The Complete Guide to Social Media Analytics
How can you as a business or as an individual, get value from the vast amount of information published online every day and across social networks?
Social media analytics - that's how! Without it, you'll be unable to get a clear idea of brand awareness, online reputation, and the success or failure of your online marketing and social initiatives. Used well, social media analytics will reveal new opportunities and insights that often remain hidden in the noisy world of social media. This guide will be a resource to help you understand exactly what social media analytics is, how it can be used, and how to go about choosing the right social media analytics tool for all your needs.
Along with our guide, we're giving you our Social Media Reporting Template. It's already loaded up with KPIs so you can tie social to business goals; there's also a handy glossary to refer to.
The guide is broken down into multiple chapters so you can jump to the information you want to find. It covers all aspects of social media analytics from basic questions like what it is and how it works, to how it can be integrated with other software, and how companies are currently using social media analytics.
What the Experts are Saying About our Guide...
Kane Miller | Entrepreneur | www.yardyum.com
Alex Honeysett | Brand & Marketing Strategist | www.alexhoneysett.com
Sarah Miles | Marketing Specialist | www.yabbermarketing.com
Wolston Lobo | Social Media/SEO | www.itwc.ca
Lisa Buyer | Author, Speaker, Prof | socialprchat.com
This chapter will look at some of the initial questions asked by newcomers coming across the term 'social media analytics' for the first time.
How would you define social media analytics?
Social media analytics refers to the practice of using a variety of data and metrics to analyze what's taking place on social media. In many cases, social media analytics also covers analysis of online media channels such as news websites, blogs and forums.
How does social media analytics work?
Social media analytics platforms use crawlers (in a similar way to Google conducting a search) to first collect public information from across the internet. The most common system would be for the user of the platform to enter a search query, which the platform will then use to find every instance of this query across the internet. This usually includes social media channels such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook but also news websites, blogs, forum, and review sites. Some platforms will also allow for integration with gated databases such as online academic journals or even databases of offline content depending on the restrictions or partnerships the platform has.
More advanced platforms such as Talkwalker, can analyze images shared online. This usually involves artificial intelligence that's capable of recognizing brand logos for example, within an image. You can read more about this subject in our report on image recognition and social media analytics.
Once the crawlers have collected the information, the next step is organization.
The information can be categorized using a variety of different filters such as media types, country of origin, language, sentiment, content type, and more. It’s at this stage that the information starts to become useful as you now have a means of understanding where mentions of your brand are coming from, the sentiment behind, and when they peaked.
Next is the analytics. Once the information has been collected and filtered a wide variety of data visualizations are used to help users of the platform process the information.
This can be simple graphs and pie charts as shown below...
(The above graph shows the number of times a particular brand or keyword has been mentioned on each media channel (left) and the share of mentions across these different media types (right).)
Or, more complex visualizations such as this virality map which shows how a post, article or blog spreads across the internet.
Topic clouds that show terms linked to a particular keyword are also common, with various ways to display the results:
These are a few of the key analytics/metrics available but you can find more detailed information in our comprehensive social data metrics guide.
Finally, to get maximum value out of social media analytics it can be correlated with other business metrics including website conversion, sales figures, polling numbers, depending on how you plan to use this data.
Learn more with a free demo of the Talkwalker social media analytics platform
Essentially, without accurate social media analytics, it's a struggle to fully understand what's being said about your brand, products/services and industry online, and accurately tracking the performance of marketing and PR initiatives will be difficult. Social media analytics also gives you as a brand, access to what amounts to the world’s largest focus group – the social media and online public - constantly discussing and commenting on new products, TV shows, bad customer service - the list goes on and on. These insights can be collected and analyzed in real-time, meaning you can react quickly to new trends and potential risks.
Here are a few specific things that make social media analytics platforms stand out:
- To understand your own social media activity on one channel, Twitter analytics, Facebook analytics and other platforms' inbuilt analytics tools are usually enough. However, to see how your brand or how a trend is being received and discussed across the internet (and across the world) you need a social media analytics platform.
- Another key element is being able to monitor the activity of your competitors. Most channel-specific analytics platforms will only allow you to look at data about your own account. Social media analytics platforms allow you to compare performance against your competition and benchmark.
- In terms of reputation, traditional media monitoring provides a fairly comprehensive view of reputation across television, newspapers and other traditional media. However, you need a social media analytics platform to be able to understand how your brand is being perceived across social networks, blogs and forums. More advanced social media analytics platforms will also allow you to integrate media monitoring data with social media analytics data.
- Platforms that offer image recognition technology give you a way to understand how brand assets like your logo are being used online. Up to 80% of images online featuring a brand logo don’t mention the brand name in the text, image recognition is the only way of getting a clear picture of your brand visibility in photos and images.
There are several ways social media analytics can be used, depending on what you want to track and measure. Here are some of the most common ways businesses and other organizations are currently using social media analytics.
- Monitoring and analyzing online reputation
- Analyzing and optimizing performance of social media initiatives (e.g. marketing campaigns)
- Researching trends for market research purposes
- Identifying key touch points along the customer journey
Here's a quick breakdown of some of the key metrics:
- Mentions - How often a particular word, phrase or sentence is mentioned across social media and online.
- Engagement - How much engagement a post or a post surrounding a particular keyword receives ((retweets/likes on Twitter, likes/shares/comments on Facebook, likes/comments on Instagram, shares of news and blog articles on social media).
- Sentiment - Sentiment towards your brand, industry, social page, or competitors.
- Virality – The speed at which a post is being shared and how it's spreading online.
- Visual mentions – The number of times brand logos appear in images and photos posted online and on social.
- Share of Voice – The proportion of discussion online about your brand, a trend or topics compared to similar topics.
(Example of share of discussion of complaints from airline customers on social media.)
In this chapter we're going to talk about the different social networks and online channels that can be monitored by a social media analytics platform and which social media metrics can be tracked on each network.
Which networks can I track with a social media analytics tool?
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 site, including forums, news sites, blogs, review sites, and more. Plus, the major social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, YouTube, etc.
A platform such as Talkwalker is able to track many networks including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Google+, LinkedIn, Mixcloud, Flickr, Foursquare, Soundcloud, Vimeo, Weibo. Plus, magazines, news agencies, newspapers, press releases, TV, radio, online news, blogs, and forum.
What engagement metrics are available for each social network?
What you can track depends on the social media measuring tools you’re using. For instance, social media platforms, on the whole, have inbuilt social network analytics tools. Analytics for social media vary between social networks, so choosing one social media analytics tool to track all your social networks simultaneously, will usually be more efficient and bring more valuable results. The following is an overview of the major social media networks’ inbuilt analytics tools.
Facebook page analytics show you performance of your posts and behavior of your fans. You’ll be able to determine:
- The best time of day to post.
- The best day of the week to post.
- The most popular type of content.
Overview of Facebook Insights
You’ll be able to see a general overview of your Facebook page that covers your audience and the performance of your posts. Data can be taken from one day, the previous seven days, or the last 28 days. You can drill-down further for more high-level stats.
- Likes – Choose a time period and view your total page likes, including organic, paid, and unlikes.
- Where page likes happened – Where your likes are coming from. When someone likes a page, Facebook recommends other pages to like.
- Reach – Post engagement over time to find out what content performs well.
- Page views – You can learn which parts of your page are working and which are not, such as About, Photos, Home, etc. You’ll also find out where your traffic is coming from.
- Posts – Discover how many fans viewed your page each day and what time of day they were online.
- People – Identify your fans’ demographic, including location, men vs women, and their language.
LinkedIn Company Page Analytics provide metrics and trends about your company page. These can only be viewed by administrators of the page. Data can be found under three tabs:
- Updates – Who the post was sent to, sponsored or not, and how many times updates are shown to members, clicks on content, company name, or logo. The number of likes, comments, and shares of each update. Followers you gained. And, engagement; the number of interactions plus clicks and followers acquired, divided by the number of impressions.
- Reach – Trend on how many times your updates were seen organically and paid, on a daily basis.
- Engagement – Number of times members clicked, liked, commented, or shared your organic or sponsored posts, during a specified time period.
- Type – Total number of members following your page plus, organic and acquired followers.
- Follower demographics – Breakdown of your followers in types of data including seniority, industry, job function, company size.
- Follower trends – How the number of your followers has changed over a specified time period.
- How you compare – The number of your followers compared to other companies.
- Page views – How many times your page was viewed.
- Career page clicks – How many times viewers clicked the element of your careers’ page.
- Unique visitors – How many members visited your page. Similar to page views, but removes duplicate visits to a single page.
- Visitor demographics – A breakdown of who’s visiting your page based on follower demographics.
Twitter Analytics gives you a 28-day overview of your performance on Twitter. The most important stats you’ll find are:
- Followers – How many people following your account.
- Impressions – How many times your tweets are seen.
- Engagements – Retweets, mentions, replies, favourites, any other interactions.
The first level of analytics is an overview of your activity over the last 28 days.
- Top tweet by earned impressions
- Top mention by earned engagements
- Top media tweet by earned impressions
- Top follower with their follower total
- How many tweets
- Total impressions
- Profile visits
- Total mentions
- New followers
Continue scrolling down the page and you’ll find the previous 28 days with the same stats, giving you a comparison. It’s an endless page so keep scrolling for more information. You can even find detailed information about your followers including their main language, interests, household income, buying styles, and more.
Google+ Insights is simple as it only provides the basics. For deeper insights such as referrals and conversion rates, Google Analytics should be used. Google+ Insights has three dashboards that let you view data about your audience. Each can be filtered and set for seven days, 30, 90, or all time.
The amount of reach you’re getting across Google+ and Google search.
- Views – The number of impressions, i.e., how many times your page has been visible in a viewer’s stream.
- Post reach – Similar to views but with more details about the people you’ve reached, i.e., Google+ followers, Google+ non-followers, and Gmail.
- Actions on posts – What and how many actions on your posts: total actions, +1s, comments, and shares.
- Recent posts – A list of you posts, most recent first. You can choose which metric to show for each post.
- Average actions by post type – How many actions you get on average, for four types of post: test, link, photo, and video.
- New followers – How many new followers you’ve received in a specified time period.
- Followers by country – Number of followers for each country.
- Gender & age – Data can be isolated by male, female, or other.
With YouTube Channel Analytics, you can monitor the performance of your channel and videos, find where your traffic is coming from, and find which locations are working best for you. There are also earnings reports showing which of your ads are driving revenue. Audience retention graphs display which elements of your videos are working and which aren’t. You can even find out when a viewer rewinds and re-watches a video, fast-forwards, or bounces away.
- Overview is a detailed summary of how you’ve been performing for the last 28 days. You’ll find demographic insights about your audience and a snapshot of your performance metrics, including watch time, views, and earnings. Engagement metrics include comments, shares, likes, dislikes, and favourites.
- Your Realtime report gives you performance data for your last five published videos. You’ll see two graphs with hour-by-hour and minute-by-minute stats; referring to the local time zone of the person viewing your video.
There's a lot more available from Youtube so this is just a summary of some of the sections you'll find.
- Earnings report – All analytics linked to earnings related to your YouTube channel.
- Ad Performance report – Impressions and revenue from ads aired on your YouTube videos.
- Watch Time report – Detailed breakdown of audience behavior and activity when watching a video.
Pinterest Analytics shows you what people like about your profile and what they choose to save from your website. You’ll also be able to find data about your audience, learning their likes and dislikes.
- Pins – Daily average number of pins that happened from your website.
- Pinners – Daily average number of people who pinned from your website.
- Repins – Daily average number of how many times content from your site was repinned.
- Repinners – Daily average number of how many people did the repining.
- Impressions – Daily average number of times your pins showed up in main and board feeds, or was in search results.
- Reach – Daily average number of people who saw your pins.
- Clicks – Daily average number of clicks to your website that came from Pinterest.
- Visitors – Daily average number of people who visited your website from Pinterest.
- Most recent – The most recent 100 pins from your website.
- Most repined – You can choose either one specific day, the last seven days, or the last 14 days. You’ll be shown the 100 most repinned pins in your chosen time period.
- Most clicked – You can choose either one specific day, the last seven days, or the last 14 days. You’ll be able to see what pins or images are driving the most traffic.
Instagram Analytics provides data about who your followers are, when they’re online, and how many people looked at your posts.
Follower demographic analytics
- Location can be by country, or narrowed down to city. Time zone information being useful so you know what time is best for posting.
- Gender and age also shows how many followers you have, plus new ones gained.
View data on impressions, reach, website clicks, and follower activity.
- Impressions are the total number of times all your posts have been seen
- Reach is the number of unique accounts that have seen any of your posts
- Website clicks are the number of accounts that have clicked on the link in your profile
- Follower activity shows you the most popular times of day that your followers are online and commenting. You can view by hours or days, and sort by a typical day or by a day of the week. New followers can also be tracked hourly and daily.
You can sort by the most popular posts for each of the above Insight categories, over a 7-day or 30-day period.
What Does a Dedicated Social Media Analytics Platform Cover?
Yes, social media platforms offer pretty detailed analytics of their own network, some more so than others. But there are key reasons why you'll need a social media analytics platform on top of this.
The most important of these is that with the analytics that social media networks provide you can usually only look at accounts that belong to you. If you want to benchmark performance against competitors or get deeper insights into an influencer you're working with, the data provided by social networks is limited. By contrast, social media analysis tools allow you to monitor any public social channel as you would your own.
Another benefit of social media analytics tools is that if you own several social media accounts, trawling through each inbuilt analytics tool is time-consuming. Comparison of stats is difficult, not always accurate, and it's likely to involve a degree of manual work.
A dedicated social media analytics tool offers features that track across social media and online:
Watching your competitors with competitive benchmarking – You’ll be able to see when and what they’re posting, followers gained, engagement, customer responses and interactions.
Custom dashboards – Build your own dashboards so you can watch all your accounts and those of your competitors.
Central analytics dashboard – Save time and money with one dashboard showing stats and metrics for all your social media accounts. Metrics can include performance tracking, ROI, ad performance, comparison graphs, twitter hashtag analytics, and campaign monitoring. It'll be easier to see patterns that may be difficult to find if you’re using separate analytics for all your accounts.
Customer care/support – Track and optimize customer service interactions. Monitor customer issues, recruitment, etc.
Downloadable reports – Share reports across your company.
Content optimization – Track content metrics for insights into what content is generating most engagement. Are you posting the right content on the wrong social network? Are you posting at the wrong time, on the wrong day? By using a single social media analytics tool and monitoring all your social networks simultaneously, you’ll find patterns and be able to measure data that help answer these questions and more.
Identify influencers – Finding the accounts and people that engage with your content most frequently means you can reach out and build relationships with influencers in your industry.
If you are looking to track multiple social media accounts simultaneously, a specialist social media analytics platform will save you time and provide you with more valuable and detailed data.
Social media analytics is all about measurement. This can mean measuring the performance of your own social channels, marketing campaigns and PR activity, but also that of your competitors and other brands. Wherever there is measurement, there is also reporting. Did we reach our goals? How can we show the impact of our activities in a relevant way? This chapter will show you exactly how social media analytics will help.
Can I benchmark my social media performance against my competitors?
Yes, and it’s vital that you do.
You can find and use strategic information such as how they’re positioning their products on the market. What messaging they’re using and how their audience is reacting and commenting. You’ll have metrics that help you better position your products and services, exploiting gaps in the market. Check out their audience segmentation. Is it a segment that you can target?
(Example of competitive benchmarking on social media between activities of major airlines.)
Can I use a social media analytics tool for reporting?
Yes, using a dedicated social media analytics tool that offers customizable dashboards means that you’ll be able to show all the important data and stats to prove your social media ROI. Many platforms come with inbuilt social media reporting tools so it’s important to decide what you want to report and how you'd like it to be presented.
Decide on the purpose of your social media report, identify your goals, and what you’re trying to show. You’ll be able to produce a regular report to demonstrate your brand awareness campaign, or your competitors’ performance. You can then optimize content according to what’s working for your competitors. Successes and failure of product launches and marketing campaigns/events can also be monitored.
(Example of a simple reporting template with multiple output options.)
There are several important things to remember when choosing social media analysis tools. In order of importance, key considerations are:
- Purpose – How do you plan to use social media analytics. For measuring social performance, PR monitoring, product insights? 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 the scale of your needs. Will you be looking to use social media analytics across your business in multiple departments or will you just be using it within your marketing team? Will you be looking for terms that generate vast 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 50? Do you need data from a wide variety of sources or is sample data enough? These questions can be hard to determine 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 usually based on these factors. Exactly which factors depends on the platform.
- Features – At this point, you may want to start focusing on specific features that you need. Do you need a platform that has a wide variety of filtering and search query creation options (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? Are you looking to integrate other data sources such as broadcast or print media? 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 points 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.
Firstly, it’s important to remember that free tools almost always use sample data so they generally can’t provide the level of coverage needed for comprehensive analysis of social media, websites, blogs, etc. What they are great for is getting a feel for what kind of data is available and learning how to find the data you need. Talkwalker’s Free Social Search for example, will let you do unlimited searches so you can test different ways of searching to narrow down exactly what you're looking for. This tutorial on creating search queries for social media analytics should give you a good basis. Take a look at more examples of free social media analytics tools as recommended by experts.
Here's a quick video introducing the Talkwalker Free Social Search:
And if you’re just looking for a tool that'll send you an email each time a brand or keyword is mentioned you can try Talkwalker Alerts, our alternative to Google Alerts.
It's inevitable that companies will have to use several different types of tools and platforms in order to manage their needs. This may include social media management platforms like Hootsuite or website traffic analysis like Google Analytics. For more advanced data analysis, there's also platforms like Tableau to create specific data visualizations. In each case, it's important that your social media analytics platform provides easy options for integration. To get the most value from data and social media, you have to be able to easily connect and correlate your activities otherwise you'll end up spending more time exporting your data between multiple platforms instead of actually monitoring, analyzing, and acting on insights.
Yes, this makes it tempting to opt for an all-in-one solution but, as technology research specialists Forrester point out, it's risky.
All-in-one solutions are quite often Jack of all trades and master of none. A specialist platforms for each need will ensure that these platforms integrate with each other; you'll get the best performance with the least hassle.
Of course, it’s all very well for us to promote the benefits of social media analytics but it’s probably more convincing when it comes from companies that are using it right now to improve their business. Here are a couple of our favorite examples.
Nescafé Dolce Gusto – Improving Campaign Performance by 400%
Challenge – Creating a multi-channel marketing strategy that resonates with coffee lovers.
Solution – Nescafé Dolce Gusto and their digital agency Lion & Lion used social media analytics to first conduct comprehensive market research into the coffee lover community online. They then used these insights to design a marketing campaign that fit perfectly with the tastes, needs, and aesthetics of this vibrant community.
Result – With this new data-backed campaign, Nescafé Dolce Gusto was able to grow their Instagram audience by 500% and quadruple engagement on both Facebook and Instagram.
Deutsche Telekom – Building a State of the Art Crisis Intelligence Center
Challenge – Pinpointing potential threats and crisis risks from within online and social media chatter.
Solution – Deutsche Telekom integrated live social listening into their crisis response systems so they could track usage of sensitive keywords and phrases in relation to their brand, products and services and react instantly.
Result - Using real-time social media analytics, Deutsche Telekom are able to spot issues before they reach crisis level and spread insights to the teams that need to know quickly and efficiently.
Social media analytics is only for social media
Wrong! Despite the somewhat misleading name, social media analytics platforms let you monitor and analyze a lot more than just the data on social media channels. Talkwalker, for example, covers over 150 million websites from around the world as well as a wide range of blogs and forum. This means that you can find any mention of your brand across a high proportion of websites on the internet.
Social media analytics only monitors owned social channels
No, social media analytics allows you to monitor the social channels of competitors and the usage of particular keywords or hashtags across pages and posts that are public (Note: depending on the social network, analytics platforms may have less access to their data as this depends on the API access the network provides).
Social media analytics platforms monitor private data
As a general rule, social media analytics platforms cannot monitor private data. This includes non-public Facebook and Instagram pages for example, as well as social messaging apps. Talkwalker only monitors data that's public for all to see whether posts on Twitter or online news. What you'd be able to do is add your own private data into a project if you'd like to see how it compares with social data.
Social media analytics is only for social media managers
Social media analytics is great for social media managers but they're far from being the only people who benefit. Social media analytics is also used by PR and communications professionals to measure the impact and ROI of their campaigns. It’s used by product managers to collect unsolicited feedback about new and existing products. It’s even used by news media to identify trending stories, and political groups to get a better understanding of the messages that are resonating with voters. Social media analytics allows companies and organizations to get an understanding of what people think about almost any topic. That’s why the potential for use cases is so vast.
That wraps up our Complete Guide to Social Media Analytics. We hope it's given you all the information you need to get started with social media analytics but if you'd like to know more, why not get in touch? We'll give you a full demo of the Talkwalker social media analytics platform and send you interesting use cases. Or, please ask questions and/or share your experiences in the comments below.
Thanks for reading!