8 minute read

Glossary of social media measurement terms

Measurement in PR is hard enough, but you’re doing yourselves an injustice if you don’t also look at your impact on social too. But this opens another door of confusion – there are so many terms and phrases to get your head around – some you need to know, but some are only applicable to paid social seeding.

If you want to get a better hold on measuring your social PR campaigns, or you want to understand some of the jargon used in the measurement that your teams already have, we have put together a 2 part guide looking at what you can measure and then some common measurement frameworks to consider if you are starting out your journey in measuring your social impact from PR.

PART 1 – Glossary of Social Media Metrics

To start with, let’s look at what can be measured and on which platform. Once you have a handle on these it’s easier to understand the different measurement methods.


This is a pretty simple metric to get your head around as it simply refers to the number of people who are following your social accounts. This is only on an account level, not on a post level. The more followers you have, the better, as you have a higher chance of reaching more people. This is a good metric to determine how many people your brand is reaching and how many potential fans and customers you have. 

Platforms you can measure this on: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube


Again this is simple – it just refers to the comments (or the number of comments) you get on your social posts. A lot of comments on your posts shows that your audience are engaged and are listening to what you have to say. 

Platforms you can measure this on: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube


Shares refer to how many people retweet (Twitter), regram (Instagram), or repost (FaceBook and LinkedIn) your original social media post to their followers. A lot of shares means your posts resonate with your audience and expose your brand to new prospects. 

Platforms you can measure this on: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn


Likes are how many people “heart” a post on Twitter and Instagram (although Instagram is trialling getting rid of this feature), or “react” to a post on Facebook (reactions refer to emoji laughing faces, thumbs up, heart emojis but you can also get sad emojis, and angry face emojis). Again, a lot of likes indicate that your post has resonated with your audience. 

Platforms you can measure this on: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube


Hashtags make it possible for your social posts to be seen by more people than just your followers. Hashtags perform differently in each industry and there’s often a selection of top choices for each sector. It’s worth doing some research into the ones that might perform best for your brand. If you have a brand- or campaign-specific hashtag, you can measure how many people are talking about you or the campaign. 

Platforms you can use hashtags on: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube

Story Views

Views count the number of people who have watched a Story on Facebook or Instagram. If you have a multi-frame Story, this is handy to see how many people made it all the way through. However, you can only see the number of views on your own social media accounts; they aren’t shown publicly. 

Platforms you can measure this on: Facebook, Instagram

Part 2 – Glossary of Social Media Measurement Methods

Once you have looked at what can be measured – you can begin to build a measurement framework linked to your specific objectives. This list is a good starting point to explore:

Key Performance Indicator

Key performance indicators (KPIs) are used throughout marketing including measuring the performance and success of social campaigns. KPIs do not relate to one set thing – they can incorporate any type of social media metric, from engagement rate to conversions and click throughs, and this will depend entirely on what your goals are for the campaign.

For example, one brand might decide that a KPI for them is engagement rate because they want as many people talking about their product as possible. For another, conversion rate might be the most important KPI because they want more sales. 

You can handpick a few KPIs for each campaign depending on the goals you have for your campaign. 

Engagement Rate

Engagement rates measure how much engagement a social post has generated – this includes likes, comments, shares, and any other ways users can interact with a post. This measurement is often used to define the success of a campaign, particularly when social media influencers are involved. 

To work out the engagement rate of a post, simply divide the number of interactions (e.g. likes, shares, comments) by the number of users following your social account. Then, multiply it by 100 to get your average engagement rate percentage.

For example, if your Instagram account has 10,000 followers and you get 350 engagements on a post, the equation would be:

350 / 10,000 x 100 = 3.5%

Measuring and comparing engagement rates across different social channels can be tricky. For example, engagement levels on Instagram tend to be higher than other social channels, so how can you compare that with engagement rates on, say, Facebook and Twitter as well?

This guide breaks down how to measure and compare engagement across different channels – including both paid and owned posts. 

Bespoke Engagement Index

Katie Paine of Paine Publishing has taken this further and developed a bespoke engagement index. This is essentially a unique score system that’s created especially to suit your business goals and needs. It works like a point system, where each piece of social media content is given an overall score depending on how many people interact with it or take action from it.

This post shows you how to develop your own Bespoke Engagement rate.

Amplification Rate

This is kind of like engagement rate but refers specifically to the number of shares your social posts get. It was originally coined by Avinash Kaushik, a digital marketer at Google and is essentially the “rate at which your followers take your content and share it through the networks.” 

To figure out your amplification rate, add up the number of times a post was shared, divide it by how many followers you have, and multiply it by 100. The theory is that the higher your amplification rate, the more authority you have in your industry. 

Audience Growth Rate

It’s nice to see your follower count slowly ticking up, right? You can track how quickly it’s going up by calculating your audience growth rate. This is basically how fast your brand’s following increases on social media. 

You can track it by measuring the net number of new followers you get on each platform over a specific timeframe (a month is a good starting point). Divide your net new followers by the total number of followers you have on each platform and multiply it by 100 to get a percentage. 

For example, if you gained 2,000 new followers this month and have a total of 33,000 followers, the formula would look like this:

2,000 / 33,000 x 100 = 6% 

Followers-to-Following Ratio (a.k.a. “Cool Ratio”)

There was a time when it was common practice for social media users to follow as many accounts as they could in the hopes that they would be followed in return. Now, this isn’t considered best practice (and is the reason Instagram has a maximum number of accounts you can follow if you have less than a certain amount of followers). 

If you look at the most popular accounts across social media, they tend to have far more followers than they are following – and this makes sense, right? There’s a reason the followers-to-following ratio is often known as the “Cool Ratio”, and it’s regularly used to determine how “good” an account is. 

To work out your ratio, take the number of followers you have and divide it by the number of accounts you’re following. For example, an account with 15,000 followers that’s following 3,750 accounts would use this equation: 

15,000 / 3,750 = 4 

Let’s take National Geographic as an example.

They have 134 million followers but are only following 134 people, giving them a Cool Ratio of one million. 

Stationery subscription company Papergang have 103,000 followers and are following 5 people. Their Cool Ratio is 20,600. As you can see the less people you follow, the higher the Cool Ratio. 

Social Share of Voice 

It’s a rush when people mention your brand on social media, and social share of voice helps you track this as well as pits you against your competitors to see who’s getting the most mentions. 

This term essentially refers to the number of people who are talking about your brand compared to your competitors either directly (@Coveragebook”) or indirectly (just “CoverageBook”). As a result, you’ll be able to see how visible you are in your market. 

You can figure out your social share of voice by measuring every mention your brand receives on social media and measuring the total number of mentions of your competitor(s) during the same timeframe. 

Add together the two totals to get your industry total, then divide the number of brand mentions you received by the total industry mentions, and multiply the result by 100. 

For example, if you generated 500 mentions over a month long reporting period and your competitors generated 1,200, the formula would look like this:

500 + 1,200 = 1,700 (total industry mentions)

500 / 1,700 x 100 = 29% 

Return on Investment

Return on investment relates to the amount of money you generate for the activities you carry out. Working out how many purchases came from a specific social post can be tricky, but if you have the right tools it’s possible. This guide is a great resource to help you get started. 

Conversion Rate

Conversion rate refers to how many users went on to make a purchase (or sign up, or take a specific action) from you through your social media posts. This involves determining what a “conversion” is to you.

It might be someone signing up to download your latest ebook. It might be someone registering for a ticket to your next event. Or it might be someone buying your latest product. 

This post offers a more detailed breakdown of what social media conversions look like and how you can start to figure them out. 

Of course, it can be difficult to track who’s buying from where and how they came to find your product or services in the first place. Attribution can be a big issue here. This guide from Social Media Examiner offers a few key social media attribution models and when it’s best to use them. 


Sentiment on social media is all about the attitude and feelings people have about your brand on social channels. 

It essentially adds a bit of context to mentions, comments, and shares, and can help brands dig deeper into how their customers view them. For example, it’s all well and good having tons of @-mentions, but if they’re accompanied by negative reviews they’re not going to carry the same weight as if they were full of positive affirmations. 

Sentiment Analysis 

Measuring your sentiment analysis is difficult since everybody reads things differently. What might seem like a positive post to one person might seem pretty neutral or even negative to another.

To figure out the sentiment about your brand on social media, there are four key steps:

  1. Determine how sentiment analysis will be most useful for your brand
  2. Choose a sentiment scale to use (we talk about this in detail here
  3. Be consistent with plotting your brand mentions on your chosen scale
  4. Analyse away 

Other Social Media Terms You Might Come Across 

To end, there are a couple of terms that you may come across when starting out on your measurement journey that I thought it was worth explaining:

Social Media Algorithm

You’ve probably heard the term algorithm before, since it’s a word that’s constantly cropping up in social media news (headlines like “The Facebook Algorithm Changes, AGAIN!” and “The New Instagram Algorithm Has Arrived” are becoming increasingly common). 

Basically, a social media algorithm is a way of organising posts in a user’s feed to determine which ones show up first and which ones get put to the bottom (or don’t get seen at all). When the big social media platforms first came out, they mostly served content in a chronological order. 

Today, they prioritise what users see first based on how likely it is that they’ll actually want to see it. This means that brand posts tend to get hidden beneath posts from family and friends (as these are more likely to foster interaction).  

This is how each social media platform’s algorithm works today: 

Social Media Analytics 

Social media analytics (SMA) give you access to who your followers are and who is engaging with you. They are essentially the “persona profiles” of social media followers that you can access through the backend of most social media channels. This goes beyond typical monitoring activities, like tracking how many retweets a post gets or how many “likes” you rack up. Instead, it digs deeper into who is interacting with your posts and their behaviour when interacting with them.  

Ultimately, this provides a big picture view of your consumers and what they want.

Written by —
Laura Joint

Laura Joint

Laura is a Director at CoverageBook. She writes and helps PR teams succeed in the reporting of their hard work.