So you’ve begun experimenting with paid ads on social media. Paid social is a fun marketing tactic to experiment with because of the instant gratification it provides compared to organic efforts - which take a bit longer to see results from.

If you’re anything like me, the moment you hit “launch” on a campaign, you obsessively track clicks and engagements. But are you tracking the metrics that matter most to your business? Have you built a campaign optimized for your overarching business and marketing objectives?

In order to run an optimized paid social media campaign, you need to first know what goals you’re trying to accomplish. And second, know what are the most important metrics you should be tracking.

If you’re not sure where exactly to start - don’t fret. In this post, I’ve outlined how to identify, define and track the metrics that will matter most in measuring your paid social efforts.

Defining your paid social objectives and KPIs

As our VP of Marketing, Simon, wrote in an article for Unbounce, behind every well-executed paid social campaign are two important elements:

  1. A clear objective: the goal you specifically seek to accomplish with an individual campaign. Examples include increasing product purchases or app downloads by x%, increasing visits to a specific piece of content by x%, increasing Facebook Page likes by x%.
  2. Key performance indicators (KPIs): clear metrics that tell you if you’re achieving or tracking towards your objective.

Your objective should be specific to an individual campaign because you’ll run an ad differently depending on what you’re trying to accomplish. Of course, your KPIs will also be different depending on your objective. Here are some examples:


Your objectives should align with your campaign's objectives with your business goals. To do that, take a step back and look at what your entire company is trying to accomplish. Then consider how your marketing team’s efforts fit into those overarching goals.

For example, let’s say your company’s goal is to increase monthly revenue by 15% by the year’s end. To help reach that goal, the marketing team is focused on increasing trial signups by 25%, while the product team is focused on increasing conversions by 30%. It’s your job to ask: How does a paid social campaign fit into that bigger picture? In this example, your specific question would be: would a paid social campaign drive trial signups? How?

Measuring the success of your paid social campaign

In order to determine the health of your KPIs - that is, if you’re tracking towards your objectives - you need to set your campaign up properly. If your objective is to drive visits, downloads, or signups, it’s important that the URL you’re promoting is trackable.

Tracking conversions with Google Analytics

To properly track your campaign’s success before you even build your ad or publish the post you’ll be promoting (if boosting a post), you’ll need to build a UTM using a campaign URL builder. UTM codes are a bit of text added to the end of your URL that tell you where exactly visitors came from. You’ll then track this unique URL with Google Analytics.

This way, you can dig deeper beyond social engagement metrics (covered below) to track conversions and visitor behavior, such as what other pages they visited, where they bounced from, etc. This will help determine if you targeted the right audience with your ad.

To see how your ad is doing in terms of conversions, visit GA and click on: Acquisition → All Traffic → Sources / Medium.


The results will look something like this:


Image source:

In addition to seeing how many visits came from your campaign, you can also measure conversions (i.e. signups, subscriptions, or purchases) by setting up Goals in your Google Analytics account. At Geckoboard, we measure conversions from paid social by trial signups.

Great, now you can measure the monetary ROI of your campaign! But you may be interested in knowing the impact your campaign is having on your brand beyond sales and signups. Paid social media campaigns can be an effective tool for generating brand awareness as well. This awareness is generally measured by impressions and followers - covered below.

Beyond conversions and impressions, you can also measure how shareable the content you’re publishing is. Shareability is an effective indicator of how interesting your content is to your audience. This data can tell you if either a) you’re producing the right content for your audience*, or b) if you’re *targeting the right audience. Engagement metrics include likes, replies, retweets, comments, and shares across social platforms.

Measuring engagement on Twitter

To measure engagement, you’ll need to get to know the dashboard of your platform of choice. Twitter, for example, is pretty straightforward. To access your Twitter Ads campaign dashboard, go to: your Twitter homepage → click your icon in the upper right corner → select “Twitter Ads” in the dropdown.


From here, you’ll find an overview of the results of all of your campaigns, which will look something like this:


To drill down to specific engagements such as replies, retweets, and followers from your campaigns, select “Engagements,” which will look like this:


To gain a better understanding of how well you targeted each campaign, click on the name of an individual campaign. If you’ve targeted your campaign based on followers - that is, targeting the followers of certain influencers or relevant accounts - you can see who drove the most clicks at the lowest cost per click. After you click on your campaign name, scroll down and select “@handles” from the left-side menu. Here, you’ll find how many impressions, clicks, engagements, and cost each account generated for you.


Top tip: After your campaign runs for 24 hours, eliminate any @handles with a CPC higher than $3.00 and a click rate lower than 0.05%.

Measuring engagement on Facebook and Instagram

Facebook’s ad platform (also used for Instagram) is slightly more complicated but equally insightful. To track the performance of your ads, visit your Facebook Ads Manager. Here, you’ll find all of your campaigns laid out with results, reach, cost, and amount spent.


To dive deeper, click on each campaign name for detailed results.


In the Performance tab, you can also click “Custom” to drill down and look at specific results by action, reach, impressions, and cost per result. In this example, we’re looking at Actions, which are measured by engagements - specifically, likes, clicks, shares, and comments.


To see how viewers are specifically engaging with your ad, scroll down past the graph. In the table, in the Columns drop down, select “Engagement.”


Here’s you’ll find post likes, comments, shares, link clicks, and page likes from the promoted post.


With this, you have a full picture of how your paid social campaigns are impacting your brand’s bottom line and awareness among targeted audiences - awesome! But you're pulling data from three different places, which can be a total pain.

You (as the social media marketer) may need to do this from time to time to really understand which ads are performing best - but there’s no need for the rest of the team to do so. Fortunately, there’s an easier way to inform your team of how paid social is impacting the business - quickly and beautifully.

Painting a more cohesive picture with a paid social dashboard

Sometimes, you’ll just want to check in on your campaign's’ performance without having to dive into each platform. A paid social media campaign dashboard is a great way to get a quick snapshot and share campaign performance with your team at all times - in real-time! A dashboard tracking ad campaign success might look something like this:


Rather than focusing on one channel, the dashboard above is tracking KPIs in a glanceable format across all paid campaigns. It illustrates which is performing best in comparison to each other so you can allocate budget and effort accordingly.

A dashboard is also a reminder to freshen up the creative of your paid social campaigns, as they go stale quickly due to the short shelf life of social media posts. Once you see your metrics declining, pick new copy and images to promote.

If you’re new to designing dashboards, it’s helpful to know how to organize your data so that it’s useful to everyone on your team. In this example, the most important stat (number of conversions vs. your target conversions) is in the far left, where our eyes naturally go first. Moving right, you’ll find how much you're paying for each acquisition through your paid social efforts.

Below that is a line graph indicating how much paid ads on each channel are converting. Comparing these two graphs (line and bar), it’s clear that LinkedIn is costing more, and you need to either optimize the CPC down by adjusting the audiences you’re targeting or pull back the spend based on the volume of conversions. It may also be worth looking to see if you could increase the volume of conversions on Twitter and Instagram by increasing your CPC bid, given they’re significantly lower than the other two channels.

The three social media metrics being measured in the last row show you exactly what we walked through in the Facebook Ads Manager above. Of course, if you’re focusing more on Twitter or Instagram, these could be switched out for your platform of choice.

Start Experimenting

That’s it! All of the basics are covered. Now that you know what metrics to track to determine the success of your campaign and how to track them, it’s time to start experimenting. Think about who your audience is and what messaging is going to resonate with them. Don’t hold back from having some fun with it!