic, the click was king. We wanted everyone to click our ads. In fact, we even told them that’s what we wanted by including the words “click here” on every banner. Often, those words were more prominent than a reason why anyone would want to click. 

Ultimately, using clicks to measure the success of banner advertising turned out to be a failure for marketers. It was commonly reported that banners averaged one click for every 1,000 views. That’s not a great success rate. Even when clicks were measured, they didn’t translate to great results. We could see that website visitors from banner ads had much lower engagement than other site visitors. It turned out that many of the clicks were due to bot fraud and user error. The latter is often referred to as a “fat thumb” click. No offense to those readers with overweight thumbs.

Now that we have advertising on social networks, there are many new metrics that can be tracked. Every type of interaction including reactions (thumbs up, hearts, laughing emoji, etc.), comments, shares, likes, video views, and more are measured. For digital marketers, these interactions have become the new click. In many ways, these metrics are better. The actions are tied to user accounts which reduces fraud. Some actions, such as shares, expand the reach of the advertising to the user’s network of friends. On the other hand, there’s very little effort on the user’s end. Just “liking” a post as they scroll through their feed is easy. I’ve seen people on their phones get into a rhythm where every post is given some love. 

Just because a user “likes” your post or ad, doesn’t mean they have any intention of trying your food or beverage. In fact, Nielsen research found there is no correlation between these engagements and purchases. Ideally, you should measure the success of your social media advertising campaigns using key performance indicators, or KPIs. These are metrics that closely correlate with your marketing objectives. 

In order to determine the KPIs for your campaign, you have to first establish your marketing objectives. Do you need to build awareness for your food or beverage? Do you want users to purchase? Do you want users to perceive your product as a superior option compared to competitors? 

Once that’s been determined, you’ll need to figure out which measurable action(s) most closely correlate to this objective. For example, if you want to drive purchase, you might provide an interactive store locator. Set up proper tracking before you launch a campaign. Make sure you’re measuring interactions with the map and tracking those back to social ads. 

Of course, the reason you want to measure the results is so you can make improvements over time. It starts with an optimization strategy. Don’t just hope that some incredible insights will fall out of the sky. Sometimes they magically appear in your lap, but they almost never fall from the sky. 

The optimization strategy should outline different variables that you want to test. You can test creative messaging, offers, audiences, landing pages, etc. For each variable you’d like to test, develop a hypothesis. Create an experiment that contains both a control group and experimental group. For example, you might predict a buy one, get one free offer will work better than an offer of 25% off the purchase. Run both offers at the same time, keeping all other parameters the same. If you try to test different variables at the same time, you won’t know which specific element was more effective. The optimization strategy should prioritize the elements to be tested. Continue to run tests, report your learnings, and consistently improve the results.

Stop measuring and optimizing your social media campaigns using “likes” and other engagements that don’t translate to marketing success. When your boss asks you about the engagement rate, tell her it doesn’t matter, and show her the metrics that correlate to your company’s goals. Be polite about it, and then ask for a promotion. 


Karl Heberger

Partner, Chief Strategy Officer

Karl is responsible for digital advertising and marketing with two decades of experience in PPC, SEO, social, mobile, video, display, and analytics. By focusing solely on our clients’ business and marketing objectives, Karl ensures the digital marketing strategies Mason Digital develops and executes are successful.