Using Analytics to Guide Social Media Strategy

As social media marketing becomes an increasingly important part of a business’s strategy (and budget), tools for measuring engagement and analytics are more comprehensive than ever before. 

Most business owners and marketers understand why social media analytics matter, but many feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of data or simply don’t know how to make the tools they’re using work for them. In a survey from ClickZ, one-third of all marketers said data complexity is their biggest obstacle to using marketing technology more effectively, and two-thirds of all marketers said they don’t think their current measurement tools are accurately portraying the results of their campaigns.

This is a significant problem, not only because marketing analytics tools can be pricey, but also because social media is the single most powerful tool for driving online purchases (ranking higher even than company websites), and one of the top advertising tools for reaching Gen Z and Millennials. 

So how can you better understand your social media performance, maximize audience engagement and create more informed, effective content? Having the right tools makes a huge difference, but so does knowing what to measure. 

Deciding What Metrics Matter Most

In order to make sense of your social media analytics, you first need to understand your business’ goals and the role social media will play in achieving them. For example, if you want to drive traffic to your website, a post’s click-through rate will matter more than the number of likes it gets. If your goal is to increase engagement, you should prioritize metrics such as shares, replies and comments.

As you narrow down your list of social media metrics to the ones most relevant to your goals, it might be helpful to categorize analytics based on the four stages of the customer journey (like Eddie Shleyner does in this blog post from Hootsuite): 

  • Awareness: This stage includes metrics like impressions (how many people see a certain post), number of shares and audience growth rate (net new followers divided by total number of followers). 
  • Engagement: At this stage, focus on how many of those viewers interacted with your content. This includes metrics like applause rate (number of likes divided by number of impressions) and virality rate (number of shares divided by number of impressions). Depending on your specific business goals, it’s often better to have a smaller, more engaged audience than a large audience with poor engagement, so don’t get too discouraged by a small follower count! 
  • Conversion: This measures the efficacy of your content in driving action. It includes metrics like the click-through rate (number of clicks on a link divided by number of impressions) or conversion rate (number of people who take action on a page divided by the number of people who visit it). For paid social media ads, you can look at cost per click or cost per thousand impressions to make sure you’re using your advertising dollars most effectively.
  • Consumers: Once followers are converted to consumers, it’s time to understand how they feel about your brand, using tools like testimonials and reviews. 

It’s easy to get deep in the weeds with these numbers, but don’t be afraid to keep it simple, especially at first! Instead, focus on high level trends.

Using the Right Tools to Track Your Analytics

Once you have an idea of what you’re looking to measure, it’s time to find the software that will help you do that most effectively. 

If you’re just starting out, consider using the free, built-in analytics tools available on most social media platforms such as Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics. These, and other tools like them, offer plenty of helpful information about audience, engagement and more. 

But manually logging statistics from month to month or week to week takes time, so at some point, you may want to consider investing in analytics software that can provide more in-depth insight, create ready-made reports for you and track your analytics over time. Platforms like Hootsuite, Socialbakers, Buffer and Sprout Social could all be great options for you and your business. Or, check out this helpful list comparing the best analytics platforms based on price, capabilities and average ratings.

Letting Analytics Inform Your Content

As you start to notice trends in your data over time, you can use that information to develop more effective content. 

Analytics can help you understand who your followers are, what types of posts perform best, audience behaviors and more. Take that information into consideration as you build your social media strategy. 

You might also find that certain types of content perform better on one social media platform, or that different platforms help you achieve different goals. For example, it’s easier to drive website traffic on Facebook or Twitter — where you can link to your site directly in a post — instead of Instagram, where users have to go to your profile and click the link in your bio. Don’t be afraid to tailor your posts to the platform, or to concentrate your efforts on the platforms that perform best for your business. This chart from CoSchedule can help you think through the strengths and weaknesses of different social media. 

If you’re investing time and money into your business’ social media presence, analytics can help you understand how you’re doing and ensure your investments translate into actual business results. Digging into these analytics can feel overwhelming at first, but if you keep your business goals at the forefront, you’ll find your social media presence can drive brand awareness while building a more engaged community of followers. 

Whether you’re a seasoned social media marketer or are just starting out, we’d love to hear from you! Leave us a comment on Instagram letting us know what metrics your business is prioritizing in this season.