How to Measure Social Media Engagement in 2022

What people are paying attention to online is an excellent indication of where your focus needs to be. Traction follows trends, current events, and the correspondingly unique content surrounding the two. Brands often follow engagement on their owned channels, but there’s much more insight to be had for those taking the time to look.

Social listening provides rich details on trending content by looking not only at your owned content but earned media as well. Here, we’ll look at how to measure social media engagement with a focus on:

  • Social media engagement defined
  • How engagement measurement has changed
  • Current trends in measuring social media engagement

Before we get going, here are a few relevant social media statistics touching on use and engagement:

  • 74% of social media users use Facebook daily. 72% also use YouTube, and 63% use Instagram every day.
  • Social media users average 2 hours and 25 minutes on social platforms per day.
  • Average brand engagement on social media is a paltry 09% engagement per post. Instagram has the highest average engagement of all social platforms at 1.6% per branded post.

There’s a lot to understanding consumer behavior but knowing where consumers are talking and what they’re talking about is a great place to start. Brands that think they know how to measure social media engagement but are only looking at brand mentions through site metrics can benefit by expanding their viewpoint. Let’s take a look!


What is Social Media Engagement?

Social media engagement is a measurement of how people respond to social media content. Often the focus is on how many people react to posts on a brand-owned channel. Engagement metrics brands typically focus on include likes, comments, shares, and mentions.

This gives brands insight into what posts or content get the most people talking. These are often called ‘vanity metrics’ because they make social media managers happy when the numbers go up. What these metrics don’t do is tell you how the content causes engagement and the terms or hashtags mentioned. In other words, they show one post is more popular than another yet reveal no substance into brand perception.

That’s not to say that monitoring site metrics across your owned channels is unimportant – far from it. It’s just not the end-all when studying audience engagement, which we’ll talk more about in a minute.

Channel engagement metrics help establish baseline activity on a particular channel. Of course, it feels good to see your follower count go up, but if your engagement percentage isn’t moving with it, then there’s a problem. It’s also useful to know which posts don’t perform well in relation to others. That way, you spend more time creating content with a higher probability of traction and abandon the ideas that fall flat.

Consumers have no problem engaging with the brands they love on social media. They actively use social media to research brands and products that align with their values. They also ask questions in forums and blogs and join branded communities to engage with like-minded individuals.


Your audience is discussing your brand, needs, wants, likes, and dislikes all over the internet. They are engaging everywhere, whether you notice it or not. Social media is constantly evolving, so if you want to know how to measure social media engagement effectively, you must broaden your horizons and look outside your likes and comments on your Instagram posts.

How Engagement Measurement Has Changed

Earned media plays a massive role in your online brand engagement. When brands first creep out of their insular social channels and use social listening, the first thing they do is discover their extraneous brand mentions living out in the wild.

These mentions can now be harvested and measured for sentiment. While brand conversations have always existed online, social listening tools have evolved rapidly in a short time. Brands can now aggregate brand mentions from across the web and use them as a global engagement metric.

And since artificial intelligence can assign sentiment values to text with a high degree of accuracy, your brand’s net sentiment score can be measured and tracked over time. Historical analysis of your online brand engagement yields a baseline from which you’ll know if you’re heading in the right direction or not in terms of consumer perception. You can even set alerts so if your engagement goes through the roof while your sentiment heads towards the basement, you’ll have time to issue a response before your empire lies in ruin.

Additionally, how your audience responds to news coverage of your brand matters. News articles are written by biased humans and exhibit measurable positive and negative sentiment, just like social media posts. Traditional news media affects social sentiment and vice versa.

Consumers will share articles on their social feeds, which drives traction for the news outlet. It also influences the opinions of other social media users who happen upon it. Realistically, a consumer is more likely to trust another person’s opinion or shared article than they will your branded content. Therefore, understanding how your brand is portrayed in the news – and whether or not those articles are getting traction on social media – should be a priority for brands reassessing how to measure social media engagement.

And let’s not forget that there are a lot of social media posts online where the user doesn’t @ your brand. These are 100% part of your brand conversation because they still influence opinion. Just because you don’t see them doesn’t mean they don’t count. It just means you are operating with an incomplete view of your brand’s online engagement.

Also, we must consider that some people compose social media posts on mobile while getting rattled around on the subway. Others simply can’t spell. That’s not to be judgmental but to point out that if a consumer misspells your brand name, it is still part of the conversation. As such, you need tools capable of capturing the misspellings and slanguage occurring in your brand conversation. After all, it is engagement and must be captured if you want the complete picture.

One more thing – make sure you include any brand nicknames in your engagement analyses. They are indeed part of the conversation, whether positive or negative. Consumers love to give brands nicknames and use them on social media all the time. Whether it’s Chevy, Beemer, or Whole Paycheck, make sure you aren’t missing out on the engagement around these terms.

Current Trends in Measuring Social Media Engagement

Grabbing your engagement metrics from social sites themselves is better than nothing – but there’s a better way. Speed to insight is the name of the game, and brands are turning to social listening tools that aggregate their owned channel metrics into one platform. That way, you have the metrics that matter to you all in one spot.


However, it’s not enough to grab your numbers and call it good. Brands are leaning on tools that allow them to climb behind the numbers for top terms, hashtags, posts, and videos driving engagement. Being able to do so quickly is the key.


Since the news influences social media, brands depend on their tools to capture engagement with articles that can shape perceptions around their brand. That way, they know the scope of their brand mentions, which articles are getting traction with readers, and which ones they can safely ignore. For example, here’s a look at the news articles involving cruise line Royal Caribbean on a scatterplot sorting for social engagement and publish count.


Royal Caribbean news articles by social engagement. 12/27/20 – 12/27/21

Brands are also using enterprise social listening to capture their brand mentions wherever they happen. Capturing your owned or partnered media is fantastic, but you must have a firm grasp on your earned media as well. Ideally, you’ll want to use tools that capture all of it in one dashboard so you can monitor for changes from a holistic viewpoint.


And as we mentioned in the previous section, you need a social media monitoring tool capable of capturing misspellings, slang, emojis, brand nicknames, and even photos that include your logo without a brand mention. It all adds up to contribute to your engagement and shouldn’t be overlooked.

For example, fans of Target often humorously refer to it as Tarjay – like the tweet we shared above. There’s a lot of positivity surrounding the term, and it would be a shame not to include it in your engagement metrics.

Social earned media engagement of Target by users referring to it with a nickname. 12/27/20-12/27/21

Social earned media engagement of Target by users referring to it with a nickname. 12/27/20-12/27/21

Knowing how to measure social media engagement isn’t hard; it just hinges on capturing all the different varieties. This is critical because it all adds up to your total brand awareness. Social media traction still happens whether you capture it or not. But the key to success is collecting all of it from across the web, so you’re looking at factual numbers and not one piece of the pie.

Now that you’re aware of how to measure social media engagement effectively, reach out for a demo, and we’ll show you how simple life is with all your engagement metrics in one place.


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