The 3-Step Social Media Grading System

How can we assess our efforts on social media? How do we know if our strategy is compelling? This grading system will help you refine your efforts and become more effective.

June 26th, 2017

Social media can still feel like a stab in the dark for too many churches. What’s working? Why is it working? Why is it not working?

Five years ago I was struggling to convince churches that social media was worth their time. That it wasn’t just a fad. That we were about to enter the biggest communication shift human history had seen in the last 500 years.

Frankly, I’m glad we’re past that.

The overwhelming majority of churches and ministries now recognize the importance of social media. It’s basic communication philosophy: go where the people are.

But how can we assess our efforts on social media? Well, before we can assess our social media efforts, we first need to identify the metric that matters most.

The Single Most Important Metric You Should Care About

Every organization and individual is trying to accomplish something different on social. Churches want people attending their weekend services, businesses want online purchases, influencers want follows, likes, and comments.

But at the root of it, there is only one metric that we can reliably track on social media. And thankfully, it’s the most important metric: attention.

Attention is the single most important metric you need to care about. Because without attention, nothing else can follow.

A church can’t inspire a family to attend a weekend service without first getting their attention. A business can’t compel an individual to make a purchase without first getting their attention. And an influencer can’t sell ad space without first compiling mass attention.

Attention is the game. Attention is the variable. Attention is the metric.

Knowing this, I’ve constructed The 3-Step Social Media Grading System to precisely pinpoint which of your posts are earning the most attention online.

Let’s dive into it.

Step #1: Engagement Divided By Reach

The first step in The 3-Step Social Media Grading System is the formula itself. The formula is very simple: Engagement divided by Reach.

Compiling these data points is different for each platform, but let’s take a look into how to do it on both Facebook and Instagram.

Finding Engagement & Reach On Facebook

To access the Engagement and Reach data points for a specific post on Facebook, first, head to your Facebook Page and then click on the number of people reached hyperlink on an individual post (see image below).

In the window that opens, click on the Audience & Engagement button within the right-hand column (see image below).

Within this window you’ll be able to see a variety of data points for this individual Facebook post, including both Reach and Engagement (see image below).

Once we have our Reach and Engagement data points, running them through the formula is very simple (Engagement divided by Reach). In this case, my Facebook post had 166 points of engagement and a reach of 11,276.

166/11,276 = 1.5 (scored out of 100)

Finding Engagement & Reach On Instagram

To access engagement and reach on Instagram, you’ll need to have a Business Account. Switching to a Business Account on Instagram is free and easy – click here for a guide on how to do it.

Once you’ve switched to a Business Account on  Instagram, all future posts you publish will have a hyperlink below them that reads View Insights (see image below).

Clicking on the View Insights button will open up a screen that reveals the data points we’re looking for (see image below).

Again, once we have our Reach and Engagement data points, we can run them through our simple formula to see our grade. On this Instagram post, I had 408 points of engagement and a reach of 2,033.

408/2,033 = 20.1 (scored out of 100)

Step 2: Grade Every Post From The Last 3 Months

At this point you might be asking, “What’s a good grade out of 100? What should I be aiming for?”

Truthfully, there is no standard “good” grade or “bad” grade. It all comes down to what your grades are currently and improving them.

You may have also noticed the extreme differences in grades between the post from Facebook and the post from Instagram. The post on Facebook reached about 5X more people than the post on Instagram. But the post on Instagram had a grade that was about 13X higher.

Seeing the macro differences between social platforms can be helpful, but on the whole, comparing individual posts from different platforms isn’t all that helpful. There are too many variables.

However, comparing posts from the same platform is absolutely necessary to making this system work. And that’s why the second step in this formula is to take inventory of every single post you’ve published over the last three months (at the very least, over the last 30 days) and run each of them through the grading formula from the first step.

Once, you’ve completed that, arrange the posts in order. Put the highest performing posts at the top and the lowest performing posts at the bottom.

Then, move onto the third and final step.

Step #3: Reverse Engineer The Good & The Bad

Everything we’ve done so far is to get us to this point. By now, you should have a handful of social posts, ranked from best to worst.

Now, it’s your job to look at the best five posts and the worst five posts and begin to reverse engineer what made them succeed or what made them flop.

Specifically, look for common characteristics between the posts that performed well and the posts that performed poorly. Here are some characteristics to look for:

  • Time of day the posts were published
  • Day of the week the posts were published
  • Media type (text/video/photo/etc.)
  • Subject matter
  • Length of post


When properly followed, The 3-Step Social Media Grading System is tremendously powerful. It will give you insights that are unique and specific to you and your audience – not just generalized tips.

The application of this grading system is very simple…

Once you’ve determind your five best posts and five worst posts, determine what made the posts succeed or flop – and then – do more of what works and do less of what doesn’t.

Repeat this process every quarter continuing to double down on what works and eliminating what doesn’t. This will lead to more attention being earned on your social platforms and thus more long term growth.

  • Cody Kenny

    Do you consider the “post clicks” when you are looking at engagement as well? On my end that number is separate from my “reactions, comments, & shares” number.

    • Cody, I don’t personally include that in my equation because it’s not something you can track reliably on something like Instagram. But it’d totally be worth including if it’s important to you! The key is being consistent with what you’re tracking.

  • Christopher Chapmond

    My question is, how do you do this from a logistical standpoint. There is a lot of manual work it seems to click each post and writing down that info. Is there a semi automated way of doing this, maybe an export out of facebook and doing it in excel?

    • Chris, should only take an hour or two to do this every three months or so.

  • Ellen

    Wow- I just finished going through our posts using the grading system and learned a lot! I complied a list of things each top earner had in common. That list will be the new set of criteria I use to post. Here it is:

    1. Thursday afternoon is where it’s at! (Don’t post anything before 11:00 a.m.)
    2. Post videos with visually stunning content. (Our video of the pastors burning palm branches for Ash Wednesday was the most successful video to date- it was because of the mesmerizing slow-motion flames.)
    3. Post live videos.
    4. Post re-caps of events. There was no difference in engagement between photo or video.
    5. Show appreciation! People loved posts where we said thank you to volunteers, wished a staff member happy birthday, etc.

    • Ellen, I just want to give props to you. The vast majority of people that read this post won’t actually do the work the exercise requires. And they won’t gain the insights that you have. Well done!

    • Danielle Lagarde

      This is SO interesting. Besides learning that our engagement sucks I picked up on some surprising themes:

      1. Post BEFORE noon, preferably early in the week.
      2. People loved posts that we shared to our page from our Lead Pastors Page (that I just created in April).
      3. Apparently people really like when we change our FB cover photo.

      There are still some thing I want to try, like diving into live videos. And I LOVE your idea of thanking volunteers and posting staff birthdays!
      Of course I put all this data in a spreadsheet, so I’m really interested to see how this changes and what our scores look like in 3 months now that I know this stuff!

      • What’s great about this exercise is that it offers unique insights into our unique audiences – not one-size-fits-all advice.

        For instance, there are “best practices” for when to post on social media. But Ellen found that her church responds better to posts in the afternoon, whereas Danielle’s church prefers the morning!

  • Sam Miller

    Does this only work for FB video posts? I don’t see the same kind of stats for other types of posts.

    • Sam, did you see the walkthrough in the post for Instagram? This is only available if you have an Instagram Business Account – which is free – and there’s a link on how to set that up in the article also.

      • Sam Miller

        I’m talking about Facebook (FB), not Instagram (IG)…

        • Oh my bad. Misread your original post. Facebook gives those numbers on every type of post, not just video.

    • Ginni DeLon

      Sam, I had the same problem, but I think I figured it out. If you hit “insights” at the top of your church’s FB page (logged in as admin), scroll down to “Five Most Recent Posts,” and select “See All Posts” just under the top 5, it shows you all the info in one place (reach, engagement, day/time, etc. for each post.) Hope this helps!

      • Sam Miller

        Thanks Ginni, that looks good to me.

  • Janell Cannavo

    Thanks for this GREAT Info Brady!! I’m going to do this asap. 🙂