Social Media Analytics: The Complete Guide

It’s 2021 and some businesses still haven’t come to grips with social media analytics and how they can supercharge the effectiveness of their marketing efforts

Social Media Analytics: The Complete Guide

Social media marketing plays such a critical role in overall marketing success in 2021, and social media analytics tools are a critical source of strategic marketing information.

With so much consumer data being posted on social media every day, social listening tools have become a critical component in audience analysis, competitive research, and product research.

The core of social media analytics is the gathering and analyzing of marketing and audience data upon which you’ll base business decisions. It’s the only sure way to access insights that you can use to optimize your marketing efforts and even product strategy.

What Is Social Media Analytics?

Do you have an easy way to spot social media trends that are relevant to your space? Do you have a way to quantify the kind of ROI you’re bringing in with each campaign or post on different social media channels?

Do you know what your audience expects and wants from your content and messaging? How is your content perceived in comparison to your competitors? 

These are just a sample of the leading questions you’d ask to help answer the most important question: is your strategy working?

Social media analytics software is critical because it can answer every single one of the aforementioned questions. With the right software, a single platform can answer all of these questions for every social channel in an easy-to-understand way – no complex data analysis, just a clear presentation of what’s working, and how you can fix what’s not.

This all heralds back to a truth that all marketers understand: without measuring and analyzing your content and its performance, there’s no sustainable way to improve your results, or even put your results in the proper context needed to understand if they are good or bad. 

Social media marketers need a data-driven roadmap to signpost the path ahead so they know where to go and what to do – this is what every social media analytics solution aims to provide, to varying degrees of success.

The Power of AI Social Media Analytics in Your Hands

Despite playing such a fundamental role in performance and success, true social media analytics solutions still remain heavily underutilized. Many businesses are still failing to take advantage of these platforms, using only native tools that provide shallow performance metrics for each of their channels in isolation. These businesses miss out on a multitude of more in-depth metrics in addition to all of the data points and insights that are derived from contextualizing social media data across channels and across industries.

Insights must also be shared amongst stakeholders, and it can be a real grind to provide accurate and clear social media analytics reports without a tool to both extract and share data and insights from multiple disparate social channels.

CMOs must provide their teams with the right analytics tools – if they don’t, their business can fall further and further behind, especially as more and more of the competition starts to leverage the increase in consumer data being posted to social channels, and the corresponding advancements in social media marketing software. It’s time to get serious about analytics or be pushed out of the way.

For the rest of this guide, we’ll work from the standpoint that social media analytics are fundamental to the content marketing success of any business. We’ll be taking a closer look at exactly why this statement is true.

According to a Forrester study commissioned by Google, only 43% of firms have unified cross-platform analytics, which brings in the full customer experience with their website and app in one solution.  

That means that more than half of marketers are missing the means to achieve their number one objective. A good analytics tool is intuitive, easy to use, improves transparency, and processes and structure too so marketing activities and strategy become sustainable and scalable. 

There are even specific Instagram analytics tools and other specific platforms that help marketers drill down into those specific metrics.

In addition to undertaking daily tracking, monitoring, and analyzing of metrics and data trends, a good analytics solution also allows you to overview your social media performance, seeing where strategic opportunities exist, and where threats need to be nullified with adjustments to strategy.

Four Reasons Why Social Media Analytics Are Essential

Before we dive into the details of the specific metrics you’ll need to analyze, and how to interpret and make decisions based on these metrics, let’s take a look at four critical and universal use-cases for a social media analytics solution.

These use cases demonstrate why social media analytics is so crucial for brands, and every good analytics platform will be built and developed with these use cases in mind. 

1. Measure and prove ROI and marketing impact 

The bottom line to analytics is that they give you instant feedback about how your company is performing across social media channels and whether the strategy your teams are executing is effective. Overviewing performance KPIs is crucial to control and success of your social media campaigns.

If strategy isn’t working, then your data analysis will point you in exactly the right direction so you can make effective strategy tweaks before performance dips and begins to be a real problem. Catch any downward turns fast and remedy them right away.

Clear overviews also allow CMOs, or anyone across the organization, to rapidly and easily see the most important metrics and evaluate marketing performance really quickly and easily, so everyone’s working from the latest data.

It’s logical to seek to understand if the resources you’re investing in social media (for example, paid content promotion) are bringing in revenue – directly or indirectly. A full 61% of marketers still struggle to prove ROI from their marketing efforts.

Compare that to a 2021 Hootsuite social trends survey that found that 85% of organizations that integrated social media data into other systems expected to be able accurately prove their ROI. That shows just how crucial it is to get all of the pieces aligned.

The right tools are as important as the right method of calculation when it comes to ROI on social media. Here’s what to do for an easier life:

  • Add a Facebook tracking pixel to your site’s key pages, and any page linked to from your social channel. This allows you to accurately attribute conversions and actions to specific content or campaigns, even if the user converts days or weeks after first reading your content. If users don’t convert, the Facebook Pixel allows you to conduct re-marketing campaigns, targeting users who have already visited specific pages before but failed to take action.  
  • Add Google Analytics UTM parameters to your social ads’ URL to understand how much traffic and how many conversions your social media marketing activities are driving.
  • Socialbakers Ads Benchmarks help you measure your social media ROI in context by understanding how the return on Facebook ads (or Instagram ads) evolves across regions and industries over the course of a campaign, or any period of time you choose.
  • Socialbakers’ Paid Analytics allows you to quickly track all your campaigns and ads in one place so there’s no confusion around advertising campaign performance. Analyze entire campaigns, or individual ads, to save time and optimize budget. There’s so many moving parts within paid campaigns but this solution gives you maximum transparency and actionable insights.

2. Make better strategic and business decisions

Strong social media analytics will obviously provide marketing teams with data and insight that help them identify what’s working and what’s not when it comes to social media and content strategy. However, social analytics also provide crucial insights that help inform strategic decisions outside of marketing.

This holds more and more true every year, as the amount of data being posted to social media is steadily increasing year after year, as is our ability to extract useful insights from this data as technology improves. Here are some examples of how social media analytics can help improve key decision making both inside and outside of marketing: 

  • Social listening – The best social listening tools will help tremendously with competitive and audience analysis. Social listening is the process of analyzing and parsing the vast amounts of data posted to social channels every day, and automatically extracting useful insights relevant to one’s business.
    Social listening allows marketers and analysts to understand how audiences feel about their brand, product, or industry. These insights can help inform product decisions (e.g. “lots of people are complaining about this feature”), shed light on the interests and values of your demographic, and uncover trends relevant to your industry as they happen.
  • Respond to trends in a timely manner – Access real-time data so that you can rapidly act upon bigger trends and get the jump on competitors.
  • Minimize business risk – Data is there to signpost your strategic path and show you the right direction, so let data guide your decisions and help you make the best use of your resources and be led by your performance KPIs.

There is little room for emotion in your decisions – base your strategy on data. This will really save your team from wasting time on efforts that yield no worthwhile business outcome. Save resources and time for where you can make the most impact.

3. Compare your social media performance against competitors

What is the point in celebrating good performance if you have no idea whether it’s better than your competitors performance or how it looks set against average industry performances? It’s pure vanity to do so, and metrics that stand alone have no bearing on real success.

Context is so crucial, so to measure real success companies must compare themselves to competitors, and also to industry and regional performance averages.

Benchmarking always provides key insights and allows you to see how you stack up against your competition, or see how your performance looks against your industry’s or region’s averages.

You vs. Your Competitors; Win or Lose, You Need to Know the Data

4. Track marketing teams’ efficiency

Streamlined workflows are key to running a tight marketing crew, so being able to overview team efficiency and velocity is essential to guiding them in the right direction. Keep working velocity high and strictly no bottlenecks.This is especially true in areas like community management and online customer service where a good tool will allow you to measure key community management KPIs like response time and audience sentiment.

Businesses need to understand that the customer journey can be tricky to manage and in today’s world; one wrong step can spell disaster, or at least a social media crisis. Which, let’s face it, is a disaster.

Micro-management is a thing of the past, and with a good analytics solution teams can easily report on exactly the metrics their CMO wants to see, and from the other side, the CMOs can easily overview marketing operations, see crucial top-line data (or even granular), and easily spot trends that need further investigation by the marketing team.

Key Areas to Use Social Media Analytics

Many social media teams don’t know exactly which areas of their social media marketing can really benefit from analysis, so let’s have a look into exactly where you should be measuring, and why. Here are the key areas:

Audience analytics

Everything begins with your audience. Knowing your business’s target audience is crucial. It helps you build an effective, audience-first marketing strategy that helps you nurture your communities down the funnel towards converting.

Everything begins with your audience. Knowing your business’s target audience is crucial. It helps you build an effective, audience-first marketing strategy that helps you nurture your communities down the funnel and deliver great customer experiences.

According to a Gartner survey, 68% of customer experience projects will involve technology in 2021. That means you need the right tools to do proper analysis.

You must know what your customers want and how they respond to your efforts in attracting them to your product/service.

In the past, marketing leaders didn’t have too much insight into their digital audiences. That’s because audience data was scattered across individual social media platforms and on the web. It took an experienced analyst to bring it together, map out personas, and report on them to the CMO.

On top of that each audience on each channel is different with different audiences, and there wasn’t an easy way to connect all that audience data and segment audiences effectively in a sustainable way.

Quickly Create a Marketing Persona Based On Your Audience Data

With a good analytics tool, in tandem with huge advances in AI technology, it’s easy to analyze and create a customer persona in the click of a button.

This is something like having a superpower and will give you more accurate personas that are ready to use in seconds.

As a result, marketers are able to instantly see who their digital audiences are, their ideal customer, and ensure that their broader marketing strategy is aligned with the personas’ characteristics, interests, and behaviors. They can also leverage the insights to reach new audiences and create many more business opportunities.

The important thing here is to monitor how your audiences evolve. In 2020, the coronavirus pandemic changed a lot of people’s behaviors, and that could be tracked throughout the year to see how audience behavior developed.

Tracking those changes will allow you to keep your content, and your strategy, current and effective. Indeed, having the right strategy has an immediate benefit: saving advertising budget. The better targeted and personalized your advertising is, the less it will cost you, and knowing your audience is key to lowering cost per click and getting your ad served more frequently.

These tactics are all useful, indeed essential, but the bottom line is performance. A marketer must ask themselves what good social media performance looks like and whether their own performances are getting better or worse over time.

The next question is, “Can I measure my performance levels as they rise and fall?” The answer is yes, you can and you must.

For a really in-depth look at audience analytics, why they matter, and how to do it, see our audience insights report.

Performance analytics

Measuring your own performance is key to understanding where your strategy is working and bringing good ROI, and where it needs some fixes.

If you’re like other businesses, you’ve significantly increased your social media marketing budget over the past year. According to Socialbakers data, digital spend on Facebook and Instagram increased by 56.2% YoY in 2020.

Social media ad spend in 2020 vs. 2019

If you’ve invested more in social media marketing, you naturally expect to see increased ROI, but you need to prove your performance’s impact on ROI. You don’t need to get too granular early on, and you don’t need to know how many people liked or shared your latest Facebook post. What you need is a more high-level overview of bigger trends.

Key performance metrics to track:

  • An overview of interactions across platforms and over time in order to understand if the content you’re publishing is effectively engaging your audience.
  • Look at both the cumulative number of interactions and the number of interactions per 1,000 followers to see how big of a share of your community is responding to your messaging.
  • Zoom in on the number of click-throughs on your posts to learn how effectively you’re driving traffic from social to web.
  • Monitor your follower growth over time to see if your audience is growing as a result of your teams’ social media efforts. You want to grow your customer base, so it’s important that you consistently gain new followers.

Again, it’s really important to track all these metrics over time to spot bigger trends, understand the results of your organization’s social media strategy, and see what return you’re getting from your investment.

Competitive analytics

Your business might have had it’s most successful year ever, but if all your competitors had an even better year, there’s not too much to celebrate.

To get a better understanding of your performance metrics, you need to view them in a competitive context – that’s where competitive analytics and benchmarking comes in.

Performance needs context, so learn where you stand.

Nearly every CMO is interested in improving their performance in two key areas: effectiveness (produce the desired result) and efficiency (reducing waste), but often they don’t know by how much do they need to improve?

One way to assess your businesses’ performance and to understand what changes you need to make is benchmarking.

Comparing your company’s social media performance to the competitors is the best way of assessing the effectiveness of your teams’ work and strategy. It also enables you to learn if your performance and ROI are successful in relation to the market.

If there’s a specific company you want to get ahead of, you can run a head-to-head analysis of your performance. But you can also compare yourself to multiple competitors to see how you stack up.

It’s best to run competitive analyzes regularly to keep a close eye on what your competition is up to, and advise your teams on what strategic steps they can take to help your business stay a frontrunner.

With modern social media analytics, especially if they’re AI-powered, you can use a benchmarking solution that lets you see your competitors’ performance based on industry, country and region. You can see their strategy and easily get ahead of them.

It’s easy for businesses to neglect this side of analytics but again, they should remember that even if they aren’t doing competitive analysis, their competitors probably are.

While 2020 was certainly an uncertain time for marketing budgets, Socialbakers data showed that digital spend increased a lot at the end of the year. That was in line with the Gartner survey, which found that 60% of marketers expected customer experience budgets to increase in 2020.

Additionally, the Hootsuite survey found that marketers plan to support the platforms that they’ve been most comfortable with, and have seen the most results on, over the past few years.

A lot of money is being spent, so it’s absolutely critical that businesses know the effectiveness of their social media ad spending. You need to be able to make efficient investments and ensure that every dollar you spend on social media counts.

It’s all too easy to waste time and resources on promoting content which performs badly if you have no idea what paid content your audience will respond well to.

Some businesses use AI-driven tools that accurately predict which content to put budget behind for the best results – and early adopters are seeing great results with this.

Paid social media advertising can seem very complex with so many moving parts, and reporting on ad spend can be complicated with so many channels, accounts and profiles. So to keep an eye on spend, it’s vital to bring all your channels into one place before you start measuring.

Social media ads dashboard
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Some basic metrics to keep your eye on are:

  • Number of ads
  • Total spend
  • Clicks
  • Click-through rate
  • Cost per click
  • Cost per engagement
  • Cost per action
  • Cost per purchase
  • Campaign ROI

These KPIs will show you exactly where your money is going, and how much you’re paying for different aspects of your advertising campaigns and how successful your efforts are.

To get a more complete picture of your advertising spend, you should compare yourself to your competitors’ spend, and also to the industry, region, or country average. You’ll be able to see if your advertising budget is sufficient to stay competitive, and assess where your ad strategy needs to be optimized to increase its efficiency and reportable impact. But the data must be current, it’s not enough to rely on monthly reports.

Monitoring your paid social media metrics – both owned and competitive – is most effective and helpful when done on a regular basis. After all, your company is likely running multiple paid campaigns, busy holiday seasons come and go, and your spending, as well as results, might fluctuate.

It will help you spot important trends – for example, you’re overpaying for clicks – then adjust your budget accordingly.

You can even spot opportunities to make a real impact on your share of voice by spending more on targeted ads when you notice the market is spending less.

For businesses working with agencies, paid analytics provides real transparency into where their budget is going, and what kind of results they’re getting for their money. Agencies can effortlessly report almost real-time campaign data to clients on, with key data visualized.

For more, explore our detailed step-by-step guide on how to get the most from your paid advertising.

Save Your Budget (And Your Time) With Effective Paid Ad Campaigns

Customer service and community management analytics

According to a Forrester report, digital customer service interactions will increase by 40% in 2021. That means increased traffic to platforms, and you simply can’t underestimate the power of well-functioning social media customer service.

That’s why you need to ensure that your teams are doing an excellent job handling customer requests. How? Look into your community management teams’ key performance metric – the average response time – and see what it looks like for particular team members and platforms.

Most customers on Instagram and Facebook expect a business to answer them within 30 minutes. But the average time for a business reply on Facebook in 2020? One hour and 56 minutes.

By monitoring your community management teams’ performance metrics, you can ensure that your business communication is appropriate and timely. This, in turn, translates to enhanced brand image and stronger, lasting relationships with your customers and prospects.

In fact, with the digital customer journey being as complex as it is, having a good analytics solution is effectively the only way to measure and manage all the complex processes and timings a community management team must undertake.

Without a supporting analytics platform, teams and managers will rapidly have no idea how many customer queries they get, how long they take to answer, or, indeed, if they have answered them at all. Things can get messy fast.

The answer is to measure every metric that matters to your customer care and then monitor them – it’s the only way to systematically improve.

It’s so important to nurture your audience across all digital touchpoints which means keeping an eye on how fast your team answers and solves customer queries, and how audience sentiment fluctuates around your brand.

It’s also crucial to track sentiment, as it’s such an important aspect of customer care, but there’s more about that in the sentiment analysis section a bit further down.

Influencer analytics

Hiring influencers can be pricey, so make sure that you spend budget collaborating with the right partners on the right platforms, because, for example, how you work with TikTok influencers may be different from other platforms.

You need data to verify influencer choice, and only work with influencers whose performance metrics are high around your key topics. Tracking influencers’ key performance metrics will help you make the right decision and make the most of influencer marketing.

Social media influencer dashboard
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Influencer marketing should be measured just like other parts of marketing. Analytics help you organize every part of your influencer campaigns – from finding the right influencers to measuring how much their campaigns helped your business. But which influencer metrics should you track? Here are some key metrics:

  • Interactions per 1,000 followers will help you understand if they’re effectively generating engagement, no matter the total size of their following.
  • Audience size to estimate reach. Reach alone is not enough if the influencer doesn’t have the right audience, which is why it’s crucial to measure their key metrics before deciding to collaborate.
  • Number of posts, to see how active they are. You should also check the brands the influencer has worked with in the past to verify their authenticity and get a better understanding of the verticals they’re working in.
  • Have a close look at any past collaborations the influencer has done, and verify that they have a business license. Influencer fraud is on the rise and canny businesses protect themselves by doing their due diligence. See more in this guide on vetting influencers before signing any contracts.

Sentiment analysis of your profiles and ad campaigns

If sentiment is not measured, businesses run the risk of alienating their social media audience, and severely damaging their brand perception in the eyes of customers and potential customers alike.

That’s why it’s essential to constantly monitor upturns and downturns in sentiment – you don’t want to turn your fans off, and with sentiment analysis tool, especially an AI-powered tool, you can catch negative sentiment fast and analyze why that sentiment arose.

Most businesses post content to their social media profiles daily or every few days, and analyzing audience sentiment is absolutely vital to maintaining positive fan growth, interactions, engagement rate, and further down the line, conversions.

Social teams run regular content to attract and educate their audience, and get them to enter the sales funnel. It’s therefore essential to treat your social media profiles as long running campaigns, so of course sentiment should be closely measured.

It’s going to allow you to make great decisions about content and content strategy based on audience data. Savvy businesses also run sentiment analysis on their advertising campaigns.

We’ve all seen campaigns which bombed very publicly. Disastrous campaigns where the business completely misjudged the type of content their audience likes, had their brand dragged all over social media, attacked from left and right, then drowned in a social media crisis of their own making. Sound like fun? Not really.

With a good AI-powered tool that avoids time-consuming manual analysis and human error, you can analyze all your campaigns in seconds. Many businesses run multiple campaigns together so analyzing campaigns can be really tricky with so many moving parts to keep an eye on. This is where sentiment analysis comes into its own.

The Socialbakers platform allows you to label all your campaign content individually, so you can break the data down almost any way you want to compare and contrast sentiment with different types of format or audience demographics. You can analyze campaigns or even individual ads. Highly, highly useful.

Remember, everything begins with your audience and sentiment analysis is the most fundamental social media analysis you can run. Once brand perception has been damaged it’s very difficult indeed to fix, and that’s why it’s imperative that you know if your audience is happy with you and your content or not.

Sentiment analysis for customer service

Sentiment analysis allows you to track online mentions in real time, so it’s really easy to see if a potential PR crisis is starting to take shape. Businesses can rapidly identify any spike in negative sentiment, and can immediately investigate and take action to defuse.

Word spreads fast on social media, and negative comments get the most attention and spread the fastest. Failing to deal with unsatisfied customers is risky; they may share their anger on a wider scale on their social media accounts. That’s something you want to avoid at all costs.

Remember, you can filter by individual sentiment, happy, sad, or angry, decide upon your priorities, and begin soothing your audience wherever it’s needed most. However, you manage your sentiment analysis, the key is to nip negative sentiment in the bud early, and protect your brand.

How to Track Your Key Performance Insights Quickly and Easily

It’s important to have the right views over your data. OK, it’s more than important. Customizable dashboards help you see only the metrics that matter to you at any particular moment. Dashboards join up the dots for you and deliver the insights that are crucial to strategy.

Imagine this: you export data from Facebook, Instagram, wherever and analyze it all separately, working around data gaps, trying to put the jigsaw puzzle together and figure out what the heck is going on. Then you try to create a report that clearly visualizes the key data insights, the ones that are going to impact strategy. Tough times.

Or, imagine this: All your data is pulled onto your dashboard and unified. The dots are connected for you and the story the data is telling you is neatly translated and delivered in shareable, presentation-ready reports. Sweet times.

Social media performance dashboard
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With dashboards you can easily view all of your metrics in one spot. You have all the insights at your fingertips in real-time. Marketing teams can stop worrying about messy or incomplete reporting, and instead set up automated, visual reports to share with higher-ups so everyone’s working from the same page.

The Takeaway

Social media analytics are crucial to social media marketing. There’s no point in marketing if you cannot see whether you’re doing well or not.

Measurement and analysis enables you to prove your impact, constantly improve performance, optimize budget, create strategy and form genuine relationships with your audience that will nurture them through every touchpoint on the way to purchase.

If you’re a content marketer the message is clear: track, measure, analyze, and make sure you have the tools to do it.Need even more detail? Read this comprehensive list of social media metrics that matter.

Copywriter at Socialbakers

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