Published: 30 August 2019

Meaningful engagement: tracking success

In this final part of my series on building your own social engagement strategy, I’m going to cover what metrics you should be on top of to monitor the success of your strategy. If you missed the previous installments, I’d recommend you go back to read the posts on why you need a social engagement strategy, how to look at your historical data and content development and building a strategy.

First – a note on metrics. Whilst it may be interesting to know that Charity X is regularly achieving a 5% engagement rate, setting your own target to match isn’t the most useful way of benchmarking. Unless you truly understand their specific situation, you are likely to be comparing apples and bikes. If you are seeing an average engagement rate of 1.5%, I’d suggest perhaps aiming to initially double that. An approach like this isn’t a quick win or a magic bullet. It’s much more about setting and building on solid foundations. Setting over-ambitious goals benefits no-one, and is more likely to have your strategy viewed with suspicion when it doesn’t yield amazing results quickly. Far better to approach this as an ongoing development piece, and work slowly and steadily to incrementally improve.

So what should you be measuring?

Average engagement rate and audience size

With social channels, as a rule, good engagement begets audience growth. If people are responding to your content, more people will see it presented on their timeline, and if it’s strong enough content then you will gain followers from their circles. So a strategy like this should help you to organically grow your audience. Additionally, you might sometimes see a spike in audience growth due to a big event or story – but then these people are perhaps less likely to be particularly engaged (or only engage with one theme). So monitoring these two metrics side-by-side will help you to understand the bigger picture.

We hear a lot about ‘vanity metrics’ when discussing digital and audience size, ie number of followers is often referred to in this way. It’s true that audience growth for the sake of having a large audience can be quite meaningless – and if someone tells you to double the number of followers on a particular channel, with no larger goal behind that, it’s not a useful goal. But a growing audience which is also becoming increasingly engaged  is an audience that is much more likely to respond to your calls to action.

Top performing posts – reach/impressions and engagement

As well as tracking the data in a table so you can build graphs to spot patterns (see the second post in this series), compile screengrabs of them into a document that you can build on over time. A visual demonstration of successful posts is a great way to get a handle on what’s working. I would suggest perhaps the top five posts every month for both impressions and engagements … It’s not a big job to sit and compile this every few weeks and it is particularly helpful for handing over to new team members to help them quickly get a firm grip on what works. You will also be able to see if there are big changes over time – as your audience grows their needs and interests might change so it will help you to keep what you are doing under review. And understanding which posts end up being seen by the largest audiences – even if they don’t end up driving actions – is useful as it is likely to indicate that there’s something about the post, thematically or time-wise, that meant it cut through.

Website traffic from social channels

Creating more engaging posts and sharing good content that links back to your website should mean that you also notice growth in the proportion of traffic your social channels send to the website. It’s easy to monitor this via Google Analytics.

You should create a regular space in your schedule for reporting on these metrics – perhaps review the previous month around the middle of the next month, to allow engagement to reach maturity (a popular post may generate engagement over a few days, so reporting on the 1st of July for June may mean you don’t have a proper picture of the performance of posts from the last couple of days).

You should also give some thought to how you report this internally. Sending a link to your monitoring form is probably not that useful. Remember to explain the “so what” and “why”s before people have a chance to ask! “Our average engagement rate has grown over the last three months from 2.3% to 3.2% and we’re seeing a lot more comments now. This is great, because as well as showing a deeper relationship with us, it means their friends / followers are also more likely to see our content.” “This post on X topic had a huge reach, but little engagement – that’s because it was retweeted by Y who was also tweeting using that hashtag.” Your job will be to contextualise your lessons so that they are meaningful for colleagues who aren’t as involved as you. 

A final note on using your strategy

It’s not set in stone. As you start being more strategic in your approach, you will take away new lessons. You may try things that just don’t work, even with repeated attempts in different ways. You may accidentally hit upon something entirely unforeseen that really takes off. So don’t be afraid to update and develop your strategy document.

Again, this doesn’t have to be a huge task – perhaps every three months you can take a couple of hours to do this. If you have colleagues working on the channels with you then bring them in and discuss it. Check whether it’s still relevant, remove or add bits where necessary. I strongly recommend you avoid creating and saving a new version each time because I can tell you now – no-one will look at the old ones and compare against the new ones to find what’s changed! So either just change and keep as a current version or, if you’re really worried about removing stuff and losing what you’ve learnt perhaps create an appendix with a (brief!) note for big changes you have made.

And there you have it – a basic outline so you can DIY your social engagement strategy. I hope you find this approach useful! Have I missed anything? Any burning questions? Do let me know over on Twitter and I’ll do my best to help!


Lisa Clavering, fundraiser, freelance

Lisa is a freelance fundraiser who has been working in charity since 2004. Now primarily focused on digital fundraising, she previously held strategic roles at Breakthrough Breast Cancer and Anthony Nolan, and worked with many household names as a supplier including CRUK, Save the Children and UNICEF.