Social media metrics 101: What it is & how it works

ksmith244    March 13, 2017

Although social media metrics are relatively new to organizations, more and more companies are seeing the value of tracking online engagement and measuring key performance indicators (KPIs). Intelligently analyzing social media data can be used for insights in a verisimilitude of functions within the organization such as customer service, audience research, product development, human resources, marketing, communications—the list could go on. Think of social media like a car and the metrics as your navigation system. Sure you can drive a car without a GPS, but it sure is handy to have one.

The great thing about social media for business purposes, is that feedback and data can be precisely measured. Without digging too deep into data, I can see:

  • how many people have clicked on a post
  • how long they have viewed it
  • the peak time for engagement
  • where people are located
  • their age
  • sex
  • education (primarily available when measuring LinkedIn data)

It is amazing—and slightly creepy. With this information, I can make improvements on the next campaign, replicate successful strategies and relay insights to colleagues in various departments.  For this reason, companies like Microsoft are investing more in digital campaigns and hiring social media experts to monitor engagement and report on results.

Recently I had a colleague travel to the Pepsico headquarters in Chicago and upon his return he told me about Gatorade Mission Controlthe social media command center for the Pepsico owned beverage. “They have people in this tech-like hub monitoring social media 24/7. Just for Gatorade!”, said my enthusiastic colleague. Thinking that this story was a little out of this world (sorry, Al!), I decided to Google the validity of this place—and to my surprise Gatorade Mission Control is for real. And it is a social media manager’s dream.

Within Gatorade Mission Control, multiple monitors show dashboards and visualizations that track things like real-time Tweets, the reach of engagement and the online activities of competitors. The customized software was a collaborative project between IBM and Radian6—a cloud-based marketing solution that was purchased by Salesforce. On a day-to-day basis staff are optimizing landing pages, making sure Gatorade followers are being sent to top performing ones which has reduced exit rates from 25% – 9%.

The impressive physical space of Mission Control is a nod to the investment and value that Pepsico is placing on digital media. But certainly not every company has the budget or resources to commit to social media like Pepsico. I spoke with one of my former classmates Jenit Jeyakanthan, who is now a Social Media Strategist and Content Marketer for Vilampara Media in Toronto. Jenit works with a variety of clients to help manage their social media and digital campaigns. I asked him what most companies were looking for when it came to social media analysis. He replied,

“The majority of clients that we work with want to efficiently analyze their social media metrics and use this information to measure KPIs, but most don’t know how. Often this is due to lack of analytical expertise or resources trained on how to manage social media for business purposes. Most people know how to use their own Instagram or Facebook page, but when it comes to delivering results and reporting to senior management, that is where we can be an ally.”

What social media analytic tools are available?
Whether an organization is looking for simple analytics tools, or is investing in a more robust analytics system, there are several options available.

  1. Built-in analytics
    If you’re just getting started and are unsure if you are ready for a paid analytics tool, take advantage of the free built-in analytics that are available for company pages on most social media platforms. For example Facebook Insights is available to company pages with 30+ fans and can help analyze who is engaging with the company, their demographic and location.
  2. Google Analytics
    This is a web plug-in that will allow you to monitor what is driving traffic to your site. By simply clicking on Acquisition, then Social, you can see what social media sites are referring the most traffic. This may be an indicator of where resources and money would be best spent.
  3. Hootsuite
    This was one of the pioneer platforms for managing social media and has over 15 million users in 175 countries. As a SaaS, Hootsuite allows management of up to 50 social media profiles, for administrators to collaborate and share data, real-time analysis and unlimited customized reports. My favourite feature is the ability to schedule content.
  4. Sprout Social
    Developed in 2010, Sprout Social has been giving Hootsuite a run for its money. The capabilities are very comparable, but many people are turning to Sprout Social as a preferred management platform due to the intuitive user-interface. Personally, I have worked on both platforms and prefer Sprout Social due the ease of navigation.

With a little research you can discover that hundreds of social media management and analytic tools are available and choosing one will depend on what you want to measure and how much you want to spend (if anything).

Lessons for Others

Although social media analytics are relatively new, the functions that these tools are supporting are not. Social media metrics simply allow an organization to measure their performance, make insightful decisions and improve their performance. Therefore, there isn’t a one-size-fits all approach to using social media data and it is up to the business to decide how to measure success and KPIs.

Organization: Vilampara Media
Industry: Digital Marketing Agecy
Name of Organization Contact: Jenit Jeyakanthan, Social Media Strategist

Authored by: Kristy Smith

If you have concerns as to the accuracy of anything posted on this site, please send your concerns to Peter Carr, Program Director, Social Media for Business Performance.


Aguis, A. (2016, November 8). 10 Metrics to Track Social Media Success. Retrieved March 13, 2017 from Social Media Examiner website

Baer, J. (n.d.). 5 Reasons Most Companies Aren’t Measuring Social Media. Retrieved March 10, 2017 from Convince and Convert website

Jackson, D. (2017, February 6). Ultimate Guide to Measuring Social Media ROI. Retrieved March 10, 2017 from Sprout Social website

Ostrow, A. (2010, June 15). Inside Gatorade’s Social Media Command Center. Retrieved March 11, 2017 from Mashable website

Vale, A. (2016, July 5). How Microsoft Uses Social Media Analytics and How You Can Too. Retrieved March 11, 2017 from Audiense website