Social Media Evaluation That Makes Sense

Article 5 min
Social media continues to be a powerful tool to connect with your audience, but posting content without understanding who your engaged audience is and what drives their engagement is like walking in the middle of the road at night– needlessly dangerous.

Fortunately, most social media platforms have free analytic tools that allow you to easily measure the performance of your unit pages. Factors of performance include tracking reactions, page views, reach and more. No matter what your goals are – building awareness, communicating with key stakeholders, getting followers to take an action or changing audience behavior – analytics will help you understand who your most engaged audience is and how they’re interacting with your content.

Social media metrics are the data and statistics found on individual social media platforms. These numbers are the building blocks for providing insights into performance on various platforms. It is critical to take the numbers found in the metrics and add context and meaning to know what's working, what's not working and what strategy should be implemented going forward. It is this interpretation of the numbers that creates analytics, which is the "so what" of the numbers.

Remember that platforms use algorithms to rank content for their users. The metrics you receive are a reflection of how your content is performing against the algorithm. Platform algorithms are constantly changing to support their priorities, so it is important for Public Affairs and communication professionals to understand how each platform prioritizes the factors of performance.

While each individual platform has its own metrics, with varying terminology, there are general guidelines to follow when deciphering which data is important.

The "Triple-A" Mindset covers the who, what, where and why of social media. It is made up of audience, activity and actions.

  • Audience consists of your fans, followers and friends.
  • Activity reveals how your audience reacts to campaigns or messages, how they spread information across various social channels and the level of attention they give to you and your unit.
  • Actions are the steps you take to achieve your commander’s goals and objectives. These are a direct result of the activity your audience has taken on your platform and content, as well as what activity you want them to do going forward.

Once you recognize who your audience is and what activities they participate in, this information should lead you to take actions that will contribute to your desired outcomes.

Metrics, like reach, engagement, people and video views and retention, are key to analyzing how your strategy is performing. Explore each of these metrics to better understand how to apply them to your social media strategy.

Click a target to reveal more in-depth information.

Social Media Evaluation That Makes Sense

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Reach is a fairly universal metric that exists on most platforms. It is defined as the number of unique people who have seen any content associated with the platform within a specific time period. It's an AI-driven metric.

Reach can be broken down into two types: total reach and post reach.

  1. Total reach is the total number of people who saw any activity from your page.
  2. Post reach is the total number of people who saw a specific post. This metric is not indicative of people choosing to interact or digest the content published. Instead, it merely communicates visibility.

Penetration rate is a consistent KPI used to measure performance against the algorithm.


People are more than just the number of followers or fans a platform has. It is a combination of three different metrics:

  1. Your fans: Who is liking/following your page with stats like their gender, age, location and language
  2. People reached: Stats on the people who have seen your page over the last 28 days
  3. People engaged: Who interacted with your page in the last 28 days, either through reacting to, commenting or sharing your posts

Once you get to know who your most engaged audience is, you can move forward with the kind of content that connects with them.


Engagement gives insight into how many of your followers are active and interact with your content. This metric is people-driven.

You can measure engagement on social media in two ways: people and content.

  1. People engaged is the number of unique people who have clicked, reacted to, commented on or shared posts during a specific time period.
  2. Content, often shown as engagements, represents the number of times a post has been clicked, reacted to, commented on or shared during a specific time period.

Calculate Engagement Rates

This formula measures the amount of interaction content earns relative to the reach. While there are multiple ways to calculate engagement rate based on different metrics, the most common formula is Engagement Rate by Reach (ERR). This measures the percentage of people who choose to interact with content after they see it. The first formula calculates ERR for a single post:

ERR = Total Engagements Per Post/Reach Per Post * 100

The second formula calculates the average rate across multiple posts. Begin by adding up all the ERRs from the posts that need to be measured, then divide by the number of posts.

Average ERR = Total ERR/Total Posts

ERR by reach can be a more accurate measurement than simply communicating follower count since not all followers will see content posted. However, the reach can fluctuate for a variety of reasons, making it a difficult variable to control. A low reach can lead to disproportionately high engagement and vice versa.


It is vital to understand which videos are popular with your audience and how video content works for your brand. Analyze these metrics to ensure you're putting time and effort towards videos your audience will view and engage with. This category of data uses seven different metrics to tell you the kind of video content that is most successful on your page:

  1. Video views: The total number of times your page’s videos were viewed for at least three seconds.
  2. 30-Second views: The number of times your page’s videos were viewed for at least 30 seconds. If your video is less than 30 seconds, this metric will show how many times people viewed 97 percent of the video.
  3. Top videos: The most-viewed videos that were watched for three or more seconds.
  4. Performance: The minutes viewed and engagement with your videos.
  5. Loyalty: The number of returning viewers on your page.
  6. Audience: The age, gender and countries of the viewers.
  7. Retention: The average time spent watching, how long they watched and at what point viewers are leaving the video.

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