3 Top Social Metrics and Why They Matter

For brands wanting to hop on the fast track to understanding consumer behavior and boosting campaign success, tracking social metrics is the way to go. With today’s social listening tools, there is a seemingly inexhaustible supply of social metrics brands can choose from. And it’s important to choose wisely, as not every brand can track every available consumer angle all the time. Nor should they.

To help businesses accomplish this, we’re covering three top social metrics to have on your radar – and why they matter. And we’ll do so with a focus on earned media because of its value to PR and marketing professionals. Specifically, we’ll touch on the following:

  • The value of understanding your net sentiment
  • Examining earned media and engagement
  • Understanding share of voice

Since we’ll be covering social metrics as they relate to your earned media, here are a few statistics to keep in mind:

  • Generating earned media is essential since 92% of consumers place more trust in even a stranger’s experience related on social media than they trust a brand’s advertising efforts.
  • 63% of adults habitually talk about a brand’s products and services online. 81% of social media users read and consider what others have to say about a brand and its products.
  • Leads generated through earned media outperform paid media leads by 10 – 15%.

2021 how to measure social analytics roi

Defining Earned Media

Earned media is an unsolicited mention of your brand or products across any form of media. For many brands and institutions, social media mentions are the most significant source of earned media. And it is critical to use social metrics to understand your earned media performance, capitalize on positivity, and (when needed) to help you manage a crisis.

Regardless of your industry, social metrics can provide deep market research insights that inform your brand. While every company has its unique challenges, choosing the right social metrics matters – especially if your budget only allows you to spend time on a few. Here are three of the top social metrics and the value they provide.

The Value of Net Sentiment

Analyzing your earned media mentions is essential as they are the ones your brand has the least control over. As such, keeping tabs on the tone of these mentions lets you know whether you are leaning positively or negatively in the halls of public opinion. That’s why sentiment analysis is one of the most critical social metrics brands can use to understand their relationship with their customers.

Sentiment analysis uses artificial intelligence to parse users’ social media posts for positive, negative, and neutral attributes and emotions. Negative words and phrases are assigned a value of -1, whereas positive mentions get a +1.

NetBase scores sentiment on a scale of -100 – 100, so when you analyze your earned media sentiment, you know precisely where you’re sitting in the ballpark. Let’s look at a few ways to understand your earned media using sentiment analysis.

Viewing Overall Sentiment

While you can get sentiment measurements for virtually anything, isolating your earned media gives a clear picture of where you stand regarding consumer opinion. Below, we see social conversations for a major US airline over the past 30 days:


Sentiment metrics for major US airline showing one month’s performance in earned media. 9/8/21 – 10/8/21.

We can see that this brand isn’t performing well with social media users – coming in at a rather dismal -43% in their earned media. This brand would want to dig further into these conversations to uncover consumer pain points. We’ll share more on that below.

Then they could rerun this analysis next month and see whether their strategies have worked to improve their net sentiment among their consumers.

Identifying Sentiment Drivers

To understand what is driving positive or negative sentiment in your earned media, you need to dig into the sentiment drivers. These are the attributes, emotions, behaviors, and things expressed by consumers talking about your brand.

Sentiment drivers are often represented in social listening tools through word clouds, charts, or tables that let you see what people are saying about your brand, products, and services. For example, the airline we mentioned above is seeing many users talk about their customer service, employee vaccination rate, and what they think of their ever-growing no-fly list.

These are valuable insights that brands can then use to plug into their owned and partnered media to turn that tide of negativity in the right direction. And that’s why sentiment analysis is one of the most valuable social metrics brands need to pay attention to.

2021 how to measure social analytics roi

Engagement and Earned Media

The more eyeballs you get on your earned media, the better. Understanding the reach of earned media content that has been shared is a valuable social metric. It’s not only about what is getting traction, but who is promoting the content as well. That’s why using engagement as a social metric can help your brand invest in relationships with authors and influencers helping to drive your earned media traction.

Engagement as a Social Metric

Simply put, engagement lets you know what type of earned media is hitting home with your consumers. You’re looking for resonance to play off of user generated content (UGC) and develop relationships with content creators that already have the trust of a portion of your audience.

Engagement works well as a social metric because it provides hard numbers which can be measured. And you know what social channel a particular post is resonating on, who authored it, and when. This provides actionable intel for your marketing team to work with.

Basically, engagement allows you to measure the value of a particular piece of content. Obviously, the more engaged your audience is in a post, the better you become at baiting your messaging hook.

Below, we can see a timeline view of the engagement metrics for a leading cellphone carrier over the past month. We can then easily highlight surge areas and dig into the posts driving the traction for deeper insight.


Engagement timeline for major cellular network’s earned media showing spikes in post traction. 9/8/21 – 10/8/21

Pinpointing the Source of Earned Media Engagement

When tracking engagement, your social listening tools should allow you to measure engagement across social media channels, authors, popular media, and posts. Additionally, your tools should provide the capacity to dig into areas of interest for exact totals for things such as likes, comments, followers, shares, and views. These vanity metrics do little on their own, but offer exceptional insight when provided in context of your big picture social metrics.

So, if you can’t dig into the posts behind the numbers, you have a problem. Having an overall picture of engagement performance lets you know how you’re doing from month to month in terms of earned media.

But the real meat is the ability to uncover potential social media influencers and subject matter that are already resonating with your audience. And knowing exactly how many engagements each post receives so your marketing department can make informed decisions on who is a great fit to act as an influencer for your next campaign.


Top earned media authors for major footwear manufacturer by engagement. 9/8/21 – 10/8/21.

Share of Voice

Share of voice (SOV) used to be the traditional measurement of how your advertising share fared against the competition. Increasingly, share of voice now represents your brand’s visibility across media channels.

So, why should you measure it? Because these days, there is a strong correlation between your share of voice and your general market share. That means if you are capturing 20% of the share of voice in your market, you can expect your market share to float in the vicinity of 20%. Visibility is huge, so using share of voice as a social metric can let you know if you’re heading in the right direction.

Share of Voice as Competitive Intelligence

Social metrics are all about assigning hard numbers to performance indicators, to provide your brand with meaningful and actionable market intelligence. And share of voice measurements are also a quick way to see how much earned media volume your brand is generating compared to your competitors. Understanding the correlation between share of voice and market share, it’s a no-brainer as to track these numbers to inform your competitive intelligence.

And doing so is as simple as creating a topic for each of your competitors and bringing them into one analysis. You can then choose percentage share to capture share of voice percentages within your sector automatically. For example, here’s what that looks like with three competing airlines over a 27-month period:


Taking Share of Voice to the Next Level

If your social listening tools are capable of what we’re about to show you, then you’re in for a treat. Not only can you measure your share of voice against competitors, but you can also add industry themes to your analysis to gauge SOV across different aspects of your business.

This is next-level utility as you can see performance percentages in your earned media for precise concepts relevant to you and your competitors. Here we’ve compared several finance brands across four different themes to break down their share of voice in more detail.

This tells us exactly where we are ahead, where we need to lean in, and who we don’t really need to worry about for the time being. As such, share of voice is a rich social metric that every brand should take into consideration.

Beyond these top three though, there is a veritable ocean of social metrics that brands can explore to inform their industry-specific needs. What we’ve presented here is just the tip of the iceberg in measuring your earned media performance. Reach out for a demo, and we’ll show you how you can put these metrics to work for your brand – along with many more!

2021 how to measure social analytics roi

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