We're huge proponents of analytics-driven social media marketing. Setting goals, measuring performance, and optimizing your approach based on analytical data is the best way to achieve success in the shortest amount of time. We setup analytics tools and implement review and optimization processes for our clients. Since most social media networks have analytics capacity built in, and many common social media tools have analytics capabilities to some degree built in too, our clients sometimes ask when they should invest in dedicated social media analytics tools. That's a difficult question to answer, so we generally respond by explaining the value and benefits those tools provide. That, in turn, helps our clients decide if those tools are worth the money to their organization.
In this article I'm going share five benefits of dedicated social media analytics tools, and some common reasons why organizations choose to invest in them.
What we're talking about in this article
First, let's define what we're talking about. In this article I'm going to talk about tools that capture and aggregate data about social profiles such as fans and followers, and about content, such as likes, shares, conversation rate and so forth. I'm not addressing brand monitoring software such as Mention or Trackur that track mentions of brands or keywords as well as the sentiment associated with them - those are a different tools that are also essential for maintaining a healthy brand presence, but that's a different article for a different day.
Social Media Analytics Tool Options and what you Get
Popular analytics tools include tools like Fan Page Karma, and Quintly on the less expensive end, offer simplified free versions, with paid versions that start at about $130 per month. You then move up to tools like Simply Measured, Unmetric, Nuvi, and Hootsuite UberVu starting at around $500 per month. Those tools move up from there as you add users, capabilities, and features. There are many other players in this field, we can't list them all.
- Competitive benchmarking: The ability to view profile and content information for other accounts, like competitors. This makes it easy to see when they're posting, the success they're having growing fans overall and the engagement and response to their content.
- Centralized analytics: A single place to see and compare statistics and metrics for all (or most) of your social media accounts. These tools usually provide a variety of metrics to help you track performance and return on investment. Some help you track ad performance as well. Depending on the tool, they might provide comparison graphs and charts to help you see patterns and issues. Some allow you to separate and track content by campaign, or integrate with website analytics for a 360 degree view of your online marketing.
- Influencer identification: A list of the accounts or people that engage (share, comment, etc.) with your content most frequently so that you can form relationships and generate brand advocacy.
- Tracking of common social activities: Tracking of customer service related interactions, or things like job posts to provide metrics and data in those areas to allow brands to track and optimize social service or other common social network activities.
- Dashboards: Pre-made or custom dashboards so that you can easily keep tabs on the accounts, competitors, and metrics that matter the most to you.
- Reporting: Exportable reports and data, often coupled with scheduling and email delivery, that allow you to keep managers, partners, and clients plugged-in and up to date on social media activities and performance.
Reason 1: Competitive Benchmarking
The ability to view the social media activities that your competitors are engaged with is huge. You can discover strategic information, such as how they're positioning products and services through the messaging they're using. You can also view client responses and interactions to see how effective their marketing campaigns are. This can help you better position competing products and services, exploit gaps in service, or identify audience segments that may be good targets for penetration by your brand.
Most brands do competitive benchmarking in one form or another, and you can certainly do it without the dedicated social media analytics tools by following accounts and the key influencers of your competitors. Having a dedicated tool, however, makes the process much easier. It's easier to see and track things like posting times, best engagement times, and most popular types of content. In addition, most tools provide charts that show patterns that may not be easy to see when manually tracking and charting data. For example, you might see a competitor rocking Facebook, but lagging on Instagram which may guide a decision to focus more on that platform.
Reason 2: Centralized Analytics
Having all your analytics in one place saves both time and money. This is an obvious statement, but the impact is potentially huge. If you spend 10 minutes a week looking at analytics for six separate accounts (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, and Pinterest), and another 10 minutes looking at Google Analytics to verify results of social activities, that's an hour and 10 minutes. Tools that can show you the same data in one place may help you complete that review in half the time. Depending on the size of your brand and community, the time savings could be much more - and while we could all use more time, these tools are only way to effectively monitor your brand.
While not all tools integrate with web analytics platforms such as Google Analytics, those that do provide serious benefit. They connect the dots between social media activities and the traffic it drives to your website. For marketing campaigns, it can help you gauge if a campaign is achieving the goals set out through the web traffic it's driving. You may find the campaign isn't working as expected and make adjustments to fix the problems. In another case, a campaign may be driving traffic very well but the website might be a problem. If you see website data showing high bounce rates, or funnel abandonment, you may need to focus on redesigning landing pages or funnels.
For example, Google Analytics data integrated with Fan Page Karma can illuminate which networks are generating the most important traffic. This first report shows sessions generated by social networks which indicated Facebook is driving the largest amount of traffic.
Reason 3: Optimize your Content Plan
One of the biggest advantages of investing in social media analytics tools is that they help you optimize your content. Again, this is something you can do manually on a spreadsheet, but most people don't because it takes so much time. To do it manually you would need to chart posting times, types of posts, then look at platform analytics and document reach, shares, likes, comments, and so forth. You'd have to do this for each social network, then analyze all of that data.
Some social media managers that don't have analytics tools will tell you that they know what they're audience likes, and that they know what works well and what hasn't. While its easy to see what gets the most shares and what gets nothing, it's more difficult to spot more subtle patterns. For example, content may perform poorly because it's poor content. It may, however, be good content that was posted at the wrong time, or on the wrong network.
Tracking and charting content metrics gives you insights like the topics or types of content that generate the most engagement.
You can then choose the best performing content to re-share. You can also identify the types of content, links, status updates, images, video, etc, that are performing best in terms of engagement, reach, and conversation share. This will help you modify content plans to focus the topics and types of content that work best for your audience.
You can also see the days and times that you get the most engagement, and adjust your posting schedule to post on days and at times when your followers are likely to interact with your content.
Many tools provide time and day metrics based on the engagement numbers for the content you've posted. The shortfall with those tools is that you won't have data for days and times that you haven't posted content. Tools like the Twitter analytics tool SocialBro analyze your followers to recommend best posting times based on when the majority of your followers are online.
If a tool provides a 360 view of content performance through integrated web traffic data Google Analytics, you can move beyond social media metrics and see which which landing pages users are visiting the most from your social media activities. For example, images you post may get a lot of conversation share, but long form content like blog posts might drive more conversations.
Not only can this help you optimize content, generally, but it can help you create a content plan with a better overall content mix that'll keep your audience more interested and engaged. For example, you can generate interest and increase your conversation share with image content, then follow that up by publishing blog posts to increase conversions.
Reason 4: Identify Influencers
Connecting with the right influencers can be huge. Influencers are people that share your content with their audience, which might extend your reach considerably. The first step in connecting with influencers is discovering who they are. Many social media analytics tools show you influencer data. Many break it out further by showing the people who share your content most frequently, or those influencers with the most reach.
Beyond making identifying influencers easy, some social media tools have additional analysis capabilities that can help you connect with them. For example, some tools enable you to see what an influencer is posting about. highlighting what topics they're interested in. You can then reach out and strike up a personal relationship based on your shared interest, or reach out to the influencer when you publish content related to the topic areas they are interested in. It's a win for you and your brand as you develop a relationship that, at a minimum, increases your reach, and may lead to more robust partnering relationship.
Reason 5: Better Reporting
If you're a social media manager long enough, you'll find out that an amazing number of people ask for reports, and a large number of those requests seem to make it onto your to-do list. One of the big advantages of social media analytics software is that most have some sort of reporting built in.
Many have the ability to export data in Excel or .CSV format so that you can perform external analysis on the data manually or using other tools. This allows you to find patterns in the data, or measure performance in any number of areas. Many tools also have the ability to export their rich charts and graphs as PDFs or PNGs which you can then integrate into weekly or monthly reports, or ad-hoc reports as needed.
Many tools have the ability to schedule reports and email them automatically. This works for both internal and external clients. You can use automated reporting to show things like:
- Fan and follower growth on social profiles
- Overall campaign status
- Engagement or conversation share around topics of interest for the week
- Social customer service metrics such as average response time
- Content published and reach
The really awesome thing about automated reporting is it can take some reporting tasks off of your to do list.
How to decide when to invest in dedicated social media tools
As stated before, much of the information collected by dedicated social media analytics tools can be sourced manually by exporting or documenting information from each social media network analytics pages. Many of the more complex charting and reporting tasks can also be done manually. It just takes time. There are many reasons why an organization chooses to invest in analytics tools. Here are a few:
- If managers have asked for data backed reports but your social media team has difficulty collecting the data, charting it, or complains that doing that manual analysis and preparing the reports takes too much time.
- If your social media team used to provide good data backed analysis and reports, but, since hitting a certain number of followers, social networks, or content pieces published has been unable to keep up.
- If the social media team provides good data for each social media network individually, but has difficulty providing cross channel analysis.
- If managers have questions about reach, engagement, conversation share, or other fairly common social media metrics that the current social media reports don't answer.
- If the social media team has trouble connecting the dots between social media activities and web site traffic and activities.
- If the social media team is unable to provide real data and numbers to show social media Return on Investment (ROI) and Return On Ad Spend (ROAS).
Ultimately every organization has unique needs, and must make their own choice. When you think it might be time to invest in dedicated social media analtyics tools follow this process:
- Define problems you want the tools to solve
- Select multiple tools in your budget range that can monitor social media networks critical to your business
- Use free trials to evaluate different tools and see which one works best
Over to You
If you have dedicated tools you use for social media analytics, tell me about your experiences with them in the comments.