As church communicators, we need to be storytellers. Typically, we tell stories with text, photos and video. However, data tells a story too. It’s a story about our audience and what matters to them. And we need to be tracking the data from our digital platforms in order to understand that story.

Here are three different kinds of data that we need to track and understand.

Growth

The easiest data to track is the size of your audience. Recording the number of social media followers gives you a general sense of your digital media’s effectiveness.

In addition to your followers, pay attention to the reach of your posts. A Facebook page with 500 followers might have a post that reaches 1,000 people. Measuring both followers and reach gives you a better sense of your true audience size.

Capturing these numbers on a weekly basis can help to show trends for your growth. Is one platform growing rapidly? Or has the increase in followers grown stagnant?

Determining your growth rate for each individual platform can show which accounts are most effective and where we need to be placing more focus.

Audience size is an important place to start, but it’s just the beginning of the story. We all want more followers on social media, but a larger audience is not the ultimate goal.

Engagement

More important than your audience’s size is their reaction to your social media content. These reactions are most readily measured through various engagements on social media, including likes, shares and comments.

Again, the temptation is to simply want a larger number of audience interactions. But the better indication is to measure trends over time to determine trends in engagement. Do specific platforms have a higher rate of engagement compared to others?

In addition to measuring general trends, it can also be helpful to keep track of particularly engaging posts. What about the post made your audience like and share? Is it the format? Or the length of the content? The time of day when it’s posted can also have an impact.

Using data to understand what kind of posts are engaging and why helps to you produce more content that your audience cares about.

Conversion

While more followers and higher engagement are good starts, they are not our ultimate goal on social media; action is. Our presence on social media should be driven by a motivation to get our audience to take take the next step.

Our goal is to use online content to persuade our audience to convert their engagement into action. These actions could be to read an article, fill out a form or even donate online. These online conversions can also be measured.

One way to measure conversion on social media is to use Google Analytics to see which social media channels are driving the most web traffic. Pushing users to your website allows you to better control and track what next steps they take.

Ultimately, our mission is to have a person’s online experiences influence them to take real action offline. This includes attending church and accepting Jesus Christ. While these actions can be tracked, too, it’s so much more important than just numbers.