For most social media marketers, the drive to create compelling, creative content is what gets us up in the morning. But put us in front of a spreadsheet, and that enthusiasm disappears faster than the Pound’s value in the wake of Brexit.

Unfortunately for us, the people that pay our bills are quite intent on seeing what they’re paying for, and as such, reporting has become one of the many requisite skills of any social media ninja. Despite a natural (and borderline pathological) aversion to Excel, we are forced to wade through the dark quagmire of social media metrics on a monthly basis, deciphering graphs and numbers so as to justify the value of our existence.

Many know enough to get by, trawling through likes, comments and shares and spitting them out in pretty graphs that look great but say very little. But success in social media today demands a lot more than simply pointing out a few vanity metrics – it’s the way you interpret this data that will ultimately help you to improve the performance of your brand and enable you to impress those clients who see social as little more than obligatory brand window dressing.

Anyone who’s had the misfortune of navigating through a Facebook insights document will know that there’s not exactly a shortage of data available for perusal. But do you really NEED to know how many people saw content about your page each day or how many check-ins you had? Probably not.

So, to avoid hurting your eyes from unnecessary overexposure to spreadsheets, we’ve broken down the metrics that really matter for your brand pages.

1. Followers and Fans

It’s true that we want to build an impressive fan-base, but is volume the only thing we should be striving for? If you’re focusing all your resources on acquisition but not actually connecting to anyone with your content, can you really consider it a job well done? Follower metrics need to be measured as part of a holistic picture, held up alongside engagements and reach in order to flesh out real impact. Let’s face it,13 million followers and 2 likes per post ain’t exactly a mark of success.

It’s also important to know the types of followers you’ve gained and determine how valuable each type is to your brand.

Organic followers are the number of people who’ve liked your page without being prompted by an advertisement or campaign, whereas paid followers are those who have liked your page as a result of a campaign.

When your ad campaigns are targeted at relevant users, paid likes can be very valuable. However, if you’re blasting your adverts aimlessly, those fans are less likely to convert into valuable customers and your follower count will be nothing more than a cosmetic figure.

2. Reach and Awareness

So what does reach really mean? Of course you want to know how many eyeballs have caressed your beautiful content, but how valuable is that if they take no action? That depends entirely on your objectives. If you have a new product you just want to blast into public consciousness, enormous reach means something. If you’re going for brand engagement, not so much.
Reach is a tricky thing, and sometimes appears at the mercy of Facebook’s daily mood, but it turns out there is some method to the madness that is the Zuckerberg algorithm. Simply put, Facebook displays your posts to users who are most likely to be interested in them – so when people engage with your content, it counts in your favour, whereas if your posts are receiving negative feedback or being reported as spam, you’ll notice a sharp decrease in your post reach. Use this information in your content strategy to ensure that you’re creating posts that your audience finds relevant and engaging.

3. Engagement

Once upon a time, social media metrics were largely guided by the fabled ‘engagement rate’ – a calculation based on interactions as a percentage of reach. Back in the day, an engagement rate of 10% or higher was the holy grail of Facebook, with all hot in pursuit of this elusive figure. But as the digital landscape has evolved, we’ve quickly come to realise that this percentage is heavily reliant on reach, meaning that when your posts are widely viewed, this number will take a heavy beating, leaving you red-faced and tongue tied when having to explain your lessened impact. But once again, no metric lives in isolation, so it’s important that you take engagement into account as part of a bigger picture view, seeing it in relation to your other figures. If you want to benchmark your own performance, absolute engagements are a far safer bet, as they’ll give you a more accurate overview of the number of unique interactions you’re having with your fan base.