The Complete Guide to Social Media Analytics

Illustration of a phone showing social media apps in front of a larger screen with a direct message inbox set up, and graphs showing social media insights. Social media analytics guide
Illustration of a phone showing social media apps in front of a larger screen with a direct message inbox set up, and graphs showing social media insights. Social media analytics guide

There’s a common saying in marketing: You can’t manage what you can’t measure. This is why running a successful social media campaign begins with measuring your success through social media analytics.

It sounds a bit contradictory since measuring typically happens last in a campaign after you've collected and distilled all the campaign data. But before you approach any social media campaign, you first need to understand what exactly you want to accomplish and how success will be measured.

From Snapchat to TikTok, Facebook to Pinterest, every platform has a different audience. There's no one-size-fits-all when it comes to social media marketing, which is why it's important to use benchmarks and analyze your performance across every platform.

This is the only way you can accurately and confidently measure your performance. When you begin with the end in mind, you can work backward to get the results you want.

To do this, marketers rely on social media analytics. These are the metrics that are often the difference between a successful campaign and wasting your money and time on ineffective marketing

Here’s a closer look at social media analytics in more detail and how you can put it to work for better marketing campaigns.

Table of Contents

What is Social Media Analytics?

Exactly what is social analytics? Let’s start with a social media analytics definition:

Social analytics is the set of metrics you use to gauge the performance of your posts and social media campaigns.

Social media analytics can be measured in different ways such as likes, shares, clicks, conversions, and audience reach. There are also deeper-level metrics that require special social analytics tools (like the Meltwater Social Media Analytics Tool), such as ongoing engagement or the likelihood of being a return customer.

In many cases, brands use dedicated social media analytics software to track metrics automatically. These tools are AI-powered and deliver deeper insights than what you could likely glean yourself.

How Social Analytics Helps You Understand Your Customers

An illustration of a gaint tablet with four small people sitting around the tablet looking at different devices that have icons associated with social media analytics, such as hearts, Likes, and emails, floating above them.

Analytics can be very telling about your customers’ behaviors, preferences, and potential to purchase or return. When you gain deeper consumer insights about your audience, you can use that information to tweak and refine your offerings to win more of their business.

With the right approach to social media analytics, you can understand more about your customers, including:

The size of your audience

Audience size refers to the number of followers you have. The larger the audience, the more people you have viewing your posts.

However, size is just one part of the overall social puzzle. Engagement doesn’t always correlate with size, and it’s better to have a targeted following that's engaged than one that just isn’t interested in what you offer.

Engagement levels

Following you on social is the first step. Next, you want your followers to engage when you post actionable content.

This includes commenting on and sharing your posts, and even clicking through to your website. The more they engage, the more people who potentially see your content.

Group of young, diverse social media managers working on gathering social media analytics

Customer demographics

Knowing the type of customer who buys from you can help you target more of that type of customer. For example, do your customers share characteristics like age range, income level, geographic area, or job title? If so, you might double down on ways to appeal to other customers in those demographics.

This is a great way to focus your marketing on nurturing people who are most likely to make a purchase in the future. The right business intelligence tools can automate these consumer insights for you. 

Industry influencers

Aside from learning more about your own customers, social media analytics can provide a link between you and industry influencers. These are the people who are in the best position to spread the word about your products.

In some cases, you might attract influencers naturally. But in other cases, you may have to reach out to them and build a relationship.

Either way, social media analytics helps this process by identifying the presence and habits of highly engaged, highly effective influencers. Find the best matches for your brand's social influencer marketing without the guesswork by using analytics data from a social influencer platform like Meltwater.

You can simplify the process of monitoring your social media activity and compiling reporting on these insights by hiring a social analytics expert or using a social listening platform like Meltwater's. Either should be able to present analytics findings in a clean, objective manner so you don’t have to spend hours or days sifting through unimportant filler information, and you can quickly get to the best nuggets.

Using Analytics to Beat Your Competition

In addition to tracking brand conversations, you can also benefit from knowing what’s being said about and by your competitors. Tracking positive and negative conversations on social media can help you improve your own offering. You can avoid making the same mistakes as your competitors and potentially win customers over who are not brand loyalists just yet.

For example, if you see people complaining about a certain feature or decision from Company X, you’ll know not to make a similar decision in your own company. Setting up social listening or media monitoring searches around your competitors is a critical step in building a competitive intelligence strategy.

In our ultimate Social Media Listening guide, you learn more about how to use social media monitoring for your marketing strategy.

Choosing the Best Social Media Metrics

Seven clusters of people grouped together with one of those groups standing over a bullseye, signaling that this cluster of people represents your ideal type of customer.

There are lots of things you can measure. But measuring everything isn’t just unrealistic, it’s also not impactful. Brands should focus only on the social media metrics that will make the biggest difference in their social media campaign outcomes.

For example, you could get 1,000 likes on your product launch, but likes don’t equate to conversions. If a consumer doesn't buy the product, then your campaign can’t be considered successful, right?

That’s why it’s important to look beyond basic vanity social media KPIs and focus on context.

Think about your business goals that indicate real success. Analytics tools can do this on your behalf and compile insight in an easy-to-understand format.

Some metrics to consider include:

1. Audience analysis

Social media analytics tools like Meltwater's can analyze your audience on each social platform and pick out your most engaged users. Know what your audience responds to so you can really hone your messaging.

Tools can also identify your most valuable followers, such as those with a large following that could become influencers for your brand. The more you understand about your followers, the more you can cater to their needs and find opportunities to generate UGC and word-of-mouth marketing.

2. Post reach and results

It’s important to recognize the impact your posts and campaigns have on your audience. Are people engaging with your posts but not converting? Do you have low engagement but a high conversion from those who do engage? What’s your average click-through rate and how many of those people convert?

You should also look at which posts and types of content get the most engagement and conversions. Finding common denominators between your best-performing content can drive your content creation strategy moving forward.

Curious what the difference is between post reach and post impressions on Instagram? Our blog post reveals the answer!

3. Platform engagement

Analytics gives you in-depth insight into the platforms that give you the best results. This isn’t always easy to see on the surface, which is why data-driven insights are so important.

For example, you might get 200 Likes on a Facebook page post and just 50 on an Instagram post, but your Instagram audience is spending more, for example.

Learn more about all important Instagram analytics.

Knowing the best social network for engagement can help you decide where to allocate your budget and spend more of your time on strategy. It also helps you deliver a better customer experience to a captive, engaged audience.

4. Best time to post

The time of day that you post can definitely have something to do with your social media marketing success. Social analytics will help you pay attention to the best times to post on each social channel based on when your fans are online, and when they are the most active and engaged. A small tweak in when you post is a great way to quickly increase engagement and conversions.

Once you find your sweet spot, you can use automation to post on your behalf and never miss an opportunity to connect.

5. Brand mentions

When people are talking about your brand, good or bad, you deserve to know about it. A social listening tool like Meltwater's can help you track every time someone mentions your brand or company, either directly or by nickname (Coca-Cola vs. Coke, for example). These platforms can show you who’s talking, what they’re saying, and even help you join the conversation.

In turn, social listening gives you a firmer grip on your brand’s reputation and image.

If you want to stay on top of the mentions around your brand or competitors, here are the top social media monitoring platforms.

How to Use Social Media Analytics to Improve Your Campaigns

A person working on a laptop that is displaying a dashboard showing various social media analytics.

With a grasp on social media metrics, you can start collecting real-time insights and using them to improve your campaigns. Here are some areas you can focus on first:

Choose your objectives

Goals for social media campaigns can take many forms: brand awareness, audience growth, and direct sales, just to name a few. The metrics you focus on will vary based on your campaign’s objectives. For example, if you’re running a brand awareness campaign, it makes sense to dwell on likes, shares, and follows. If you’re trying to drive website traffic, these same metrics might not matter as much as click-throughs.

Every campaign should have an objective. You can better measure its success when you know what you wanted from it in the first place.

Select your best-fit channels

You don’t need a presence on every social media channel to make social work for you. As you use social media analytics over time, you’ll start to see which platforms will give you the best ROI for your time and money based on your objective.

Track your progress

Man sitting at a desk in an office in front of a laptop writing on a pad of paper, tracking progress of a social media campaign with social analytics

It’s just as important to track your results with social media as it is your paid ads and website content. Use social analytics to monitor engagement, both in the short term and over time. Benchmarking your data against yourself and others in your industry can help you gauge your success.

Also, A/B test your content to make sure you’re getting the best possible results. You can A/B test different offers or even different social media platforms. If Facebook gives you better results than Instagram, you’ll know to dedicate more resources to Facebook. Other items to A/B test include images, text, calls to action, and different content formats.

Tweak and refine

As you start gaining insight into your campaigns, use that information to make impactful changes to your approach. Tweaking and refining on an ongoing basis can improve your results based on data, not hunches.

The Best Social Media Analytics Tools

Picture of various tools on a white piece of paper.

Getting the most out of your social media analytics is easier when you choose the right tools. Many social platforms offer a built-in, easy-to-use analytics dashboard, so you could start there, but note that they do have their limitations if you're looking for omnichannel insights.

For example, Twitter Analytics can tell you at a glance your number of tweets, followers, impressions, profile visits, and mentions. Facebook Insights delivers post-related data, such as audience reach, clicks, and reactions. LinkedIn offers analytics that measure engagement and supply information about your followers’ demographics.

Outside of native analytics channels, you can use third-party social media analytics tools, which provide a holistic view of the effectiveness of you social media strategy. These platforms save you time from switching between the different social media networks and offer customizable dashboards so that you can easily compare your performance across networks.

Here are some of the top platforms for social media analytics software:

1. Meltwater

Screenshot of Meltwater social media analytics platform

With Meltwater social media analytics, you can get the full picture of your earned and owned performance on social media. With easy switching between individual channel and omni-channel views, Meltwater gives you in-depth insights for shaping your social strategy. You can track metrics for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, and TikTok.

Meltwater also offers additional built-in competitor tracking and benchmarking for Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

You can also find top-performing posts by topic tags, to improve your understanding of the content that resonates with your audience. Your analytics can be easily summarized in reports and shareable dashboards to send to key stakeholders.

2. Linkfluence (a Meltwater offering)

Screenshot of Linkfluence social media analytics tools

Linkfluence applies AI technology to offer extensive consumer insights and analytics. They're great for learning about consumer perceptions and behaviors on the go, so you can make intelligent decisions quickly. Insights cover all stages of your brand and product-management lifecycle, from strategy to execution.

The Linkfluence team of data scientists, machine learning specialists, and market research experts apply AI and human expertise to global data sources. They analyze online consumer discussions and trends to provide their clients with real social insights to drive your business forward.

3. Sprout Social

Screenshot of Sprout Social social media analytics platform

Sprout Social is a popular social media analytics software option for marketers, particularly at the enterprise level. Like Meltwater social analytics they help you see a cross-channel view, providing qualitative analysis and insights into your top-performing content. They also provide social listening capabilities and a unified inbox to help you reply to all DMs from one place. A unique feature of Sprout Social is their advocacy tool, which helps you amplify your messages using employees, thereby improving engagement.

With Sprout Social, you can analyze various topics and hashtags to understand the best social content for getting engagement from your audience.

Tip: Learn more about Sprout Social Alternatives

4. Google Analytics

Social media manager in an office using Google Analytics on a laptop

We can't go on without mentioning Google Analytics. While not solely designed for social media analytics, they do provide some great insights into how your social content is performing, from a site traffic perspective.

They also offer unique insights from your data, and because it's Google, these insights are always going to give you more context than other tools specifically designed for social analytics (which are more focused on how your posts preform, rather than how your audience performs once they arrive at your site). In particular you can assess how social performs against your other marketing channels when it comes to goal completions such as purchases, email subscribes, or add-to-cart.

5. Hootsuite

Screenshot of Hootsuite social media dashboard

Hootsuite is a very recognizable name for those in social media, so it definitely has that going for it. Because of their legacy, Hootsuite's social media analytics tools are some of the best in the biz. Their analytics platform helps you establish benchmarks and track your performance over time. You can choose from 200+ metrics to create reports in multiple formats such as PDF and Excel.

While Hootsuite does a great job helping you analyze your performance on social channels you do need to integrate with other tools for more advanced insights, such as tracking brand mentions.

Tip: Learn more about Hootsuite Alternatives

6. Talkwalker

Screenshot of Talkwalker social media analytics platform

With Talkwalker, your team can analyze your social performance from all angles. They help you understand sentiment ratings for your brand, as well as track the reach and engagement for various hashtags you use.

No matter which route you take, the best social media analytics tools will help you identify and deliver key insights for advancing your social media strategy.

Start Gathering Social Analytics Today

Tracking social media data is a key piece of any social media strategy. It could mean the difference between failing to connect with your audience or hitting your campaigns out of the park every time.

Whichever social media analytics solution you choose, it should provide you with comprehensive insights that you can use to develop and strengthen your social media strategy.

For help implementing Meltwater social analytics into your strategy, reach out to our team today by filling out the form below!

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