Don’t believe the notion that you will struggle with analytics reports because “journalists don’t do math.” A stats report is so much more than numbers in a spreadsheet… you just have to change the way you look at it. Those numbers, when viewed from a different perspective, represent a visual display of success and also room for growth. And it’s an essential aspect of social media because it validates what you do.
TIP: Don’t get overwhelmed by the amount of data that’s available. Focus your attention toward the metrics that mean the most for your organization and its goals.
Before getting started, it’s important to realize that success is arbitrary. As an institution, our goals and measurements of success are very different from an organization that is selling a product. Meet with your team and discover what defines your success. You could begin by asking yourself this: Why does [insert organization] do social media? For Colorado State, we do social media to tell the University’s story. So our measures of success revolve around discovering the answers to questions such as these:
- Is our content resonating with our audience?
- Which content themes generate the most interaction?
- To what extent are people engaging with our posts?
When you’ve developed what drives your purpose, start recording and evaluating the data with these steps.
1. Get Familiar With Existing Analytics Tools
Each platform has at least something that you can measure, but some have built-in stats tools that are much more sophisticated than others. Facebook Pages have an “Insights” feature that offers detailed information on each post you make (impressions, post clicks, engagement, etc.). Twitter’s new analytics feature automatically keeps track of which tweets reach the largest amount of people each month, along with other useful measurements (e.g., profile visits, average monthly retweets). At CSU, we also use third-party services to track data on platforms that don’t yet have built-in features. We use Iconosquare for Instagram and Sprout Social to gather extra data on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. Many more services exist, so take some time examining your need and your budget to figure out which fits best in your strategy.
2. Make Use Of A Spreadsheet
Our team uses an Excel document that is shared on a common drive. Within this document, each social platform has its own tab. Different forms of measurement are recorded for each platform, but here’s a general list of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that you ought to be measuring.
- Growth. Jot down the number of followers you have for each platform each month. This gives you a grasp on which platforms are growing fastest and which are fizzling out. This helps prioritize your time and energy.
- Post Type. Facebook posts can be a regular status, a link, a photo, or a video. We compare the average reach for these post types in order to evaluate which type of media work best.
- Number of Posts. Did you post twice as many photos on Instagram this month compared to last? If so, compare the average number of likes and comments per photo for these months to determine which post rate generates the best response from your audience. It’s possible that you’re saturating your audience with too much content, resulting in less engagement.
- Reach & Impressions. First, let’s talk about the difference between these two metrics.
- Reach: the number of unique users who received impressions of a Facebook Page post. Reach will likely be less than impressions since one person can see multiple impressions.
- Impressions: the number of times a post from your Page is displayed, whether the post is clicked or not. People may see multiple impressions of the same post. For example, someone might see a Page update in News Feed once, and then a second time if their friend shares it. (via Facebook Help Center)
- These stats are crucial for examining the amplification of your messages. When a post’s reach exceeds the number of users who are “fans” of your page, you know for certain that your message is reaching individuals outside your immediate network. Recording the average reach for each post type (provided by Facebook Insights) gives you a solid basis for analyzing a post’s level of success. For example, we know that our recent post about Fort Collins being named the #3 Best College Town to Live in Forever performed well above average for a link-based post, reaching 435,000+ people compared to the average link post reach of 37,548 (month of May 2015).
Analytics is no quick task, so find ways to save time wherever you’re able. In comparing our audience growth with similar universities, I find it useful to have each university’s Facebook and Twitter page bookmarked for easy access (see photo). One click on “Open All in Tabs” and boom — you’re ready to input data.
Save, save, and save again. What’s worse than staring at your screen plugging numbers into a spreadsheet for several hours? Doing it twice. Don’t make the mistake of risking the loss of such an important file — one that contains data from months or years ago. Save a backup copy in a protected location every. single. month. It’s worth it.
Check back next month for a deeper look at compiling visual analytics reports.