Perform Like a Star on Social Media – A Guide Through the Jungle of KPIs and Online Evaluation

Want to understand the essence of social media performance evaluation? Within 5 min you will have a simple and cost-efficient framework...

4 Apr 2019 1780 Views

Written by Emelie Nortén

Key Performance Indicator (KPI) a term you hear on daily basis when working with digital marketing and social media performance

No matter if you’re a new marketer or have been a brand manager for the last 20 years, it’s a fact that most of us are struggling with how to succeed in our social media channels. Although it has never been easier to access data and track customers, the evaluation of performance in the online environment is many times perceived as complex. We’re drowning in different numbers and KPIs, generated of several analytic tools, bunches of KPI-guides and monthly reports sent by the marketing agencies. The marketing budget is also not unlimited, and there isn’t always neither the knowledge nor time to process all this data.

The good news is that it doesn’t need to be difficult to evaluate your social media performance. Let’s go back to basics and have a look at some of the most common indicators and the underlying mechanisms. Here are three essential insights to gain a greater understanding of the evaluation process.

1. >1. Be Authentic

igital world is fast moving and it’s important to be able to be bothauthentic and relevant(Barwise & Meehan, 2011). The authentic comes from knowing who you are and your ability to create a strong position in the consumers’ mind. The hard truth is that your customer will not remember your brand if they don’t have a strong brand proposition and can reflect this in a creative, engaging and consistent way on social media channels. The noise is bigger than ever, and we are daily exposed to millions of impressions. Today, we have a shorter attention span than a goldfish, and in 8 seconds we have lost our concentration (McSpadden, 2015). You will be ignored if the information is perceived as irrelevant. If you don’t understand yourself fully, no matter what KPIs you use, your desired outcome will be hard to achieve.

Another important reflection is who decides your identity? Our companies often have a strong vision and core values but how is the brand perceived of the consumers? Branding has for years been a monologue, where you as market manager were screaming out how great the brand is and pushing the desired image by repeating the same thing until it got stuck. (Christodoulides, 2009). This is passé, and it’s important to realize that the online environment is different and therefore need to be treated differently. Today’s customers are active and an important part of shaping your brand. This interaction can both change the meaning and intensity of the message rapidly (Henning-Thurau et al., 2013).  Always remember that you don’t have the exclusive right of interpretation of the brand, this is done together with your stakeholders.  

2. Be Relevant <>2. Be Relevant

is rapidly changing and being authentic is just not strong enough. You need to be able to be relevant, and this comes from your ability to understand the context. You need to be aware of the ongoing trends and predict the upcoming ones. Also, it is essential to understand the synergies between the different social channels(Van Dijk, 2012). Which platform is relevant in what context, for what content to reach which goal? When, why and where are your consumers present online? Creating awareness could be suitable in one channel whether creating engagement could be more relevant in another. One of the biggest online challenges according to research today is to adapt your objectives, message and manner to different digital channels (Tarnovskaya, 2018). Therefore, is in-depth knowledge about the social media structure as well as customer insight necessary to succeed.

Another big reason why many brands fail is that they don’t understand mass collaboration (Bradley, 2011). We’re setting up Facebook pages, publish content, and just expecting an online community to happen. The problem is that we marketers still tend to treat social media channels traditionally, even if these channels differ. An interactive approach is necessary, where you help and facilitate customer power instead of trying to use it (Deighton and Kornfeld, 2009).

The digitalization has increased the customer power. This is sometimes called pinball game market, where the ball symbolized the marketing instruments and the target of the machine symbolize the undependable digital era, we’re living in. Your customer is not passive receivers rather actively participating in social media, and their needs and behaviors can change rapidly (Henning-Thurau et al., 2013).

3. Set Goals and Under>3. Set Goals and Understand the KPIs Around Them

r your overall digital strategy or a specific campaign are. Is the goal to create awareness, build trust, like you or maybe try your product/service? An excellent tool to narrow it down is the classic AIDA-model, (attention, interest, desire, and action).

AIDA model (Attention, Interest, Desire and Action) help you structure your goals and connect a suitable KPI
Smart insights, 2013

To be able to evaluate your social media performance it could be good to select a couple of KPIs and define and adapt for the different mediums and channels. The engagement of a static post engagement could be measured in likes, shares or comments whether a video also could be defined of the amounts of seconds the person watches it. Be careful not to mix apple with pears and measure the same type of content with each other. Video content is generally known for creating higher engagement than static posts.

In this article we pay attention to the three crucial KPIs, reach, engagement and engagement rate. All easy to access on Facebook’s evaluation page.

Reach  Reach 

out to could seem to be a quite simple KPI to analyze. As earlier mentioned, we’re overloaded with information and impressions. Therefore, it’s important to consider the trade-off between to either spend the money on a bigger audience with less precision or pay for a smaller crowd but with a bigger percentage matching the target group.

Another important question you need to ask yourself is on what social platform you will reach your audience, connected with the goal. Different platforms fulfill different functions. Facebook could be for information search and to find events to attend, Instagram for finding inspiration and Snapchat to hang out and speak with your friends. Important is also to have in mind is that this varies between different types of people. A majority of Generation Z (born at the turn of the millennium) don’t use Facebook, and many adults consider themselves to be too old for Snapchat.

Reach is often closely connected to the goals of creating attention and interest the AIDA-model. The piece of content and the channel can differ depending on the purpose. Reach is not enough, you need to have a reach that creates values. It’s important to always strive after growing your audience, rather than renting it (The Economist, 2005). Without having this in mind your risk to fail in the long-term.


E>Engagementbook and Instagram are often defined as clicks, likes, and shares.  Looking at the AIDA-model again, reach doesn’t say much about the consumer desire or the purchase intention. A big reach with the wrong piece of content (or to the wrong audience) will not necessarily have the desired outcome. The combination of exciting content and reach out through the noise to your target are important factors to succeed in increasing the engagement. 

An important question to ask yourself is why you want to engage the consumer? Engagement is not a purpose itself. Is it to strengthen the relationship, create word-of-mouth or get them to try your product or service?

Engagement rate is the clicks, likes and shares divided on the reach

Engagement rate

<>Engagement ratehe engagement divided on the reach. This could be a way to compare different markets or products of different sizes. One hundred likes could for a small organization be an achievement whether for a big organization it could be a failure. Above 1 percent on Facebook is considered good, but this ratio is subjective and needs to be seen in its context (Lender, n.d).

The engagement rate has been a questioned KPI. A high engagement rate could be generated of a weak performing piece of content with low reach, and with a big reach, it might be difficult to get a high rate. This KPI could also be used of for example marketing agencies to appear to have a better result than the actual one. Therefore, it’s important that the engagement rate cannot be used efficiently without seeing the overall picture and should be complementing the two other indicators.

Don’t Forget!

To>Don’t Forget!your social media performance it is essential to have a solid foundation. This in terms of understanding yourself and be authentic as well as be relevant and understand the social media game plan. This will help to set up more explicit goals, and your KPIs will also be more predictable and easier to interpret.   


References:Blog Network, (2011) [Accessed 26 Nov. 2018].

Barwise and Meehan, (2010) The One Thing You Must Get Right when Building a Brand. Harvard Business Review.Available at: [Accessed 26 Nov. 2018].

Christodoulides, G. (2009). Branding in the post-internet era. Marketing Theory, 9(1), pp.141-144.

Deighton, J., & Kornfeld, L. (2009). Interactivity’s unanticipated consequences for marketers and marketing. Journal of Interactive Marketing23(1), 4-10.

Hennig-Thurau, T., Hofacker, C. and Bloching, B. (2013). Marketing the Pinball Way: Understanding How Social Media Change the Generation of Value for Consumers and Companies. Journal of Interactive Marketing, 27(4), pp.237-241.

Lender Micheal, (n.d). [Accessed 26 Nov. 2018].

Mcspadden, K (2015). You Now Have a Shorter Attention Span Than a Goldfish. The Time. [Accessed 26 Nov. 2018].

Tarnovskaya, V. (2018). Lecture “Evolution of marketing”, Lund University.

The Economist (2005) Power at last [Accessed 26 Nov. 2018].

Van Dijk, Jan. (2012) The network society, Social aspects of new media. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.


Image 1: Balla Louis (2017): [Accessed 26 Nov. 2018].

Image 2: Smart insight (2013) [Accessed 26 Nov. 2018].

Image 3: Aamplify (2013) [Accessed 26 Nov. 2018].

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BrandBase | @BrandBa_se
Students from the International Marketing and Brand Management program at Lund University are the contributing authors for the BrandBase blog.