The Misunderstood Data Leading To Misinformed Decisions – Part 3

Welcome back to the final part this 3-part series looking at the popular metrics that are commonly misunderstood, leading to inaccurate analysing data.

In Parts 1 and 2 we looked at web analytics and email metrics in more detail. This final article will look at social metrics. If you are interested in jumping to Web Analytics and Email metrics you can do so here: Web | Email

Social Metrics

Social media is an undeniable force in today's world, helping companies build a loyal brand, drive traffic, leads and sales, manage reputation and, in time of need, crisis management. If you’re not taking advantage of social, you’re missing out on a fast, inexpensive, and effective way to reach almost half the world’s population.

Getting to know the metrics

There are several overlaps between the different social media platforms display metrics, however, there are also a number of distinctive differences. So, it is best to look at each platform independently.

Facebook Analytics

There are two Facebook Analytics tools that serve different purposes:

  • Facebook Page Insights – detailed analytics on how your Facebook page is performing
  • Facebook Audience Insights – detailed analytics that help you to understand your audience, thus creating more relevant content and better targeted ads

Once you land on your page insights dashboard, you will see an overview of everything that’s happening with your Facebook Page. You can choose to view data for the last seven or 28 days, for the current day, or for the previous day. The metrics included in the overview page are:

  • Actions on Page: total number of clicks on your contact information and call-to-action button
  • Page views: total number of views of your Facebook Page
  • Page Previews: number of times people hovered their mouse over your Page information to see a preview of your Page
  • Page Likes: number of new likes
  • Post reach: number of people who saw your posts in their timeline
  • Story reach: number of people who saw your Stories
  • Recommendations: number of people who recommended your Page
  • Post engagement: total of all engagements including post likes, comments, shares
  • Responsiveness: evaluation of how often and how quickly you respond to messages
  • Videos: number of video views of three seconds or more
  • Page followers: number of new followers
  • Orders: total orders and earnings

Within the section named ‘all posts published’, you will see even more metrics that allow you to review the results for all the posts you’ve published on your Page. For each, you can see:

  • Type: link post, photo, video. This shows the type of posts appeal most to your audience
  • Targeting: shows who was targeted e.g. a public post for all or posts to specific target audiences which allow you to compare results
  • Reach: the number of people who saw your post. You can drill down to see a breakdown of organic vs. paid reach, organic vs. paid impressions, or fans vs. non-fans reach
  • Engagement: the number of clicks each post received along with the combined number of reactions, comments, and shares.

Twitter Analytics

The main metrics you will see within Twitter Analytics are:

  • Tweets: number of times you tweeted
  • Impressions: number of times people are served your tweet in their timeline, search results, or from your profile
  • Profile visits: number of times people visited your profile
  • Mentions: number of times your handle was mentioned in tweets
  • New followers: number of new followers you gained
  • Tweets linking to you: number of times your Twitter Card(s) was tweeted by you and/or other people
  • Top Tweet: based on the highest number of impressions
  • Top Media Tweet: photo or video tweet that received the highest number of impressions
  • Top Card Tweet: tweet with a Twitter Card that received the highest number of impressions; this can include other people’s tweets
  • Top Mention: tweet that mentioned your handle and received the highest number of impressions; this can include other people’s tweets
  • Top follower: account with the highest follower count that followed you in a given month

The campaign dashboard shows you metrics specific to your ads campaign to help you optimise performance. This dashboard tracks:

  • Impressions – number of times your ads have been seen by people on Twitter
  • Results - actions that are directly tied to your campaign objective(s). For example, if your goal is website clicks, the results tracked will be link clicks
  • Engagement rate - number of impressions for your ads divided by the number of results
  • Cost-per-result (CPR) – shows how much you’re paying, on average, for each relevant action people are taking from your ads.

These are some of the main metrics to consider as part of your regular analysis on performance. Now, let’s start looking into some of the misunderstandings of these metrics.

Reach vs impressions - what is the difference?


Facebook officially defines reach as: “the number of people who saw your ads at least once.” Reach is organised into three categories: organic, paid, and viral.

Organic reach - refers to the number of unique people who saw your content organically in their news feed.

Paid reach – refers to the number of people who saw content that you paid for, such as an ad.

Viral reach – refers to the number of people who saw your content because one of their friends interacted with it.

Impressions, on the other hand, are officially defined by Facebook as: “the number of times your ads were on screen.” To put this into context, a user could have seen your post twice in their feed throughout the duration of the campaign and would therefore have been counted as two impressions.

When it comes to videos, is not required for the video to start playing for an impression to be recorded. Impressions, therefore, measure the number of times your content may have been seen rather than actually being seen by your audience. To identify the number of times an ad is actually seen, impressions are categorised into served and viewed.

Served impressions – tells you the number of times a paid ad has been displayed on the news feed, ad box position etc.). Served ads don’t need to appear on the screen, for example, they may appear below the fold on the newsfeed, for it to record as a served impression.

Viewed – shows the number of users who have seen the ad appear on their screen. If the ad does not come into view for the user e.g., they have not scrolled down the newsfeed and seen the ad, or if they navigate away from the page before the ad loads, Facebook does not record a viewed impression.


Within Twitter, these metrics are handled slightly differently. Twitter impressions tell you how many times a tweet has appeared on someone's timeline, whereas reach tells you how many people could have seen it. This includes users who don't follow you, but who follow someone who does follow you. Reach is typically higher than impressions. Let’s look at 2 scenarios to help explain this:

Scenario 1) Your profile has 100 followers, but only 50 of your followers saw your tweet, your total impressions will be 50 while your reach will be 100. The reason for this is that Twitter records your tweet had the potential to be seen by 100 users despite only 50 seeing it.

Scenario 2) Your profile has 100 followers, 50 of them saw your tweet, one of those profiles retweeted your tweet to 50 of their own followers where 10 of those followers saw the retweet. Your total impressions will be recorded as 60 and your total reach would be 150. Reason for this is that you had 50 impressions from the original tweet, as well as 10 profiles seeing the retweet (50 + 10 = 60). Following the same principle, your tweet had the potential to reach your 100 followers as well as the 50 profiles who follow the user who retweeted you (100 + 50 = 150).


Instagram’s reach and impression metrics are almost identical to Facebook’s: reach refers to the total number of unique accounts that have seen your post or story and impressions measure the total number of times users saw your post or story.


Reach and impressions are again pretty much the same as above, although they name them reach and story views (rather than impressions).

Still with us?
What seemed like a straightforward set of metrics has turned into a minefield! The main question really is which metric you should pay more attention to, and ultimately that is determined by your goals;

Should you focus on reach or impressions?

Clever use of reach and impressions will help you to determine the effectiveness of your activity. As there are some differences in how reach and impressions are recorded, we recommend using them in the following ways for Facebook:

Ad frequency - Most research on brand awareness suggests that somebody has to see your ad several times before they begin to become aware of the brand. By dividing total impressions by total reach, you will be able to see the average number of times someone has seen your ad, aka ad frequency.

Ad fatigue - By using the ad frequency mentioned above, you will be able to spot how many times your ad is typically shown to users before it begins to drop in performance. For time-sensitive promotions, high impressions per user could be the best route to go, whereas building long term brand awareness could require a more delicate touch, where you choose not to bombard your users with your ads as fiercely as possible.

When these metrics are tracked alongside other important metrics such as engagement and conversions, according to your activity’s goals, you can get valuable insight into how you are performing, and what you need to do to gain traction.

Engagement is engagement, right?

No, not quite, unless you are chasing top-level vanity metrics. Engagement is made up of likes, shares, comments, clicks, views and more. Allocating the same value to each of these will not give you an accurate picture of how your social media communications are performing. There are several powerful social media analytics tools such as Sprout Social and Socialbakers that can help you dig deeper into your engagement metrics. Even without these, you can see this level of detail from the native platforms, although depending on the level of activity on your social campaigns, it may need a bit of tweaking and exporting in order to analyse the data.

Let’s look at a quick scenario to explain why you shouldn’t allocate the same value to all engagements. Say you have a social campaign posting content that is generating likes and/or shares. Without diving into the purpose of the campaign too much at this stage, the fact the content is generating likes and shares suggests the content is interesting to your audience. However, if the content generated comments rather than just likes, you would assume that the content was engaging your audience in a more meaningful way. Someone to stop and comment requires the person to absorb your content before adding their own comment, whereas a share or like can be done after a quick skim read. Brands that are focusing on building a solid fanbase or a community of superfans will aim to create content that will engage conversations.

Now, we are not saying that likes and shares are not valuable. Of course, they are; the fact you managed to get someone to stop scrolling through their feed is an achievement in itself, which is why social media platforms have also introduced reactions that allow users to express a wider array of emotions.

Therefore, before you make assumptions about your content’s performance, it is essential that you outline your campaign objectives and accurately track and measure your social media reports. It is also important to pay close attention to the sentiment of the engagements on your posts as negative engagements, such as comments, can have a negative impact on your campaign.

Final thought

All of these elements are vital to helping you understand your performance on social media; knowing even the most subtle differences will help you to interpret your results accurately. By analysing your social media interactions on a regular basis will enable you to shape your social media approach and optimise it to achieve success. We thoroughly recommend looking into a reporting dashboard that can provide you with all these metrics in a clear and concise format. The collation and consolidation of the metrics can be time-consuming; by investing in a dashboard with automation techniques, you can allocate the time that you have saved to evaluating the results and improving future performance.

This series of content has been created to demystify some of the terminology and misconceptions associated with website, email and social media marketing. When used together and measured accurately, you have access to a wealth of information and insights that will help you to drive success. Our expertise comes from decades of experience working for clients; years of living and breathing digital data. Smart Health Insights (SHI) for Healthcare is a platform that performs some of these function for you, intelligently analysing data and making recommendations based on your performance to produce the best outcomes. One of several ways we give our clients a head start in their journey towards truly understanding data.

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