Social Media Engagement Metrics – 6 things you can learn

 

One of my favorite analytics tool PostRank Analytics  has retired.  I used this tool almost as long as it was available to publishers. PostRank was one of the best tools to identify and measure social engagement and top influencers. It tracked the RSS feed content performance in the social world. At the time of its launch it was one of its kind tools. Now there are many tools out there which more or less do, what this tool did. But what make this tool so special is that it was acquired by Google.

 

Google acquired PostRank in June of 2011. One can easily assume that this acquisition was carried out to understand social sharing and how it can be used in the ranking of web pages. I particularly got interested in this tool after its acquisition by Google.  Following is the classical definition of engagement according to PostRank:

Engagement refers to the attention other people pay to your published content, like blog posts, news & articles. They see and read a post, and then because it’s interesting, inspiring, or controversial, they get “hooked” and decide to take further action.  Getting hooked and acting on it when you read something that makes you think, laugh, or get angry is engagement.

Though PostRank is gone in its present form but it is still very much alive in Google. So I will talk about it in the present tense. PostRank has the ability to track users’ engagement in real time no matter where it takes place and it can also aggregate social engagement data.  Unlike Google Analytics, there are only three metrics unique to PostRank:

  1. Engagement Events
  2. Engagement Points
  3. Engagement Scores

 

Engagement Events

Engagement events are the activities performed by a visitor after he/she has engaged with your contents. These activities can be:

  1. Sharing contents via social networking websites (twitter, facebook, linkedin etc)
  2. Social Bookmarking via Delicious, Diigo etc.
  3. Leaving a comment on your web page

So whenever a visitor performs one of these activities an engagement event is triggered which is then captured by PostRank. For example one tweet is counted as one engagement event by PostRank. One comment is counted as one engagement event. So if your blog post got 50 tweets and 3 comments then total engagement events associated with your blog post = 50+3= 53 . Now the real life example:

My blog post: 12 Strong proofs to debunk SEO myths and educate clients about SEO  is associated with 315 engagement events. These events are simply a sum of 225 tweets, 23 comments, 54 delicious bookmarks, 4 sharings on Hacker News etc as recorded by PostRank during the time when my blog was published. One important thing to remember here is that this post was published in December 2010 but PostRank still has this data as I write this post. So there is a strong possibility that Google record and store historical social engagement metrics for each piece of content it can track.

 

Engagement Points

PostRank assigns a numerical value to each engagement event, known as Engagement Points. It assign different engagement points to different types of engagement events on the basis of level of efforts required to engage with a piece of content. For example leaving a comment on a blog post requires lot more effort than just reading (pageview) or tweeting the blog post. So PostRank considers ‘leaving a comment’ on a web page as one of the most engaged event. Consequently it assigns a very high engagement points to this social activity. On the other hand reading a blog post requires very less effort in terms of engagement, so it is assigned low engagement points.  Since PostRank works for Google now, so we can pretty much assume that ‘leaving a comment’ on a web page is one of the strongest signal of user engagement.

 

Correlation Between Engagement Points and other usage metrics

I think there is a strong correlation between engagement points and pageviews. For example if your blog post has got 100 engagement points but only 20 pageviews then it means people are not really engaging with your content. They may be just tweeting because you are an authority figure or they just want to look good to their followers. This can also be a signal of spam activity in social sharing

How a piece of content can have 84 engagement events and 618 engagement points but zero pageviews. People are sharing contents but none of them bothered to look at what they are sharing. This clearly means that these engagement events/points are artificially inflated to boost social engagement. May be that’s why PostRank record pageviews along with other metrics like average reading time (the Google Analytics equivalent of  ‘average time on a web page’). You can see the average reading time in the PostRank chart of  ’12 strong proofs’ blog post above, just below the ‘Pageviews’ metrics. So we can safely assume that Google is also taking website usage  metrics into account while calculating social engagement.

 

PostRank measures engagement points from not just one but several social engagement sources

This list of social engagement sources must be quite big by now specially after begin acquired by Google.

 

Engagement Score

PostRank sum up the engagement points earned from various social engagement sources to calculate the final score of a piece of content which is known as Engagement Score. So each piece of content (like a blog post) has its own engagement score. Higher the engagement score, more socially relevant a piece of content is.

 

Engagement Trends

PostRank track and record engagement score of each piece of content over time as the scores can go up or vary widely. This helps it in establishing engagement trends of a website. If you continuously perform better on social, you are very relevant to your target audience.

PostRank knows where your audience is engaging with you and how. So is Google.

PostRank has the ability to measure social engagement of an individual user who engaged with your content and it can also assign engagement points to each individual user on the scale of 3+ to 10+

 

So we can assume that Google can also identify the audience which is engaging with your content and up to what level this engagement is. It can find out whether the audience is humans or bots as bots’ level of engagement will be very different.

 

The 6 Key Takeaways

1.  Google record and store historical social engagement metrics for each piece of content it can track.

2. Encourage your visitors to leave more comments than tweets or other social shares on your blog posts as comments get very high engagement points.

3. There is a strong correlation between engagement points, pageviews and other website usage metrics. So spamming will most likely won’t increase your social influence.

4. Engage with your audience on several social networking sites instead of just one to increase the overall engagement score of your contents.

5. Through engagement trends Google can determine whether you are a one hit wonder or a real social celebrity. Engagement trends can help in separating the wheat from the chaff i.e. separating really useful websites from spam or not so socially active sites. Thus trends can help in establishing the social authority of a website.

6. Google knows who is tweeting what and how he/she is engaging with the tweeted content. This means Google has very good understanding of your audience even without using other users metrics which are readily available in Google Analytics.

Note: Their is also an excellent post on PostRank Patent by Bill Slawski of seobythesea.com which you should check out.

Other Posts you may find useful:

 

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  • http://www.moving.com Brett

    Awesome post! I’m really surprised Google isn’t using social signals more in their rankings. As Wil Reynolds shows, links are still king. But Google could be doing a lot more with social signals because social spam is fairly easy to identify.

  • Catherine

    Thanks Himanshu for sharing this post. That’s a nice break down of social media metrics used by PostRank. Engagement is an important metrics to track for marketers. But measuring it is quite difficult. Can you recommend a tool which measure enagement like post rank.