6 Social Media Metrics Worth Your Attention in 2021

Lee Groeger - 08/17/2021

No matter how big, successful or established 3E PR’s clients are, we have found that there’s an overwhelming consensus when it comes to social media metrics: they’re confusing. And they can be! What’s the difference between impressions and reach? Why is click-through rate one thing and clicks another? Why don’t all the followers of a page see every single one of that page’s posts? These are just a few of the most common, and totally understandable questions we get from clients.

Today, the name of the game is user experience, commonly referred to as UX. Search engine and social media algorithms alike prioritize UX above all else, evaluating patterns and behavior to inform what content to deliver to each user. Vanity metrics, like how many followers a page has, don’t play much into those decisions. What you have to train yourself to remember is that social media is part of the journey—and an important one—but it is not the destination.

At the end of the day, everyone’s main goal is conversion, right? In that case, everything you measure should work toward the goal of gathering data that tells you what’s driving conversion, when it’s happening, where it’s coming from, and what’s yielding the best return on investment (ROI). In short, the metrics that matter are just about numbers—they’re qualitative.

So, in addition to giving you permission to stop worrying about how many followers your social media page has, here are six key metrics everyone should be paying attention to in 2021, what they mean, and how to use them.


A post’s reach is one of the most fundamental and easily accessible metrics you’ll find across the spectrum of social media platforms. Reach tells you many people have seen your content since it was published. A bigger reach is a sign that the timing of your post is on point, leading to more visibility.

Note: Reach and Impressions are the two terms people seem to mix up and struggle with the most. Reach = number of unique users who saw a post at least once; impressions = the total number of times a post was seen. The number of impressions are almost always higher than the reach, because posts are typically seen more than once by each unique user.


I know I shouldn’t play favorites, but… this one’s my favorite. In my experience, the number of clicks an organic or paid post accumulates is one of the truest markers of audience interest. Clicks are simply the tally of how many times a user clicks on your post—anywhere. So what counts as a click? When someone expands a photo or watches a video, clicks a reaction button (like, love, care, sad, etc.), shares a post, saves a post for later, or navigates from a post to your page or profile. Link clicks also fall under this umbrella, though you can and should measure link clicks separately (email me with questions about that).

When someone clicks on your post, what they’re saying is that your content is worth their time, and with attention spans shrinking by the minute, that’s not nothing. So, take note of the content that’s yielding the most clicks, because that’s your audience telling you what they want. Give it to them!


All audiences aren’t equal. Depending on the industry, topic, geography, budget and other criteria, your intended audience could comprise 500 people or 50,000. The users that make up a smaller audience are no less valuable than those in a larger one. CTR allows you to level the playing field, comparing the number of times someone clicks on your content to the number of times it was viewed. Ultimately, it measures the percentage of a group of users who click on a link after seeing it rather than the whole number.


Engagements are generally defined as post reactions, shares (retweets, regrams, etc.), and comments. Sounds simple, right? To the untrained eye, yes, but engagement metrics are a great example of the level of assessment that’s required to accurately measure social media performance. When evaluating engagement, you must measure it against what the intention of the post was. Was it meant to prompt comments or just reactions? Was there a call to action that was overlooked? Anchoring performance to the goal of each post helps in keeping things clear and easier to manage.

Note: Engagement rate is a related metric that tells you if your content is getting a reaction from users through reactions, shares, and comments. It’s comparable to click-through rate inasmuch as it measures percentages rather than total numbers. If you’re a formula person, the best way to look at it is this: engagement rate is to engagement as click-through rate is to clicks.


What to know how effective your social ads are? That’s where cost per click (CPC) comes in handy. CPC is the amount you pay for each click on a paid post, and the number that really measures the success of a paid campaign. A lot of people like and use it because it’s a pay-for-what-you-get model; you bid on and pay a set amount every time someone clicks on your ad. Compare this to the CPM model, in which you pay a set amount to have your ad served up 1,000 times, regardless of whether or not people click on it. Both serve purposes in different scenarios; CPM guarantees a certain number of people will see your ad so it’s useful for brand awareness, but when you want to drive conversions, CPC is your best bet.


You won’t find bounce rate on any social media analytics dashboards, but using a platform like Google Analytics, bounce rates tell you the percentage of visitors who enter your website and then leave rather than continuing to view other pages on the site. Ultimately, this informs you what channels and sources are drawing visitors who are spending more time on your website, and therefore likely to be a quality prospect. This is a rare instance where the lower the percentage is, the better. For example, if your bounce rate for one or more social media channels is lower than the traffic you’re getting from other channels (like search engines), that’s a sign that your social media channels are working for you.

All these measurements will help you track progress, analyze your marketing mix, and gauge your audience’s appetite for certain content. But what yields success for one may not do the same for another, which is why every organization must start by answering the question: “what defines success for us?” Once that’s established, use that criteria to as a guide to determine the ideal mix of social media metrics that will provide you with the information you need to achieve success.

Need help getting started, or leveling up your social media game? Let’s talk.

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