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For social media managers, social media analytics is both a blessing and a curse.
On the one hand, social metrics used well can help to measure and even optimize performance. On the other, it’s difficult to determine which metrics really matter and what the best way it to translate these metrics into KPIs that the rest of the business can buy into.
So, to help you work out how to use analytics for your business and how to make sure your analytics tools give you the data you need, we’ve put together this short guide for publishers that runs through the basics that every social media manager should know. It’s adapted from our Complete Guide to Social Media Analytics, a comprehensive breakdown of this evolving area of social media marketing.
How can I use social media analytics?
The use cases for social media analytics are pretty wide ranging with companies using this kind of data for everything from consumer trends research to marketing campaign optimization. That said, there are some key use cases that may apply to publishers more than other brands:
Analyzing and Optimizing Social Performance
Media organizations are some of the most prolific users of social media of any type of company, with official accounts and the journalists working at these organizations producing posts at all hours of the day. Being able to measure the impact of these social media efforts effectively helps to optimize performance. This is where social media analytics can help. Beyond simple tracking of engagement metrics which can give some idea of which stories/posts are resonating with your audience, more advanced analytics can actually show you, for example, how certain posts go viral:
The virality map above shows not only where a post spread after being published but also which people and publications were instrumental in spreading the story.
Social media analytics is also a great way to see what your competitors are up to on social. Although social media analytics platforms don’t offer click-through rates, for competitors they can give you a whole host of other information that you can’t get from analytics provided by the networks themselves.
You can instantly see what kind of content your competitors are having success with and use that information for your own social strategy.
A final key point for social media managers. In the end, it comes down to how much traffic social is delivering to your actual website and the actions your readers take once they’ve arrived. Although social media analytics doesn’t provide website data, what some platforms (including Talkwalker, where I work) can do is integrate your Google Analytics data with you social data in one place.
What does this mean? It give you a very simple way to keep track of the impact your social efforts have on actually bringing people to your website and makes the process of reporting the impact of social media activity much easier.
Social media analytics makes it much easier to jump on trends and breaking news stories as they happen. This is because social data — from social networks as well as online news sites, blogs and forums — are tracked in real time. They key function you’d be looking for here is automated alerts as you don’t want to spend your whole day looking at your analytics platform. Instead, you can create alerts on certain topics of interest to make sure you don’t miss the boat on a sudden news event or uncover a new trend that may be flying under the radar. These are usually sent direct to your inbox.
More advanced platforms will also be able to detect whether an increase in activity is due to usual surges (i.e. time of day, regular for your account) or is irregular and therefore something that requires more of your attention. This usage of social media analytics can really extend beyond use by social media managers to journalists and even editors who need to stay on top of key developments 24 hours a day.
Uncovering audience interests and trends
Understanding the interests and needs of your audience is critical in any business but for publishers it is a particular business imperative. Social media analytics gives a unique, unsolicited insight into what people care about today, helping social media managers, journalists and editors get a deeper insight into the issues and trends people care about at any given moment.
During the 2016 U.S. election debates, for example, we used the Talkwalker social media analytics platform to identify the issues that resonated with social media users in real-time which a variety of news outlets then used to provide a different perspective on public opinion to traditional polls and surveys.
Analyzing social data over a longer term also provides publishers with a broader view of the trends and issues to watch out for. One of Talkwalker’s clients, Marie Claire, uses talkwalkerNow, our specialized trend identification tool to find hot topics being discussed in the fashion space so they can put trending content in front of readers before competing publications.
What metrics can I track using social media analytics?
You can track media from traditional publishers and from the countless social media platforms that exist. Most dedicated social media analytics tools are able to crawl many different types of sites, including forums, news sites, blogs, review sites and more. Plus, the major social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, YouTube, LinkedIn, Weibo, etc.
Exactly which metrics you can track for each type of network or site depends both on the social media analytics platform you are using and the network in question. Here’s a quick breakdown of what is usually trackable.
The following metrics would be available both for your own accounts and any other accounts you wish to monitor (including competitors).
- Basic – Retweets, likes, shares, replies, comments, types of content (video, images, links), audience activity peaks, devices used to send tweets, video views, reach (based on followership numbers), most active/engaged influencers, sentiment.
- Advanced – Post virality (how a post was shared across the internet), trending speed (the rate at which a post is being shared), demographics (gender, occupation, interests).
Blogs, News Sites, Forums
- Basic – unique monthly visitors, shares, comments, sentiment, reach (based on unique monthly visitors)
- Advanced – Post virality, trending speed
If you’d like to see a full breakdown of all the metrics provided by the networks themselves for your own accounts only, you’ll find a full section on this in our complete guide.
How to choose a social media analytics tool
There are several important things to remember when choosing social media analysis tools. In order of importance, key considerations are:
Purpose – How are you planning to use social media analytics? For measuring social media performance? Trend identification? Newsjacking? All of the above? Working out exactly what you need social media analytics for will help you choose the features and price band you should be aiming for.
Scale – Once you’ve worked out what you want to use social media analytics for, the next big question is scale. Do you need social media analytics across your organization in multiple teams or will you just be using it within your marketing team? Will you be looking for keywords that generate large quantities of results (e.g. smartphone), or will you be looking at more targeted words and phrases? Do you need to monitor two topics or 200? Do you need data from a wide variety of sources or is sample data sufficient? These questions can be difficult to answer without first having a demo of a few different platforms. The reasons these questions are so important is the eventual price of a platform is dependent on at least a few of these factors.
Features – At this point, you may want to start focusing on specific features that you need. Do you need a platform that gives you a lot of flexibility to create your own searches using Boolean operators? Typically, you will need this if you plan to go beyond analyzing brand/competitor mentions. Do you want to be able to analyze images as well as text? Do you need historic data or is current data sufficient? Do you need hands-on support to help you get started? Do you need to be able to create reports quickly and without hassle? These are just a few key considerations to ensure you get all the functionality you need to make your investment worthwhile.
Price – Often it will be the cost that’s at the top of people’s lists but as outlined above, it’s important to go through the first three items first, otherwise you’ll end up having to purchase another social media analytics tool on top of your original choice. As a general rule, a significantly lower price usually means fewer features, lower data volume/quality and less support.
So there you have it. A quick breakdown of social media analytics for social media managers. I hope it helps to demystify how, when and why publishers should use social media analytics.
François Georges is an online marketing specialist at Talkwalker.