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How to Use Social Media to Gather Valuable Marketing Data

Social media is all about making connections and building relationships. We hear that every day. But as marketers, social media also offers us a valuable opportunity to gather data that can not only inform our content strategy, but can also help us build a successful marketing strategy. Here are just a few of the ways that social media data can be a valuable asset in your marketing plan.

Real-Time Audience Demographics

One of the biggest advantages of social media is real-time. In the past, gathering audience demographics was laborious and expensive. Today, any brand can gather real-time audience demographics on a regular basis with the use of simple inexpensive tools. Always remember you get what you pay for, but on the whole you can get plenty of valuable information for less than ten dollars a month.

Facebook Insights offers you a wealth of data on your audience. If you partner that information with the Audience Insights piece of Ad Manager, you have everything you need for understanding your Facebook audience and being able to successfully target the audience you’re aiming for.

Facebook Insights


Go to the “People” tab of your Facebook Insights page. Under the “Your Fans” tab, you’ll find your basic audience demographics. Facebook will show you your fans and also how that number stacks up to all Facebook fans. Just below this graphic, you will get a geographic breakdown of where those fans are located. When you use Ad Manager, you can get a much deeper dive into this information to help you set up laser-focused ads aimed at a specific group in a specific area.

Sprout Social

I use Sprout Social for a number of data reports, especially Twitter data. It gives me the same basic information on Facebook as well, but not as deep as Insights. Here, you can see I get the same basic demographic numbers on Twitter.

I can see at a glance that this same client has a much bigger differentiation in the gender category on the two channels, but looking at their geographic spread, I find that it is the same.  Interesting to note, this gender spread on Twitter changes seasonally. Because this client is a college athletics brand, the demographic skews more male starting in August through December. The age spread also starts to lean older.

What is the value of this information?

First, understanding this information helps me focus on two basic strategies: platform and content.  With the exception of Facebook, most platforms have specific gender and age strengths. Even though I can market to every demographic on any platform, my time is probably wasted crafting too much content to 45 and older females on Twitter. It’s not that they aren’t there, it’s that they aren’t there in numbers to make specific content aimed at them worthwhile on that channel.

There is some content that works for every fan. But when it comes to focusing on conversion-related content, you may want to take a closer look. For instance, notice the difference in the majority audience on these two platforms. On Facebook, the biggest audience is 18-24 men followed closely by 18-24 women. On Twitter, the largest audience is 25-34 men.  Because this brand has college-age students as a large part of their target market, these numbers are significant. And, in the spring and summer, these numbers change. 

Real-time access to data is also significant. I try and take a look at audience demographic swings, especially during short-term campaigns and in the engagement category ("People Engaged" tab on Facebook). The main report uses the last 28 days of data. When I run that data against “Posts” data on Facebook, I can see which types of content are hitting the mark and adjust accordingly. I can do the same with Twitter checking the response rates of clicks, retweets, and @responses.

Connect Website and Social Data

One of the main purposes of social media is to drive traffic to specific pages of your website. In the last two years, Google Analytics has significantly widened its interface to include social media measurement and allows users to set up segments to gauge the success of specific social campaigns. If you haven’t used Google Analytics for social data yet, I highly recommend you look at the integration possibilities.

Two general pieces that will help you become familiar with this connection reside in the Acquisitions/Social section. The first is called Network Referrals. This shows you which social networks provide the most traffic to your website. As with all Analytics, the date range can be custom. This will allow you to check anything from monthly/weekly/daily traffic sources to a custom range for a campaign segment.

If you partner this information with the basic demographic info you have from your social channels, you’ll begin to see just who is driven to your website when, and on what channel. Does your time investment in your main channels match the result?

The second general social report I like to look at is Shared URLs. What links are you sharing that are bringing people in to your website?


This is a page I like to look at regularly. I look for patterns and anomalies.  Am I surprised by what I see? Is one type of content more popular? Is there evergreen content that shows up again and again? Match this up with the social channels that are bringing traffic in and you can start to formulate a more focused strategy to meet the needs of your fans.

In the world of Google Analytics and social media, I haven’t even scratched the surface. I am constantly learning more about how to take advantage of the deep social data that Google Analytics can provide. Believe me, it’s on my list of tasks for 2014.

How are you using Google Analytics and social media data to form your marketing strategy? 

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