Three ways that social media data is misunderstood

07 November 2019 4 min read
Written by

Carl Banks

Confused about results? Our Social Media Account Manager Carl Banks steers you through the minefield.

Analysing the results of your social media activity plays an important role in understanding your business’s online profile and brand awareness. However, many companies are not utilising their data correctly in order to get the most out of their results and understand exactly what their social objectives are. 

Creating a comprehensive social media report is a vital aspect in order to see your progress and the impact that you’re having within your field. Many social media management platforms offer an easy solution to generating reports, however you may be presented with a host of data that needs interpreting in order to understand how you’re doing on each social platform. 

There are three key sections of social media reporting that get misinterpreted more than any others.

You will have heard about impressions, engagements and reach but what do they really mean and how should they be interpreted? 

1. Impressions. By definition, impressions are the number of times your content has been viewed on social media, including any repeat views by the same individual. Many companies hang all their hopes on impressions and look to this data to measure success, when in many cases the person doesn’t even have to engage with your content to be counted as an impression. An impression could simply be someone scrolling past your content. Fear not: impressions aren’t completely worthless, in fact they can help to give you insight into how your content is being read and distributed by the platform’s algorithm. If your impressions continue to increase month on month, this is a good indication that you’re doing a good job with your content. For those seeking brand awareness as a target, impressions are a good way to understand the volume of people you are potentially hitting.

2. Reach. Reach regularly gets confused with impressions. If your business is using social media to build brand awareness, it’s important you understand the difference between reach and impressions and how to use this to optimise your social. Reach is the total number of people who see your content: think of it as each unique person who saw your content. 

What's the difference between impressions and reach? If one person following your page sees your post this morning, that counts as one reach. If they come back tomorrow and see the same thing again, it’s still one reach – however, it would now be two impressions. If I see something 100 times, that’s 100 impressions but only one reach.

3. Engagements. On social media, engagement encompasses a host of things – when looking at Facebook an engagement is counted as a like, a share, a comment or even a post click (e.g. a click on your picture) or a three-second video view. If you have a decent social media analytics tool, you’ll be able to slice your engagements up and see what kind of engagement is leading the way. Likes or shares suggest your content is interesting to your audiences, whereas comments suggest that your content is engaging your audience effectively and creating conversation about your brand. Your social media reports might also list an ‘engagement rate’ for your content: this is also hugely overlooked as it can give you an indication as to what posts are outperforming others, which can help to optimise your future content. It’s important to pay attention to the sentiment of the engagements on your posts as negative engagements, such as comments on your paid ads, can actually hinder the performance of your ad.

All three of these elements are vital to understanding your performance on social media. Knowing the differences between them will help you to interpret your results better. By analysing and watching these numbers month on month you’ll be able to shape your whole social media approach and push towards success. 

One final thing to ensure is that you have a reporting dashboard that can provide you with all these metrics in a clear and concise format which allows you to evaluate your results well.