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Social media analytics 101: The data that matters most

30-second summary:

  • Marketing decisions should be backed by data about consumers, their behavior, and conversions.
  • Marketing and namely social media analytics provide numerous categories to analyze, so it is easy to get lost.
  • In the article, Aleh Barysevich defines major points for a social media marketer to analyze strategy success or failure.
  • Important data points for analysis: profiles, target audience, competitors, and web traffic from social media.
  • Social listening data provide even more data about the target audience.

Knowledge is power — this saying is even more relevant in our age of information. Anyone who works in marketing holds this belief to some extent. In the ideal world, every marketing decision you take is supported by knowledge, that is, the data you have about consumers, their behavior, and so on.

Of course, as marketers, we don’t always have access to this knowledge. Some of us are luckier than others, and I’d say that social media marketers are the luckiest: they probably get the most data on their customers, their own performance, and marketing possibilities. However, there’s a downside. Social media analytics is such a vast area that it’s incredibly easy to get lost.

Social networks provide you with a thousand different categories to choose from when it comes to analyzing your successes and failures. But your own social media stats are only a part of the story: your competitors and most importantly your clients are also on social media and it would be foolish to ignore all the information they can give you.

Thus, we end up in a situation when you have to prepare a monthly (quarterly/yearly/campaign) report but you are not quite sure what data you should highlight. That’s why this article exists!

We will go through the most important data points for four categories, which you should consider with social media analytics: your profiles, your target audience, your competitors, and the web traffic you get from social media. Let’s begin with the most obvious one: your own page.

Social media analytics: Your social media profiles

In most cases, your own pages and posts are the first thing you are going to track.

For starters, these insights are built in the functionality of social media platforms so you have them right at hand. Secondly, these insights lead to immediate action: since you manage your pages and posts, you can introduce changes to your social media strategy as soon as you notice that something is working (or isn’t working).

Facebook offers more than 150 data points, and the rest of the social networks are not far behind. How do you choose which metrics to track?

Well, every monitoring activity you do should depend on your goals. Are you trying to grow your audience? Track followers and likes. Are you doubling down on video content in order to raise conversions? Check watch time. At the same time, there are some metrics that are considered essential to monitor for any social media manager. They will give you a general understanding of how successful your social media strategy is. What are they?

1. Number of followers (subscribers, likes)

As I mentioned above, the number of followers is the telltale sign of how fast your audience is growing. Every time someone follows you it means that they want to keep an eye on your long-term. But the number of followers is not the only sign of the size of your audience.

Some platforms have several metrics to evaluate the size of your audience, for instance, Likes and Followers on Facebook. Likes, besides expressing the desire to follow your updates consistently, also show the support for your brand. Keep these differences between followers, subscribers, likes, supporters, etc. in mind when you are doing social media analytics: even though they all represent the magnitude of your audience, they can mean different things.

Typically, this metric is available right on your profile. If you want to see how it changed over time, check your Insights or Analytics.

2. Reach

Another important metric to help you evaluate the size of your audience is reach, which is conceptually close to impressions or views. Reach shows how many people were reached by your posts, and views and impressions show how many times the posts were seen, thus, the number of impressions will always be higher than reach.

If the number of followers/subscribers shows how many people want to stay up to date with your news, i.e. your loyal audience so to say,  reach shows your potential audience, i.e. how many people could be interested in your brand. Since most social media algorithms work in such a way that users generally see the content they might potentially like, social media almost eliminates the possibility of reaching a completely wrong audience.

Reach and impressions are usually represented in two ways: you can see the overall reach of your content for a certain time period, and reach for each of the posts. This may differ from platform to platform, but all the major ones: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn allow you to check stats for individual posts as well for the profile in general.

3. Engagement

Engagement is represented by several metrics, most commonly, reactions (likes), comments, and shares. They all are indicative of different grades of approval from your audience.

Reactions show that people agree with your post, comments indicate the desire to start a conversation, and shares show that your post was so good that people want others to see that as well.

One more metric which you’ll see when checking your engagement stats are clicks, that is, how many people clicked on the links you shared. This is the metric that’s more relevant to traffic so we will discuss it in the respective part of the article.

If you need an outline of the most important metrics to follow, check out this template I designed to track your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram stats. The different tabs are necessary to track your metrics in relation to some basis: initial numbers or the average number. Download it, add metrics that are important for you, and start tracking your social media performance!

Social media analytics: Your target audience

Many social media managers stop at tracking their profiles’ stats, but it’s only one part of the social media analytics. The other big part of social media analytics is analyzing social listening data. If your number of followers, engagement, and reach say more about your social media strategy, social listening data is what you analyze to find out more about your target audience.

Admittedly, tracking social listening data is a bit less accessible than tracking your own metrics. This process requires a social listening tool: however, there are a lot of social listening tools for different needs and budgets.

Depending on the social listening tools, you’ll get a lot of insights including demographic, psychographic, and behavioral data. Some social listening insights are directly tied to major business KPIs. I’ve decided to highlight the main points you need to cover.

1. Number of mentions and reach

Social listening is the process of gathering mentions of your keywords online. Those keywords may be different: traditionally brands monitor their brand names, names of their products, campaigns, their industry, and so on.

The first metric to pay attention to is the number of mentions. This is pretty straightforward —this stat shows how many times your keyword was mentioned in the selected time period. Depending on what you’re tracking, this metric can show you brand awareness, the popularity of certain products, or your target audience’s demands.

Another metric that is vital to evaluating your brand awareness is reach. In social listening, reach shows how many people saw your brand mentioned on social media. The higher the number of mentions is, the higher the reach is.

However, there’s one caveat. If your brand gets mentioned once by a popular social media user, you’ll reach more people than if it’s mentioned 10 times by someone with 20 followers. That’s why reach doesn’t always correlate with the number of mentions.

2. Demographics: Gender, location, language

Social listening tools don’t just collect and count the mentions of your keywords, they are able to tell you who the people who use these keywords are. For example, you can find out that your brand is popular among Australian men, or that in Texas it’s much more popular among the Spanish-speaking population than among English-speaking people.

All these insights can lead you to game-changing marketing decisions so don’t ignore them.

social media analytics 101 - demographics

3. Sentiment

Most social listening tools are able to analyze the sentiment of the mentions and show you the overall sentiment around your brand, products, CEO, etc. Moreover, you can see the sentiment change over time and identify potential crises right away.

social media analytics 101 - sentiment analysis

As soon as you see that there is a sudden surge in negative mentions, you can pinpoint the reason behind this surge and nip the crisis in the bud.

4. Influencers

When we talked about reach, I mentioned that popular accounts have more weight when it comes to brand awareness. That’s why it’s important to keep track of them as well!

Most social listening tools are able to recognize influential accounts that are talking about your keywords. They even rank them according to how much reach they can bring you. By identifying these accounts for each major social media network, you’re able to enrich your influencer marketing strategy.

Social listening tools allow you to skip the tedious process of designing a report since most of them already offer different types of reports to export and share with your colleagues. The tool I’m using offers three types of reports: the general report of your monitoring topic, comparison of several topics, and influencers. Each report is fully customizable, so you can choose to highlight the metrics you need and discard those that you don’t need.

Social media analytics: Competitors

Competitor analysis is a wide topic that includes a lot of aspects: business strategy, products, hiring strategy, marketing, SEO, advertising, and so on. Social media is just a part of this topic, but it doesn’t make it any less important.

Of course, you won’t be able to get as detailed information on your competitors as you have for your own social media profiles, but there are still ways to analyze their social media strategy. First of all, track their stats that are available to you: number of followers and likes. You can also write down the engagement (reactions, comments, and shares) for their posts to count average engagement — that is, of course if they don’t post too often.

Secondly, there are other ways to benchmark your own pages against theirs. For example, Facebook allows you to select several competitors and you will get their monthly growth stats in your Insights. Moreover, some social media tools let you analyze pages simply by putting in their @ — you can use them to get the basic data of your competitors’ pages, see how fast they are growing, how often they post, and so on.

As for their target audience, this is even easier. All you need to do is create a monitoring topic for their brand just like you did for yours and then compare the two (or more) topics — that way you’ll see the difference in your brand awareness levels, what parts of the market you cover vs them and more.

As you can see, you are covering the same points for your competitors as you did for your own brand. The insights you get from competitor analysis on social media may inspire you to change and improve your social media strategy.

Social media analytics: Traffic to websites

Social media platforms are giving brands more and more ways to sell their products right on the platforms. However, most companies are still defining conversion on social media as somebody clicking the link in their post and purchasing a product or service. That’s why monitoring your social media traffic is extremely important. It’s also usually the most convincing argument for extending your budget/hiring new team members when talking to your boss.

To track social media traffic you need to gather data related to social media analytics AND website analytics.

1. Traffic from your pages (link clicks)

Remember I mentioned link clicks when we talked about engagement? Now is their time to shine.

Most social media platforms provide you with overall link clicks for the chosen period of time. Some platforms, for example, LinkedIn, even show you link clicks for each post. This is extremely useful since you can immediately see what call to action works better, what design encourages more people to click, and so on.

2. Traffic from social media

Google Analytics also shows you all the traffic you get from social media pages: this includes your posts, links in your bio, buttons on your profiles that take users to your website, and links to your website shared by other people.

To check this stat, go to Google Analytics – Sources – Social media. Here you can see which social media networks bring you traffic, where this traffic is landing, how much of the traffic leads to conversion, etc.

Closing note

And that’s it! The four pillars of social media analytics covered in one guide. Logically, nobody expects you to present all this data in your monthly reports — at least, most clients don’t. But, you need to keep an eye on these four areas to have a good understanding of your social media strategy, see what’s working and what doesn’t, and perfect it along the way.

Aleh Barysevich is Founder and CMO at SEO PowerSuite and Awario.

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