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Even the most social-savvy business owners can get caught up in the numbers game: counting and recounting likes, followers, fans, retweets, shares. Not to say those numbers don’t correlate to how well your business connects with customers online, but 100 shares doesn’t necessarily mean 100 sales — and it certainly doesn’t measure the potential value of those 100 shares.

For example, were any of the 100 fans sharing that post actually influencers? Did the fans in question sign up for your list, or share and forget? Are your likes and follows actually impacting your sales? Many business owners wouldn’t know how to start answering those questions.

 1. Facebook Engagement

We came up with a metric that we call “Facebook Engagement Ratio,” which is the number of people talking about us, divided by the number of likes. We believe this is a more accurate measure of engagement than just counting likes. And we track it on a weekly basis, compared to our competitors.

Kit Hickey, Ministry of Supply

2. Not Just Vanity Metrics

Early on at Contently, we observed our content marketing clients struggle with not only how to measure results, but also knowing what they should track in the first place. So we built a social content analytics tool that tracks three scores: reach, engagement and influence. Each score is a mashup of various metrics. Reach comes from pageviews and social impressions, essentially asking, “Who was exposed to your content?” Engagement is total minutes spent with your content, generated by active time on page and pages per visit: “Who actually consumed your content?” Influence is “Who took an action because of your content?”; i.e., shares and subscribers. This way, we create a funnel for measuring both social and longform content, boiling it down to insights that actually map a brand’s goals.

Shane Snow, Contently

3. Metrics vs. Influencers

Metrics and thought leaders are two different ends of the spectrum. When you’re looking at metrics and data, you’re looking at the whole or segments of it. When you’re looking at influential thought leaders, you’re looking at building relationships with individuals. Keep the two ideas separate — woo your influencers by building real relationships. Then use metrics to see how you’re doing with the masses.

Laura Roeder, LKR Social Media

4. Virality vs. Likes

Measuring social metrics by “counting likes” on a single Facebook post doesn’t work. You must measure by “virality.”. A post that gets 17,000 likes (the number of unique people who see your post) may only get 0.1% virality (the percentage of people who create a story from your post, out of the number of unique people who see your post), while another that receives 10,000 likes, but gets 9.97% virality — this is a far better post. To go viral, you must connect with your fans’ passion and excite them. This is the toughest challenge of all.

– Nicolas Gremion,

5. Repeat Engagment

For us, the real social media win is when someone becomes a fan and then stays one over time — someone who consistently shares, likes and tweets our content. What we measure is basically our number of super fans.

Derek Flanzraich, Greatist

6. The Stories That Metrics Don’t Show

We measure our social media marketing in stories. How many stories can we tell others as a result of what we did online? Did an influencer retweet one of our tweets this month, which resulted in X amount of sales/followers/traffic? Did our social media monitoring tool discover someone using our products who wasn’t even aware that it was our product? Is that same person now a fan of ours? Did he buy more stuff after he rediscovered our brand? Did our social media community teach us something that we didn’t know about our own brand this month? All of these questions can bring out a story that shows why social media metrics don’t always tell the full story of how you’re doing online.

Brett Farmiloe, Markitors

7. Conversions are all that matter

There is only one number that matters and that is how many conversions you are getting. Whether you have 100,000 fans or 100, what really matters is how many of those people you can make customers. Business is not a popularity contest, and in many cases having lots of attention and hype can detract from your brand and distract both your customers and team.

Matt Wilson, Under30Media

8. Content Distribution

Rather than measure whether we are reaching the “right” thought leaders, we focus on scaling our social media to reach both small and large influencers alike. Our goal is to build relationships, so we try to spread relevant content that we think will match us with a person’s specific interests. It truly is a one-to-one model, extremely time-intensive and difficult to build. When we do achieve that goal, that person is able to trust us as a source of interesting and insightful content, so ideally, he starts spreading the word and the cycle continues.

Patrick Curtis,

9. Unique Relationships With Followers

Relationships rule all when it comes to social influence. Social marketing strategies focused solely on increasing likes or follows don’t say much for a brand as a whole. Instead, brands should be focusing their attention on developing unique one-on-one relationships with every single follower — especially the thought leaders in their sectors.

Heather Huhman, Come Recommended