Social media analytics: how to track your online performance

Gina Jones

Tuesday 17 March 2015

While 64 per cent of marketers profess to using social media for six hours or more weekly, shockingly, only 37 per cent say they are able to measure their activities. Clearly, it’s time to look at social media analytics.

As interactions increase and social networks continue to grow, the amount of business time and resource spent on social media marketing is on the up. But despite putting extra effort in, many organisations still can’t quantify what they’re getting out of it. Indeed, 85 per cent of them feel like they don’t know what tools are best to measure this. And perhaps this is where the problem starts – overly focusing on the technologies and tools makes businesses lose sight of their reasons for embarking on social media projects in the first place.

What should you be measuring and why?

Many people focus on the metrics that are easy to measure, such as Facebook Page likes, without thinking about what it actually means for them. You may well have 10,000 fans, but if they aren’t interacting with your Page on a regular basis, they’re probably not worth very much to you.

First consider whom you are measuring for. Is it for sales and marketing teams who need up-to-the-minute audience data to better target their campaigns and pitches? Or is it aimed at your board and stakeholders, who want topline statistics that outline how it contributes to your overall marketing mix? The most effective way to measure the impact and value of social media is to create KPIs that also align with your business goals.

There are essentially four categories of metrics:

  • Consumption metrics: how many people viewed, downloaded, or listened to this piece of content?
  • Sharing metrics: how resonant is this content, and how often is it shared with others?
  • Lead-gen metrics: how often does content consumption result in a lead?
  • Sales metrics: did we actually make any money from this content?

The temptation is to say “I want to measure all of the above”, but focus on the metrics that align most closely with your goals and you’ll get much more out of it.

How often should you be doing it?

Many social media tools will offer real-time analysis, so it’s tempting to check every day and obsess over it, but this isn’t the most productive use of time.

If you’re using the data from your social media channels to feed back into your marketing plans (and why wouldn’t you?), then the frequency of your analysis should tie up with when you need to act on that data. Daily dashboards delivered to your inbox via an analytics tool can be a useful add-on, for example.

Which tools should you use to do it?

This depends on what you want to know and the resources you have. If you’re a small business wanting basic data to identify new leads, your needs will be very different from a multi-national wanting to analyze their share of voice in the market, for instance. How much you spend will depend on the level of detail you require and, in some cases, the frequency of reports and number of channels you want to analyze.

A plethora of free and paid-for tools exist, but here’s a brief insight into a few popular options.

In-platform measurement tools:

Most of the major channels have their own analytics on-site, which you can access for free. Instagram is the exception to this rule, but there is a free tool called Iconosquare that you can sign in to via your Instagram account and gain access to this sort of information quite easily.

Google Analytics

Many people use Google Analytics to track performance on their websites and blogs, but it also includes powerful social media analytics. Having integrated web and social data offers a holistic view of your content and community.


Hootsuite allows you to track various social media platforms at one time. The basic version is free, but if you want to do more detailed analytics reporting, you’ll need Hootsuite Pro, which requires a subscription.

Sprout Social

This paid-for web app tracks content and conversations across social media platforms by demographic measures, monitors trends in social engagement, and tracks customer service response times.

Simply Measured

A paid-for tool that offers in depth cross-channel performance analysis, as well as detailed audience competitor analysis. The price point is slightly higher than some of the subscription services mentioned above, but the information is very detailed and it’s highly customisable.

Finally, it’s good to remember that collecting social media data is useless if it doesn’t help you achieve your business objectives. The tools above will all give you a start in measuring your data and ultimately helping you get the most for your money.

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