Imagine you’re a social media professional. Your daily routine involves monitoring all of your company’s social pages, creating and scheduling content for the upcoming week, and making sure that your work is providing value to the business. The work is fast and furious; your stakeholders want content featured when they want it, on their terms – which usually translates to “do the hard work for us.” In a “perfect” world that might be possible, but as stewards of the company’s persona and online reputation, we – the social media professionals – need to know how to make everyone happy while still delivering upon our key objectives and task lists.
To impart the most value to our stakeholders and superiors, you must know how to use social media analytics (SMA) and metrics. If you need a refresher on what these are, take a look at my previous blog post. Social media analytics and metrics work hand-in-hand to help you make more informed decisions. According to Weiguo Fan and Michael D. Gordon’s article “The Power of Social Media Analytics,” there is a three-step process that defines how to integrate SMA into your reporting deliverables:
- Capture: Obtain relevant social media data through monitoring or listening, archive appropriate data and extract pertinent information. In this step, refer to metrics and KPIs you defined for your company/campaign – these will be the most useful tidbits. Note that not all data captured will be useful for what questions you are trying to answer.
- Understand: Remove “noisy,” low-quality pieces of data that don’t contribute much to your cause. From here, perform advanced analytics like sentiment analysis, trend analysis, and social network analysis. Many useful metrics and trends can be produced in this stage.
- Present: Summarize and evaluate your findings from the Understand stage. Different analytics will be visualized so that it is easy for readers to understand. By having tools that can customize views and pieces, you can easily sift through the learnings of the mass volume of data.
Before embarking on the SMA adventure, it is a good idea to have a question (more likely several GOOD questions) to answer. As previously mentioned, SMA and metrics work together to help you get answers. Marisa Krystian from Infogram recommends that you think of metrics as the “what” in your question and the analytics as the “so what?” for your reporting. Metrics are the numbers you track while analytics implies an analysis of said metrics and decision making. This helps assign meaning to and interpret the raw data and final findings from your social media pages.
“If you don’t collect any metrics, you’re flying blind. If you collect and focus on too many, they may be obstructing your field of view.”
– Scott M. Graffius
To help you get your footing in the land of SMA, let’s go over some key questions your business might have and which metrics/KPIs you might want to assign to them.
Answering the BIG Questions
Within this section of the blog post, I’m going to take you through some common questions that companies need to answer and which metrics can help them answer them. For the sake of contextualizing this exercise, we will be assuming the lens of a social media professional working at Living Proof, a haircare brand. Let’s say in the next quarter, the company will be releasing a new line of styling products. To get the biggest, and best, reception to their online announcement they need to find out which metrics will lead them to victory.
Question 1: Who is my audience?
If you haven’t figured this out already you might be in trouble, but luckily there are a few really great metrics you can track to figure out who makes up your social media following and who might be a potential lead. The first thing you want to do is take a look at your engagement. These are the people who are actively viewing and sharing your content. On Facebook Insights, you can find demographic metrics that help define your audience through gender, language spoken, age, and location.
Example of the People tab on Facebook Insights – not related to Living Proof audience.
For Living Proof, they could have found that their Facebook following is made up of mostly women, aged 25-50, with their most active followers being aggregated on the west coast. These key findings help them pinpoint key moments and opportunities to lock into when creating content and helps direct their look and feel.
Question 2: Am I doing better than my competitors?
To answer this question take a look at another haircare brand. Drybar is another mid-range haircare brand that specializes in styling products just like Living Proof. Let’s compare their Facebook and Instagram pages:
From what we see here, it is almost a near perfect flip of followers per platform for these two brands. After a quick search through their content, their engagement on Facebook is shockingly similar. If they were to go to the Pages to Watch section on their Facebook Insights Overview page, they would be able to see a direct comparison on how they performed that week. Each Facebook post I see has somewhat mediocre engagement but the numbers are so close – regardless of their differences in audience size. On Instagram, however, the difference is shockingly more clear.
Drybar is getting way more engagement, especially with their larger audience. From here, Living Proof might want to conduct some research as to why their content isn’t measuring up. Perhaps it’s the use of hashtags or blatant disregard of using emoji? In this case, Living Proof definitely needs to step it up to keep consumers thinking about their brand on Instagram. As Facebook starts to wane, they might want to consider focusing their SMM strategy to apps where their target audience frequents more often.
Question 3: What are people saying about my brand?
On social media, it is important for your company to listen and not just blurt out content whenever they feel like it. Every platform has ways for you to measure sentiment – namely through comments/replies and DMs. On platforms like Instagram and Twitter, look at metrics like mentions. On Facebook, look at the Community page and engagement reactions. Those little emoji reactions can give a quick read into how your audience is feeling about a specific piece of content. Searching social media platforms for specific keywords and hashtags, like your brand name or campaign, for example, is another great way to connect yourself to what people are saying.
Question 4: When is the best time to publish?
Finding the best time to publish is often a struggle for many brands. If you don’t have a tool that automatically suggests publishing time based off of your page, take a look at when your engagement spikes. This signals that this is when your audience is most active and hungry for your content. For Living Proof, their engagement probably spikes at noon, 6 PM, and 9PM. It’s during these times that their audience has meals or free time to peruse social. Looking at the Living Proof Facebook feed, they like to post their content at around 11 AM so it’s ready in the feeds of their audience for lunchtime.
Question 5: Which content does my audience enjoy the most?
This is an easy question to answer. They enjoy whichever content has the most engagement (likes, video views, saves, shares, comments, etc.). It’s a no brainer, right? While some audiences like some content over another, take into consideration the ALGORITHMS of each social platform. On visual platforms like Instagram, video trumps static image. Take a look at the difference in engagement in a video and static post advertising Living Proof’s new overnight hair mask.
Using the information from these posts, Living Proof should make more of an effort to create video tutorials on how to use their products. The comments on the video were way more positive and people wished that they had released the video FIRST so that they knew how to properly use the mask – one person cited that it was unclear how to use it and so they washed it out instead of letting it penetrate into the hair follicles overnight.
Question 6: Which social media network is the best for my brand?
The social media platform that is best for your brand is simply where your followers are. Perform research to find where your target audience and leads with the same demographics are congregating online. On your current accounts, check to see how your growth rate has been performing. If you are killing it in one area but are barely moving in another – make adjustments in your strategy so that you’re constantly serving the best content to the most concentrated audience. Also, look to see where your competitors are as this will give you the best chance at survival on the platform.
Currently, Living Proof’s social media presence looks like this:
Facebook – 459,960 Likes
Instagram – 224k Followers
Twitter – 46.4k
YouTube – Unlisted Amount of Subscribers
Purely based off of these numbers and the engagement we have discussed thus far, Living Proof should keep catering to its Facebook and Instagram audience – especially because you can host ads on both platforms due to their integration.
Question 7: How can I have a better performance on social media?
There are many ways to better a brand’s performance on social media. Most recently, influencers have become a HUGE way for companies to get their products and names out there. By leveraging an influencer’s audience, the company doesn’t have to spend resources and time building up a following of their own. The leads and conversions are more successful and the potential is high.
Another way to better your performance on social is to cater to the algorithms. As I mentioned above, you can’t ignore what the platforms WANT you to produce. Facebook will purposefully show your content to fewer people if it has too many words in an image or is too long of a video. Refine how you approach content and make sure you marry platform needs and customer wants in one post.
Lastly, you can better your performance through paid efforts. By integrating a paid strategy, your reach expands. Targeted posts also help to ensure that your content is reaching a person who would almost certainly throw a like your way. These paid efforts also help to identify opportunities. All in all, you can better your performance by being strategic, leveraging partnerships with influencers, and spending money on social the way you would for traditional media advertising.
After answering all these questions, what you need to do as a social media professional is to go out there and CAPTURE all the relevant data you can. From there UNDERSTAND why your results are as such and see where you can stretch yourself to make growth happen. Lastly, PRESENT what you’ve found to your leadership and stakeholders. The more you are able to find through SMA and metrics, the more you will be regarded as a strategic partner and not just a content-slinging rogue. And like any shampooing routine, be sure to REPEAT these actions frequently and with purpose as they separate the true social media professionals from the rest of the crowd.