How Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram Measure Engagement

    by Kira Hoffelmeyer
    June 17, 2016

    A version of this post was originally published on Medium.

    Social media is a tricky thing. It’s even trickier when you throw in measuring metrics and analytics for companies that want to see what kind of conversations they’re creating.

    The first, and potentially hardest step, might be to define engagement.


    “Engagement, for me, is a long-term relationship,” said Alex York, who is a writer and SEO specialist at SproutSocial. “It’s all about building that long term relationship and just getting people to actually interact.”

    We’re going to go over the biggest social media platforms and how they measure engagement. I’ll break it down for you based on the research I’ve been doing and my personal experiences with each medium.

    And contrary to your initial reaction, no, not all platforms measure engagement equally (unfortunately, for all of us metrics nerds out there), so it’s important to understand how the metrics are calculated and what it could mean for your social media presence.


    How Twitter measures engagement

    First, it’s important to establish what Twitter defines as engagement. The social media platform calculates engagement this (overly simplified) way:

    (@replies + mentions + retweets + likes) / total impressions

    Basically, it’s the sum of all those listed above during the reporting period you’ve selected.

    New to Twitter? Here’s a breakdown of what each of those parts of Twitter engagement look like (courtesy of my personal account).


    Rob Denton mentioned me in a tweet, and then we had a conversation back and forth.

    Rob Denton mentioned me in a tweet, and then we had a conversation back and forth.


    Here is me again mentioning Facebook and Claire Wardle in a tweet.

    Here I am again mentioning Facebook and Claire Wardle in a tweet.


    I retweeted a tweet (see the little green square that looks a little like a recycling symbol) that Damian Radcliffe tweeted.

    I retweeted a tweet (see the little green square that looks a little like a recycling symbol) that Damian Radcliffe tweeted.


    I liked (clicked the red heart) that my friend Jonathan Michael Bach quoted my tweet.

    I liked (clicked the red heart) that my friend Jonathan Michael Bach quoted my tweet.

    But Twitter has built-in analytics, and it’s worth using.

    The nice thing about Twitter is there’s an analytics section, even for your personal account.

    Just click on your profile picture to get the drop down menu and find “Analytics.”

    Overall, I think that the analytics tool is great if you’re in a smaller newsroom that can’t afford services like Sprout or Chartbeat. It provides a easily digestible breakdown of individual tweets as well as your Twitter account as a whole.

    You can see a 28-day summary for your Twitter account. You can also then break it down by individuals tweets in the Tweets section, and get a better sense of your audience as well.

    You can see a 28-day summary for your Twitter account. You can also then break it down by individual tweets in the Tweets section, and get a better sense of your audience as well.

    How Facebook measures engagement

    Here’s how Facebook reports its own engagement measuring:

    “Engagement rate is the percentage of people who saw a post that reacted to, shared, clicked or commented on it.”

    Then divide that by how many people see your post, and you’ve got your engagement rate from Facebook Insights.

    Don’t have Facebook Insights? No problem.

    According to this Simply Measured post, you can calculate your engagement rates without access to Insights. In the post, they use the example of you trying to compare your engagement rate with that of your competitor’s.

    That formula looks little more like this:

    Engagement rate = Likes + comments + shares / total fans

    Again, that’s arguably oversimplified.

    It’s absolutely worth noting that Facebook has its own Insights section, which while a little complicated to work with initially, becomes significantly easier over time. In fact, I think you’ll find that if you play around with Insights and dabble by poking around in the data and also pulling it and adapting the (very, very) large spreadsheet to what kind of data you want to see, you’re set.

    How do you find Insights?

    1. Go to the page you manage.
    2. Above the header page, find the section labeled “Insights” and click on it.
    3. Then it’s time to explore! Use the menu off to the left to explore how your media group or company is performing across Facebook.

    How Instagram measures engagement

    Unfortunately, Instagram doesn’t have a platform where it gives out analytics. That means it doesn’t really easily measure engagement.


    But it’s coming. And the fact that it’s not there is no excuse for you to not be tracking it on your own.

    While you’re waiting for Instagram to release its analytics platform, here are some suggestions for how to measure engagement of content on Instagram.

    Measure how many comments a post receives

    Why? Because according to Sprout, that will help you measure if your content is engaging readers long enough for them to provide feedback in one way or another.

    Create an excel spreadsheet of your followers per month

    That way you can track increases and potentially track it back to a certain piece of content, or use it to evaluate how many times you’re posting per day/week/month/etc.

    Obviously you can measure with likes, too

    If one photo gets 44 likes and the other gets 94, that’s something you would want to look into. You would want to evaluate the time of posting, the content itself and the caption along with it.

    Seven ways you can improve engagement

    1. Consider your audience.

    Does your demographic tend to be older, white males in the business industry? Then they probably don’t care about Beyoncé having hot sauce in her bag, swag.

    Make sure you’re considering how you phrase that post before you publish.

    2. Respond to your audience.

    If someone asks you a question, acknowledge it. It’s perfectly appropriate (and highly encouraged) to interact with your audience. You’ll build a trustworthy relationship with them, they’ll know they can count on you and they’ll keep coming back because of the positive experience.

    3. Recognize that despite the fact Facebook is supposedly turning into the place for people my parents’ age, that it stills supports a huge audience and reach.

    At the Emerald (my college media group where I did engagement for the newsroom), about 60 percent of our social media referrals come from Facebook. Additionally, one post on Facebook gets more overall engagement than three posts about the same article on Twitter.

    4. Video is hot.

    How many times have you been sucked into watching a video on your phone?

    5. Try Q&A sessions.

    They humanize your company. They put a face to the name and can provide personality. This is particularly true if you have your main business account being the monitor, and have then appropriate people from your group participating and aiding in that effort.

    6. Utilize the polls and surveys options.

    Ask the people! Not only does Twitter have a cool poll option now, but survey monkeys and focus groups are a great way to provide insight into what your audience does and doesn’t like about your group.

    7. Use emojis.

    Because apparently they’re becoming their own language.

    Kira Hoffelmeyer is a freelance writer for MediaShift. You can find her attempting to avidly tweet @kirahoffy. She is a graduate of the University of Oregon. This summer, she’ll have her coffee in hand and on the local NPR affiliate as a Charles Snowden intern.

    Tagged: audience engagement facebook insights instagram analytics social media metrics twitter analytics

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