This essay originally was published on April 20, 2023, with the email subject line "CT No.164: Social media content preventive care."

When was the last time you thoroughly analyzed your social media stats? And I mean, not just glancing at the numbers, but diving deep. When’s the last time you looked into what kinds of content draws higher engagement rates, assessing if your posts are reaching your ideal audience, and really understanding what the numbers say about your content and business performance?

Just like going in for a health check-up, putting off monitoring social media analytics isn’t going to make unfavorable results go away. Regular maintenance prevents larger emergencies. If you don’t routinely check in on your social media performance, you’ll likely have to make time for damage control in the future.

Can’t remember when you last took a look at the numbers? Then today’s the day for our social media health check-up.

What social media health stats should you look for?

Not every measurable metric will provide the best picture of your social media health. Individual metrics on their own are rarely useful until they are cross-compared with other data, or monitored over time.

For example, your follower count doesn’t necessarily indicate success. A brand can have 10,000 followers, but if they're all bots or users who don't care about your brand, that number seems less glamorous. But authentic follower growth from real, engaged people — that’s what you want to watch out for.

If your business is focused on audience growth and brand affinity, the key stat to watch is engagement rate. Engagement rate measures your total engagement (the sum of likes, comments, shares and saves) compared to your follower count. To calculate your overall engagement rate,

  • divide your total engagement
  • by your follower count
  • and then multiply by 100

Calculating your engagement rate for each channel will determine where you stand among your followers. Reaching a million eyeballs isn’t very helpful if the audience doesn’t stop to view our content. In social media, we want to boost engagement with authentic likes, comments, shares and saves as an indicator of users’ interest in our brand.

The same goes for calculating the performance of a post. Zero in on engagement rates per post, compared to average performance, to determine what types of content (short form video, photos, carousels, etc.) resonate with your audience. Find your per-post engagement rate by dividing the total engagement of the post by its reach.

Not every measurable metric will provide the best picture of your health. Individual metrics on their own are rarely useful until they are cross-compared with other data, or watched over time.

How often should you check in on social media analytics?

The short answer: a minimum of once a month, but not every day.

A routine social media checkup identifies how your content is progressing. Ideally you’ll be checking weekly or at least every other week, but the prescription for health is never one-size fits all. For example, if you only post once a week, monthly would be best.

Checking too frequently may get you hung up on minutiae. Checking your analytics after each post is like Googling your symptoms when you feel a cold coming on. If you hyperfixate on one small symptom, you might think you’re sick with a deadly disease… when all you have is a headache.

Don’t let daily performance overwhelm you. Much like weighing yourself, results can fluctuate day-to-day. Most content businesses are more concerned with how long-term performance relates to business goals. Focusing on the analytics insights of today’s Reels won’t make or break social media results, but taking stock of Reels analytics month-over-month is a valuable snapshot of how your content affects your audience and your business.

Tracking social analytics with an old-school spreadsheet

Yes, we have access to a fair amount of social media data built into each tool, but native social media platforms offer a limited lookback window, like 30 or 90 days. Three months of data at a time isn't enough to get a clear picture of your social media health. Remember that it can take six months or more to see significant growth with a consistent strategy.

Here’s what we advise: create a spreadsheet to track your brand’s social media analytics for long-term performance. (It’ll also impress your boss; trust us.) Compare your engagement rates for each channel, and watch your audience grow over time with month-over-month follower growth rates. The longer you put it off, the less insight you’ll have into social content performance.

What should you include in your spreadsheet? Keep a record of the metrics below for each platform, with an eye on engagement rates and month-over-month follower growth rates.

Pro tip: Set a reminder in your calendar to update this analytics spreadsheet regularly. It may seem tedious, but you’ll need those analytics reports months down the road once they’ve disappeared off your dashboard. Then, make a note to thoroughly assess your stats at the end of each month, each quarter, and each year. If you’re working with a team, be sure to share those results!

Social media analytics to review: Instagram, Facebook and TikTok

You might be nervous about what you’ll uncover. Before the fear kicks in, remember that your assessment could determine that your social media performance is incredibly strong. For example, I was recently hired to do a check-up with a client who had never looked at their analytics and feared they were awful. We were happy to uncover just how shockingly healthy their social media accounts were.

Even if you don’t find the results you’re looking for, once you track your progress, you have nowhere to go but up. So here are some basic metrics for each platform to get you started on your social media benchmark journey:

Instagram analytics

Location: Instagram Analytics are available on desktop or mobile, but you'll get a deeper analysis if you use the Account Insights on your Professional Dashboard within the Instagram mobile app. Once in the Account Insights section, review performance based on posts, Reels or stories specifically.

Date range: The Instagram standard data window is set to the last 30 days, but can be adjusted to any time within the previous 90 days.

An Instagram analytics screenshot, pulled by Emily Rochotte
An Instagram analytics screenshot, pulled by Emily Rochotte

Upon opening your dashboard, you'll be greeted with three key metrics:

Accounts reached: How many people are seeing your content? Reach doesn’t mean your audience paid attention; it just means at some point you popped up on a feed. Think of it as a billboard: Accounts reached is how many people drove past, whether or not they bothered to look up.

Accounts engaged: How many users stopped to see what you had to say? Instagram factors in several Content Interactions into their engagement stats, including:

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