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This chapter is from the book

Determining Your Owned and Earned Social Metrics

Social metrics are likely to be the most familiar metrics to communicators because these days very few programs are executed without a social component. An abundance of metrics are available to professionals, which makes landing on the “right” metrics all the more challenging. Unfortunately, this complexity is perpetuated by the major social platforms, each adding its own custom metrics to the mix, which makes some side-by-side comparisons across platforms difficult. To try to simplify this, we think social metrics can be broken down into two different groups:

  • Owned social metrics—These metrics are related to the social channels (Facebook page, Twitter account, YouTube channel, and so on) that you are currently maintaining.

  • Earned social metrics—When communications programs are developed, professionals design them in the hope that conversation will take place outside owned social channels. Every conversation about the program or the brand that you did not directly “pitch” would be considered earned. Earned media has enormous potential to help bands achieve their objectives, and it should be comprehended in any measurement strategy you develop.

The following sections dive into the specific metrics for the owned and earned categories. Keep in the back of your mind that the metrics described here are the most common metrics. The metrics that you pick for your program must align with the behaviors you are trying to change. Examining other metrics can be interesting, but might be a waste of effort. Relevance beats interesting in regard to metrics. Ensure the metrics are relevant to and aligned with the behaviors and outcomes that you’re focused on changing.

Owned Social Metrics

If you are a communicator who is currently developing a program for your company or client and are not including a social media component, you are most likely in the minority. That is not to say that social media belongs in every program, just that in the majority of cases, some sort of social activation makes sense.

A number of ways exist to approach this topic, but we thought breaking down the top metrics by social platform that communications professionals are using today would be most helpful. Please note that these are only the metrics for the top social media platforms and not an exhaustive list across the entire social platform ecosystem. We do not explore a number of fringe social media platforms here.


Facebook is the most popular social network and boasts more than two billion users. There is a pretty good chance that if you are reading this book, you maintain a page for a brand or client, and you have a personal page that you use to share photos, favorite articles, and news about yourself. If you are managing a Facebook brand page, you have access to Facebook Insights. Facebook Insights is Facebook’s free, native analytics platform that enables page owners to see metrics on how their pages are performing and insights into their audience.

If you have logged into Facebook Insights recently, you know how daunting it can be. There are a lot of possible metrics, and it is not completely clear how you decide which ones you should be using. The answer to which metrics you should pay attention to depends on the behavior you are trying to change. However, there are popular metrics that almost every communications professional looks at when evaluating the page’s performance. Here are the most popular:

  • Total likes—Probably the most common and easiest to understand, total likes is the number of people who have “liked” your page.

  • Reach—Facebook reach is the number of unique people who saw your content. It can affect every other metric you can pick: engagement, likes, comments, and clicks. Facebook breaks down reach into subcategories: organic reach, paid reach, viral reach, page reach, and post reach. Organic reach is the total number of unique people who were shown your post through unpaid distribution. Paid reach is the number of unique people who were shown your post as a result of ads on Facebook. Viral reach is the number of unique people who have seen a story about a page published by a friend. Page reach is the number of unique people who have seen your brand page. Finally, post reach is the number of unique people who have seen an individual piece of content that you have posted.

  • Impressions—Impressions are the number of times a post from your page is displayed, whether the post is clicked or not. Impressions can be seen by people that have either liked or not liked your page. People may see multiple impressions of the same post.

  • Engaged users—This is the number of people who have clicked on one of your posts during a given time. It provides a good benchmark for how many people are actually reading your Facebook page’s content.

  • Engagement rate—Engagement rate is the percentage of people who saw a post and reacted to, shared, clicked, or commented on it divided by how many people see your post. Please note that some organizations have modified engagement rate to include or exclude specific metrics, and that is okay. Our goal here is to give you the standard definition that you can then use for your business however you see fit.

  • Video metrics—An increasingly large number of posts on Facebook are in a video format. Facebook offers users a number of different video metrics but we tend to favor three specific metrics. The first is video views, which is the number of times your page’s videos have been viewed for three seconds or more. The second is video view rate, which is the number of video views divided by the number of people who saw that piece of content. Lastly, we tend to favor looking at a video’s quartiles as a measure of the quality of the engagement. By quartiles we mean measuring how far an individual user gets into a video, typically represented as 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100%.

  • Efficiency metrics—If you have been following the marketing and communications trade publications you know that a dwindling amount of reach on Facebook comes from organic activity. Because of that, measuring how efficiently we are reaching people with our content is growing in importance. What are some key metrics that you should look at when measuring efficiency? The first is cost per mention (CPM). CPM measures the total amount spent on an ad campaign, divided by impressions, and then multiplied by 1,000. The second measure is cost per engagement (CPE). CPE is calculated as total amount spent divided by post engagement. We understand that post engagement is a vague term, but that is intentional. Facebook has a number of different post engagement metrics, but you should select the ones most appropriate for your business. The last critical efficiency metric is cost per view (CPV). This metric is calculated as total amount spent divided by three-second video views.

  • Likes, comments, and shares by post—The preceding metrics in this list are page-level metrics, but you should also watch some post-level metrics. Likes refers to the number of people who have clicked the Like button on a post, and comments refers to those who have contributed some opinion on a post. Shares refers to the number of people who have posted your content on their page, thus generating earned media activity for your brand.


Twitter has significantly grown its data and analytics capabilities since we wrote the first version of this book. Now you can gain access to the normal things like followers, retweets, replies, and likes, as well as mentions, impressions, profile visits, along with a host of media metrics, directly through their native analytics platform. Like Facebook, an increasing amount of activity happening on Twitter is paid advertising as brands try to cut through what is a very busy news feed for most users. Here are some common metrics you can use to evaluate your performance on Twitter:

  • Followers—Similar to likes on Facebook, this is the number of people who have decided to track your brand’s account; it is a snapshot indicator of the size of your direct Twitter audience.

  • Retweets—This is the number of people who have shared your content with their followers.

  • Mentions—Mentions refers to how often someone has mentioned your brand directly on Twitter.

  • Video views and completion rate—Like Facebook, a growing amount of the content published on Twitter is in a video format. Video views on Twitter are calculated as the total number of people who have viewed three seconds of a video. However, this approach has brought some criticism of Twitter, due to videos auto-starting when in view. This can artificially inflate the total video views metric versus the actual number of users who watched the video. It doesn’t make the metric useless, but it’s important to be aware Twitter video views might be significantly higher than other social platforms when comparing video engagement. Completion rate is exactly as it sounds, and is calculated as the number of people who have completed a video that has been distributed.

  • Efficiency metrics—Much of what gets distributed by brands on Twitter today is in the form of paid media. Because of that, also measuring how efficiently you are reaching your target audience is important. There are three important efficiency metrics to measure on Twitter. The first is cost per engagement (CPE). CPE on Twitter is measured in a similar way as Facebook by looking at the total engagement divided by the total impressions. The second measure is cost per view (CPV). CPV is calculated as the total amount spent divided by the number of three-second video views. Lastly, is cost per click (CPC), calculated as the total amount spent divided by the number of clicks generated. Which one of these three efficiency metrics you select should be driven by your objectives. For example, if you’re trying to drive clicks to another digital property, then CPC will be more important to you than if you’re trying to maximize video content consumption to both your current audience and potential new followers, where CPV is much more relevant.

  • Clicks and click-through rate (CTR)—Clicks refers to the number of times people have clicked a link that you shared, and the CTR is the number of clicks divided by the number of people who had an opportunity to click, typically expressed as a percentage. It is important to note that without the use of a link-shortening service, such as Bitly, tracking clicks is not possible. Posting directly to Twitter or Facebook does not allow you to track the number of clicks on a post. URL shorteners like Bitly provide the missing tracking and tell the whole story. We recommend combining whichever URL shortener you prefer within your linking and posting to avoid gaps in measurement and reporting.

  • Impressions—Impressions refers to the number of times someone viewed or had the opportunity to view your content. Impressions on Twitter are somewhat controversial as some analytics tools calculate impressions by including replies. If you reply to someone on Twitter, the only people who see it are you, the recipient, and the followers who overlap. If you are using a social media management tool, you should ask to see how it is calculating impressions. If you are calculating impressions manually, you should exclude replies from your analysis to get the most accurate count.


Like Facebook, YouTube offers channel owners a robust native analytics platform for tracking performance and reporting. It offers metrics related to how the channel itself is performing, as well as how specific videos are resonating with your target audience. A lot of data is available to channel owners; these are the most popular metrics:

  • Views—Views on YouTube can be broken down into how many times someone saw a video or the YouTube channel itself. A view is counted when the video has been viewed for 30 seconds or more.

  • Subscribers—This is the number of people who have signed up to receive your content since you posted it.

  • Likes/dislikes—This is the number of times a viewer had selected whether they like or dislike a video. This is typically expressed as a raw number, but it can be aggregated to show a ratio of likes to dislikes over the span of several videos.

  • Comments—This is the number of times someone has offered an opinion on a video or your channel.

  • Favorites—This is the number of times viewers have clicked on the Favorite link to show how much they like a particular video.

  • Sharing—This is the number of times your video has been posted on another social network. YouTube aggregates sharing into a single metric.

  • Video view rate—A view-through rate on YouTube is the number of times your video has been viewed, divided by the number of impressions that were served.

  • Efficiency metrics—The most common measure of media efficiency on YouTube is cost per view (CPV). Cost per view is measured in a similar way as on Twitter and Facebook and is calculated as the total amount spent divided by the number of 30-second video views.

One important note about YouTube is that in many instances, the engagement numbers can be combined into one number. So, for example, if you are the channel owner, you can combine likes, comments, and favorites into one number that shows engagement overall. Or, similarly, you can combine the numbers and divide by the total number of videos to achieve an engagement rate.


One doesn’t normally think of SlideShare as a popular social network, but following its acquisition by LinkedIn in 2012 it became even more popular. It is one of the top 100 most-visited websites in the world with more than 18 million uploads in 40 different content categories. The site also has more than 70 million monthly users and receives several hundred million page views per month. It is a valuable place to provide thought leadership and, if you are managing the communications for a public company, it’s a place to share earnings announcements, investor presentations, and other documents of interest to key stakeholders. Not a lot of data is available, but channel owners can find some metrics:

  • Followers—This is the equivalent of a like on Facebook or an account follower on Twitter. When you decide to follow someone or a brand on SlideShare, you receive notifications when new content has been posted without having to manually check like you would on Facebook or Twitter.

  • Views—This is the number of times someone has seen something you have uploaded to your channel (documents and presentations).

  • Comments—Viewers of your content have the opportunity to add to the discussion by contributing their point of view. This metric measures the number of such comments.

  • Downloads—The number of people who have taken action and literally clicked Download to save a copy of the presentation that you have uploaded.

  • Shares—Every piece of content that you upload can be shared to multiple social channels. Tracking how often your content is “picked up” and “placed” elsewhere is important, because it provides a strong barometer for how well it is resonating. This earned media activity should be captured and reported on as well to give you a sense of the virality of individual content you publish and promote.


When we wrote the first edition of this book, Pinterest had approximately 12 million users. With the explosion of the visual web and related social platforms, Pinterest now boasts more than 175 million monthly active users worldwide. Pinterest offers users space to create virtual pinboards for images of interest across the Internet. Companies, particularly in retail and consumer categories, are creating branded channels on Pinterest, and the amount of data has been growing accordingly. The native analytics platform within Pinterest has thankfully improved as well since 2014. Pinterest has built out a robust analytics and advertising platform that gives its users a window into how your boards and content is performing. The following are some of the key metrics available to users:

  • Followers—As with the other social networks listed earlier, followers on Pinterest are the number of people who have elected to view your content.

  • Number of boards—This is the number of separate pinboards you have created for your account. Companies that are currently using Pinterest typically create pinboards based on product categories.

  • Number of pins—This is simply the number of images or videos that have been “pinned” to a board you own.

  • Likes—As is the case with the other channels, users can click the Like button for individual pieces of content. This metric counts those clicks.

  • Repins—If you like something that another user has pinned, you have to click the Save button to share it with your Pinterest followers. This metric counts the number of repins.

  • Comments—As with the other channels, users have a chance to offer their own perspective on a piece of content. This metric counts those comments.

  • Impressions—Impressions are the number of times a Pin from your profile has appeared on Pinterest home feeds, category feeds, and search. Average monthly viewers include anyone who sees a Pin from your profile on their feeds.

  • Clicks—Clicks are literally what you are probably guessing they are, which is the number of clicks on Pins from your profile.

  • Engagement rate—This is calculated as the total number of people who have seen a Pin divided by the total number of actions.

  • Efficiency measures—Pinterest’s advertising platform has been growing since we published the first version of this book, and therefore it is important to look at two efficiency metrics. The first is cost per mentions (CPM). CPM is calculated in a similar way as on Facebook. The second key efficiency measure is cost per engagement (CPE). CPE is calculated as the total number of impressions divided by the total number of actions.


Most, if not all, of you who are reading this book are likely actively engaged on Instagram. The popular photo sharing application has exploded since the first version of this book was published, driven largely by being acquired by Facebook. Instagram now has more than 800 million monthly active users and 500 million daily active users. More than 30% of Internet users in the United States are now on Instagram, and the platform has more than one million advertisers. As more of the Internet moves from text-based to image-based communication, it is safe to assume that Instagram will only to continue to grow. More brands will continue to use the platform to reach its key audiences through interactive and visually appealing advertising units. A number of metrics are available to brands and are broken into three different categories:

  • Overall metrics—Brands can capture four key metrics in this bucket. The first is impressions, which is the number of times your ads were on the screen. The second metric is reach, which is the number of unique accounts who viewed your posts and stories. The third is website clicks, which is the number of clicks to links you’ve included in your business profile description. The last metric is profile views, which is the number of unique accounts who’ve visited your business profile.

  • Post metrics—In addition to tracking likes and comments, which are self-explanatory, users can also track five other metrics: the number of unique accounts that saved your post; impressions per post; reach per post; and engagement, which is the number of unique people who have liked, commented, or saved a post. Like the other platforms outlined here, an increasingly large number of posts are in the format of a video. Because of that, users can track video views, which is the total number of times your video was viewed.

  • Stories—Instagram stories are a way for users to capture real-time activity happening during the course of a 24-hour period. A number of metrics are available to brands using stories. Impressions are the number of times your story media was seen. Instagram stories also capture reach, which is the number of unique accounts who saw your story. Users can capture taps forward and taps back, which are the number of times someone taps to skip to the next piece of story media, or back, respectively. Exits is the number of times someone leaves the story viewer to return to their feed.


For many of the same reasons that Instagram has grown, Snapchat has exploded on the scene since the first version of this book. Snapchat is a mobile photo messaging and multimedia sharing application that was released in September 2011. It was initially launched to share impermanent pictures via private message that could be viewed for a specified length of time. Despite its origins as an image-sharing application, video has become an important feature on the platform, with more than 10 billion mobile videos viewed per day. Over the last three to four years, Snapchat has really grown, now totaling more than 255 million monthly active users. However, with the rise of Instagram and Facebook stories, its user growth and usage has stagnated as of the publishing of this book. Although its long-term future is unclear, what is clear is that it will continue to be a way for certain audiences, particularly millennials and Gen Z audiences, to distribute video and image content for the foreseeable future. The five important metrics to track on Snapchat are :

  • Unique views—This is the number of people who have opened the first video or image and viewed it for at least one second. Snapchat only counts each viewer once, thereby presenting an accurate metric of how many viewers each photo or video snagged.

  • Screenshots—On other platforms like Twitter and Facebook, engagement is often tracked through reactions like likes, comments, and retweets. On Snapchat, engagement is captured by looking at the number of people who took a screenshot of a specific piece of video or imagery.

  • Completion rates—This measures how many viewers watched your story through to completion.

  • Fall-off rate—To calculate your fall-off rate, simply find the difference in views from one Snap to the next, divide the difference by the views on the first Snap, and multiply by 100.

  • Time-of-day activity—Although Snapchat doesn’t provide activity metrics, you can gain an understanding of your audience’s key activity times by tracking the engagement associated with different posting times.


LinkedIn, a social network aimed at professionals, allows members to contact past and current colleagues, look for a new job, uncover new business opportunities, and network with experts within a particular industry. Since the first version of this book was published, the platform has morphed into an effective way for brands to distribute content aimed at professional audiences through the news feed and company pages. With more than 500 million users as of April 2017, it is a hard platform to ignore for brands. The advertising side of the platform is a little bit of a black box to the outside world, but some metrics are available to page owners.

  • Visitor analytics—This metric is broken down into traffic metrics and visitor demographics. LinkedIn gives users the opportunity to track page views, which is the number of times your page has been viewed. You can also track unique visitors, which is how many LinkedIn members visited your page, removing duplicate visits to a single page. The platform also offers robust demographic data on who these people are who have visited your page.

  • Content shares and likes—This is exactly as it sounds, but is the total number of people who have shared or liked a piece of content that you have published.

  • Advertising metrics—LinkedIn recommends a host of metrics to evaluate advertising performance—everything from impressions; to clicks; to total engagement; to cost per click, cost per mention, and social actions. Many of these metrics have been discussed at length throughout this chapter, and are not defined in unique ways by LinkedIn. If you are advertising on LinkedIn, remember to line up your metrics to your business objectives, as we outlined earlier in this chapter.

Earned Social Media Metrics

The best marketing programs have relevant tactics that resonate with the target audience using the appropriate channels, but the explosion of social media has created a second layer of performance that requires examination. This additional layer is described by many terms: earned media, earned coverage, or, in the case of social media, earned conversations. When marketing professionals create content to post on owned social media networks, they hope the content will spread and reach audiences beyond their direct fans, followers, or community. This dissemination could come in the form of sharing, which we covered earlier in this chapter, or it could come in the form of organic chatter in the broader community.

Communicators can track two different kinds of earned social media metrics:

  • Earned conversations—These are social media conversations that are taking place outside the owned social media properties

  • In-network conversations—Communicators should be looking to foster a sense of contribution in the online community. Tracking this kind of content separately is valuable in determining how well it does in driving action, typically additional engagement.

Much of this data is captured using social listening platforms, which is covered in the next chapter, but these are the primary data points most communicators gather when evaluating earned conversations:

  • Share of voice—Most communicators are familiar with the concept of market share, and this is fairly similar. Share of voice tracks, typically in percentage form, how much conversation is happening about one brand versus another.

  • Share of conversation—Share of conversation is often overlooked and, in our view, is a more detailed and accurate gauge of how aware people are of a product or campaign within a broader industry than share of voice. This metric tracks, typically in percentage form, how much conversation is happening versus the broader industry. Share of voice typically is a metric used to evaluate brand-level performance where share of conversation is used to evaluate specific product, service, or topic performance.

  • Sentiment—The topic of sentiment is highly controversial. Simply put, it is the amount of positive, negative, or neutral (with gradations in between) conversation that is happening about a brand or product.

  • Message resonance—Chances are good that your company, and in turn your communications program, is trying to advance some strategically important message or messages. Knowing how well (or not) a message is being received by the community is vital. This can be measured by how often keywords and phrases are being picked up in social conversations while being tied to the brand. Alternatively, many brands have taken to utilizing traditional survey research and asking questions of social audiences to determine message resonance.

  • Overall conversation volume—Tracking the volume of conversation over time is critical in understanding how well a message has been received. Similarly, it is important in understanding how visible a brand is to the community. If your conversation volume trend line looks like a rollercoaster, then it is likely time to start revisiting your social media strategy. An important thing to keep in mind when evaluating the overall conversation is your search strings. You want to make sure the search string is as accurate as possible so that volumes aren’t inflated.

The other element of earned social media metrics is in-network conversations. These are conversations, or content, that the community generates on its own and posts to owned properties. These are easier metrics to understand and gather because they are almost identical to the metrics outlined earlier in the section for specific social media channels. The only difference is that instead of looking at higher-level page performance (likes, followers, subscribers, and so on) communicators should be looking at post-level data (comments, likes per post, shares per post, and so on).

Social media data is abundant, and as it becomes more mainstream, more data will become available. Because of that abundance, it is easy to become distracted by all the potential data points. If you focus on the metrics we have listed and how they apply to your goals, you will not go wrong. That being said, social media data is only one piece of the puzzle. Communicators need to gather other digital components, as described in the remainder of this chapter.

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