“You can’t manage what you can’t measure,” management theorist Peter Drucker is often quoted as saying. This holds especially true for social media, where correct measurement is a non-trivial task.
Most professionals use tools such as Mention, SproutSocial or Hootsuite to monitor and analyze social media performance. There is, however, one significant problem: None of these tools, free or paid, gives you complete data, leaving many valuable insights hidden. On the bright side, you can get all the missing data at no cost by using the analytics tools that are built into the main social media networks.
What’s on the Market?
The market is saturated with companies who offer social analytics and monitoring solutions, either on their own or as a part of a larger suite. Some of the more familiar and accessible of these platforms are Hootsuite, SproutSocial, Mention, Audiense (formerly SocialBro) and SumAll. In the mid price range there are the likes of Simply Measured, Klear, Brandwatch and TalkWalker. And then there are the enterprise solutions from heavyweights such as IBM, Salesforce, Oracle, Adobe and SAS. For more information on these solutions, check this comparison.
These companies offer various aspects of data and levels of analysis. The main difference in price results from the ability of a tool to show complex metrics in an accessible way and use algorithms that offer predictive analytics. However, social media networks’ APIs make the exact same data available to all social analytics tools, expensive and cheap alike.
This means that when it comes to measuring your daily performance, these solutions have the same initial data to work with, regardless of the eventual presentation of these data. For example, the only engagement metrics that Twitter’s API provides are Likes and Retweet counts. If you are using a solution such as HubSpot which offers URL shorteners, then you can also get data about link clicks.
This is why most tools can’t provide a 360-view of your social reach and engagement. For daily tasks, it’s usually enough to know a basic trend but whenever you want to adjust core aspects of your social strategy, more care and data are required. Luckily, getting the additional data is very simple and absolutely free: it already comes packed with your social profiles. I’m talking, of course, about the analytics tools that are built into the various social media networks.
For a long time, social networks didn’t provide much data to their users but as they started to monetize their huge audiences, a need to to provide analytics to marketers rose quickly and most social networks were quick to implement some built-in solution. Some of these solutions have by now grown to be powerful tools.
What Important Data is Missing?
I like to divide social data into two kinds: descriptive and actionable (inferential). Descriptive data shows an existing status or a trend, but doesn’t tell you what causes the trend. For example, a metric such as a number of new fans or followers will tell you whether more or less people decided to follow you but it won’t tell you why they did so or which actions you should take to improve this metric. On the other hand, actionable data helps you to see beyond just a trend on a chart. It allows you to spot actual insights that can answer complex questions and be used to alter your social strategy.
Most social analytics tools lack actionable data because of the scarcity of metrics provided by the social networks’ APIs. The built-in analytics solutions provide more accurate and more complete data about your social media performance. Built-in analytics provide many engagement types beyond the well known Like, Reshare and Comment as well as context to those engagements. This is like looking through a microscope – a whole new world exists on this level of detail.
For example, with actionable data you can easily determine whether your content is truly engaging your audience by analyzing engagements in the context of impressions – did you need just a 100 impressions to generate 10 engagements or was it closer to 10,000 impressions? Without this context, engagements tell very little about the true interest of your audience in the content you are sharing. In another example, you could determine what type of media resonates with your audience by placing engagement in context with media types.
That being said, descriptive data is more useful on a day to day basis when you just need to know the current status and to be able to quickly spot emerging problems. The need in actionable data kicks in when you decide to change something.
Where to Find the Right Data?
Through the rest of the article, I will only discuss actionable data that you can find on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. More specifically, I tried to present a unified workflow that balances simplicity of analysis, impact and speed for the time-starved marketer. You can of course carry out more complex analysis to predict future trends, but I believe that the time to value ratio will diminish.
You can access Twitter Analytics by visiting analytics.twitter.com and logging in with your Twitter account. After logging in, you will land on the “Home” tab where you have a quick overview of your main descriptive metrics. Skipping to the “Tweets” tab, you can see data about impressions, likes, retweets, replies and link clicks by day as well as data about individual posts.
Next to each individual post, you have the number of impressions, engagements and an engagement rate (engagements divided by impressions). Clicking on a specific post will show you a breakdown of the engagement types such as likes, replies etc. This data is interesting because it gives you the details and context.
Unfortunately, Twitter doesn’t allow you to sort these posts, which makes it hard to uncover insights. On the bright side, Twitter allows you to export data which you can conveniently analyze in your tool of choice (e.g. Excel, Google Spreadsheets or various data analysis tools such as Pandas). To export data from Twitter, choose a time frame and click on the button labeled “Export data”.