Kira Hoffelmeyer
Jun 12, 2016 · 7 min read

“We’re constantly engaged on social media,” said Alex York, a writer and SEO specialist at SproutSocial.

Social media is a tricky thing. It’s even more tricky when you throw in the idea of measuring, metrics and analytics for companies who 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.

“Measuring engagement is tough when you first start out,” said York. “When you want to measure social media engagement, you have to dive all in with it.”

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.


Here is me 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 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.”

For those of your more visually inclined learners, check out the picture to the left.

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.

Some other helpful sources for this topic:

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 nothing 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.

Some other helpful resources for this topic:

How Instagram measures engagement

Unfortunately for all us engagement and analytics nerds out there, 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 of 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.

Some other helpful resources for this topic:

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 Beyonce 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), nearly over 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 the new black.

How many times have you gotten 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.

Social Media for Journalists

Official website for J408 “Journalism Today” a 2 credit workshop held at the School of Journalism and Communication, University of Oregon (May 2016)

Kira Hoffelmeyer

Written by

My brain has too many tabs open and they’re all buffering. First-ever Engagement Editor @Parkrecord + Anchor/reporter @kslnewsradio.

Social Media for Journalists

Official website for J408 “Journalism Today” a 2 credit workshop held at the School of Journalism and Communication, University of Oregon (May 2016)

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