Social Media Engagement Metrics That Actually Matter

Competitive Analysis Social Media Best Practices

The key to connecting your social media engagement metrics to your key performance indicators (KPIs) is knowing exactly which ones make a difference.

Are you ever tired of hearing the phrase “vanity metrics”? You know, the ones that supposedly make you look good as a social media manager but don’t have an impact on sales or leads.

Here’s the thing: there’s no such thing as vanity metrics. All of your likes, repeat impressions, and more add up to an impact on your company’s bottom line. Your job as a marketer is to identify the goals of your social media presence and set a strategy to achieve them for each channel. It all starts with knowing what you’re tracking.

We’re breaking down the top social media engagement metrics that impact your overall performance on social media. To keep things simple, we grouped them together by metric instead of the individual channel.

Social media engagement metrics you should be watching


Impressions are the total number of organic, paid, and viral views on your post. When measuring your impressions, don’t forget that repeated views by the same person get counted in the total number of impressions.

Impressions help answer the ever-present question social media marketers face: is anyone even out there 👽? Knowing how many people are seeing your posts is an important first step in measuring engagement so you can set your goals accordingly. You can also work to expand your impressions by varying the timing of your posts, content types, which platforms you’re using, and more.


Reach is the total number of unique users that saw the post organically, virally, and through paid ads. Even if someone comes back to your post a few times, their visit is counted only once for reach. Reach also combines your follower count plus the follower counts of anyone who has shared the post in question.

Reach helps you get the most accurate picture of who saw your post since it never counts repeat views and therefore can’t be inflated. It’s also an important number to keep in mind when you’re looking at the engagement rates of your posts since it’s one option of the denominator in the equation.

For a little more context on the difference between reach and impressions, Sprout Social, a social media scheduling tool, has a great write up on their blog.

Engagement rate

Your brand’s average engagement rate is the number of engagement actions (like clicks, likes, comments, and more) a post receives in relation to how many people saw it. Shown as a percentage, this gives a great read on the amount of your audience that’s engaging with your posts and helps you compare your engagement to competitors regardless of audience size.

While your engagement rate can be calculated by dividing by impressions or reach, we find that dividing by followers gives the most accurate data for competitively benchmarking your rates against others in your industry.

This is arguably your most important social media engagement metric to track because higher engagement rates mean your content is resonating with your target audience.

To find your brand’s engagement rate per post, add up a post’s total likes, comments, and shares, etc. and divide by your total number of followers. Then multiply that sum by 100 to get your average engagement rate percentage per post. Instead of crunching numbers, you could also use a tool that measures this all for you, like Rival IQ.

social media engagement metric engagement rate shown through our twitter statistics

Our Rival IQ Twitter boasted an engagement rate of 7.88% from our highest performing tweet last quarter.

Benchmarking engagement rates against your industry standard is vital to understanding how you’re really performing on social. Knowing the bottom line of what engagement rates look like in your industry on each particular platform lets you set a bar to strive for. Plus, the competitive insights of industry tracking give your brand a leg up over the competition.


Likes can vary depending on your platform but are generally low-effort on-platform reactions to content. Emoticon reactions to your Instagram Story, hearts on Instagram or Twitter, and reactions such as wow, care, and laughing on Facebook are all considered likes. With a like, or even a negative reaction, your audience is expressing some form of interest in what you’re posting.

linkedin emoji reactions - like, celebrate, love, insightful, and curious

LinkedIn recently jumped on board with the emoticon reactions with these custom branded and professional-feeling options.

Likes not only give a concrete number to track, but the emoticon addition also allows you to parse a sentiment analysis of your audience’s reaction. It’s generally seen as a low-level engagement action to favorite or ❤️ a tweet, but scrolling to choose a reactive emoji adds another level of effort. Keep an eye on both the count of likes and the type of like for the fullest picture of engagement.


Comments are the total number of organic and paid comments and replies to comments on your post and shares of the post. These can look different on different platforms: a “reply” on Twitter, for instance, would qualify as a comment.

A viewer’s comment on your content is a significantly weightier action than hitting like, as it takes more effort to write up a reply than to double-tap and keep scrolling. Depending on the comment contents, your audience is telling you it’s thought-provoking and they either really like or dislike your content.

Positive or negative, comments on your posting give the social platform an indication that your viewers are highly engaged with your content and want to see more of it. Hefty engagement types like comments can boost your overall reach and impressions.


A share is when a user broadcasts your content to their social feed, group, or specific individuals. Shares not only signify engagement from your audience, they also significantly increase your posts’ reach.

Shares, retweets, reposts, and the like are considered more valuable when they contain an editorial note from the sharer, as it adds an increased level of time investment. Take Facebook for example, who recently shared that “meaningful conversations” in-app are key to success. A retweet with a comment or a share on Facebook with a caption takes a little more effort from your audience.

Similar to comments, social channels will reward that extra effort by boosting your handle’s significance within their algorithms to show your audience more of what they’ve interacted with.

Twitter’s taking their share analytics to the next level by segmenting quote retweets and instant retweets as separate engagement types.

Sharing your content, even privately, is a big step for your audience. Not only are they engaging with your content, but they also want their friends to engage with it. Shares, particularly ones with a personal note or opinion, are really valuable to your brand and the social algorithms.


Clicks refers to the number of times a user engaged with your link, video, etc. with a click. Engagement on-platform is great, but if you’re aiming for landing page views, a form fill, or other off-platform action, a click is what you’re really after in posting your content on social.

Clicks, the elusive off-platform “get them to the site” metric, is a rewarding win that boils down to dollar signs. It’s important to build an audience that trusts your content will deliver as-promised so your brand can get past the click-bait skepticism most of us have developed as consumers.

Click-Through Rate

Clicks are best measured through Click-Through Rate or CTR. CTR is the rate at which your audience clicks on a link within a post and is found by dividing the number of clicks by the number of impressions on the post. Not to be mistaken for on-platform engagement actions, your CTR is specifically tied to a link that brings the audience to additional content.

Tracking CTR will give you invaluable insight into how compelling your copy is to your target audience. It’s a fuller picture of performance than absolute clicks because it’s a percentage based on people who actually saw your post rather than a static number.


Mentions are the cornerstone of a good social listening strategy. A mention is whenever anyone uses your brand name on social media.

Mentions are mostly tagged with an @, but using your brand name totally counts. Content shares independent of the “share” button, even when you’re not tagged, can also fall under the umbrella of mentions. These engagement interactions all add up to benefit your brand name and help you keep your eye on your online presence.

Brand mentions lead to a larger awareness measurement that can impact customer loyalty, direct traffic, reputation, and so much more. Your overall brand awareness is tracked in many ways, but a concrete indication of reach and distribution of your brand name is measured through mentions. There are tons of free and paid tools that can monitor brand mentions and shared content so you don’t have to. We rounded up our favorites on this list.

Why social media engagement metrics matter

All of these metrics, when tracked regularly and accurately, play into the larger story of your social media performance. Using your metrics to inform your social strategy, like where to spend your ad budgets, what types of content to invest time into creating, and which areas to improve on, all round up to a more efficient and effective social media presence. Plus, you’ll debunk the “vanity metric” myth by moving those KPI needles.

To get started measuring your engagement metrics, check out our list of social media analytics tools that make the reporting process simple. Or, get a head start with a free 14-day trial of Rival IQ which combines social media analytics tracking with benchmarking analytics from your competitors.

Christina Everett

Christina is a startup fanatic and an analytics wizard with a serious passion for all things marketing. At Rival IQ she's focused on optimizing our technical SEO, sending out all our emails, advertising, and partnerships. When she’s not working on the latest marketing automation hack or color-coding all our marketing plans, she can be found playing team sports and hiking around the PNW.

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