Companies often struggle with how to validate their social media efforts. What is needed is a comprehensive social media report that goes beyond “likes” and “account growth” and tells a story of how your social media activities are really performing.
I am a big believer that all data should be able to tell a story. Most people involved in data and reporting tend to be very analytical. They live and breathe numbers, equations and formulas. Not me! I am much more of a story teller. I look at numbers for the kinds of mysteries they unlock, trends they speak to and opportunities that are on the horizon.
Social Media: Widely Used, But Poorly Measured
Social media is such a widely used medium, but also one of the least understood in terms of measurement. With paid advertising you know how much money you spent and whether or not people responded to the ads you’ve run. With outbound sales phone calls, you have a list and you know who answered and who didn’t. But with social media, most marketers and their senior executives do not know what data is important and why.
How To Create A Social Media Report
To help break up some of the mystery, I have put together, based on research and practice, how I would build a social media report. And it starts with you asking some basic questions about your previous social media campaigns. Namely…
- Did we grab the attention of our audience?
- Did we deliver something interesting?
- Did we cause people to want to share our content or was it someone else’s content?
- What kind of content do people interact with the most?
- Did we initiate a discussion? And if so, what kind of discussion?
- Did we cause people to take an action? Did they “like” or “share” our content? Did they click on a “call to action?” What did they do?
- Did our work in social media and content deliver some kind of monetary value to the company? Can we quantify it?
The above questions are just a starting point. You will want to ask other questions about what your social media channels are doing, who is there / what is the make-up of the audience, what are people interested in and more. You also will want to know what data you can collect from each channel and how you can compare apples to apples in your reporting (that will be a topic for a future blog post).
For now, let’s take a look at the breakdown of a detailed social media report:
Section 1: Activity – The output of your social media and content teams
Depending on the size and scope of your social media efforts, and if you have a content team, activity reports can be an incredibly important baseline of data. In my view, they help start the social media story you want to tell. People are going to want to know how active the company is in social media, where the activity is going and what is happening. In your social media report, start with a few slides that cover:
- Post rates (How much content are you posting?)
- Channel activity (Where is your content going? Facebook? Pinterest? Twitter? LinkedIn? Etc)
- Media type (What type of media are you sharing? The types to focus on are: Blog posts, photos, videos, graphics, general content, etc)
- Owned or third party (This is an important distinction to start tracking from the start. At some companies I’ve worked with the perception has been that third-party content from PBS, NYT, etc performs better. In looking at the data, people were surprised to see that is not always the case. It’s great validation for your content teams when your audience finds more value in your content than that of the big boys)
- Content types (What type of content is being posted each day? For example, do you have specific content themes, categories or keywords? This is another important distinction to make from the start. Define your categories and keywords for what you are sharing. This will allow you to determine later what content performs best and at what times. It also allows you to see if you are focusing on one area too much and another area too little.)
- Advertising vs. Content (In some cases, you are boosting or advertising content in a social channel. You will want to distinguish this as well.)
Using the items listed above for one report set, you can show the total content and social media activity of a given month or other period of time. Depending on how frequently you report on your activity. You can then overlay other data sets to connect the activity to other meaningful metrics. For example, you can see how our elements of your “activity” impact things such as reach, engagement and conversion – as are outlined below.
Section 2: Reach – How well are you connecting with your audience?
Reach is the next section in a social media report, because after you have reviewed how active you have been, the next step is to see how far you are going. Some many switch this section with “Engagement,” which is my third section. But I tend to think that you want to focus on “reach” here because it will determine whether or not your activity is bearing any fruit, and whether or not there is a positive, negative or neutral sentiment attached to it.
- Views (How many views of content did you secure?)
- Advertising reach (How many people did your advertising reach? How many people viewed the ads?)
- Total post reach (What is the total reach of all posts? Which posts had the greatest audience reach?)
- Sentiment (What is the sentiment towards your brand each month? Create an overall score, but you should have a score either for each content piece or a general score that month based on your social media activity.)
Overall, this report will provide an overview of your viewership and brand sentiment. Again, you can then overlay other data sets. For example, you can see if there is any correlation to audience views and specific content or media types. You can see if higher activity resulted in more reach and channel growth. There are many possible combinations of valuable data that you can extract.
Section 3: Engagement – Interactions with content and with your brand
Engagement is going to be an area that will attract a significant amount of interest in any social media report. And with good reason. It’s one thing to have your content reach a large audience and then be viewed. It is another level to have people engage with your social media content. For this report, you want to cover the basics, such as “likes,” “shares,” etc. Keep in mind, not every social media channel measures engagement the same way. Therefore, you will want to break this up by channel and then consolidate as best as you can using apples to apples comparisons. It can get a bit tricky, and very manual, but building out a good social media report is about putting together the right data to tell a story your audience can understand and act on.
- Basic engagement (Things such as: likes, shares / retweets, time on page, content viewed, comments, etc)
- Engagement by… (Gender, Age, Country, State, City, etc)
- Engagement as % of audience (This is an advanced metric that is difficult to quantify. I like to look at the total audience of each channel and see which ones have high engagement and which have high engagement as a percentage of their audience. If you have 257,000 people in your Facebook community, but only 2% are engaged – that could either be very good or very bad depending on your goals.)
- Engagement with Advertising
- Greater engagement (You should try and identify users who engage in more than one way to score them as highly engaged / advocates. Every company needs advocates or evangelists. There is not an easy way to do this, but knowing who is on your side is extremely valuable. You can then target those people for rewards or special discounts to keep them advocating for your brand.)
- Virality score / WOM score (Total shares per piece of content.)
Using the items listed above for and engagement report will give you great insight into what content performs best. Another thing you will want to do in your report is to “call out” spikes in “likes, comments, shares, etc” and identify what content types performed well and what content types did not perform well.
Section 4: Acquisition – How have you connected in a way that allows you to build a stronger relationship?
Acquisition is another area of the social media report that is important, because it shows if your audience is growing and if your calls to action are working. You also want to call out anything is very positive or negative. For example, adding key influencers, big boosts in subscribers or members demonstrate that something you did worked. If something resonated especially well and helped expand your audience, you will want to consider doing more of it. Likewise, you want to address drop-offs. Some social channels have been known to purge fake or dormant accounts. So, its possible you can see a drop-off in members. The other alternative is that a piece of content you shared turned-off a large number of people. Either way, you will want to research it and identify it in your report.
- Audience growth (How many new channel members do you have? Did your activity produce any growth?)
- Key influencer growth (Did you add any key influencers over the last week or month? If so, who? Why are they important?)
- Monthly subscriber base to each social media channel
- Total number and % growth to each social media channel
- Email subscriptions (Email newsletter, eBulletin, content marketing blog, etc)
- Form fills (where relevant)
- Inquiries from Advertising
- Other (TBD)
Section 5: Social Media Advertising Report
This is only relevant if you are advertising in social media channels. Not every company does this, but I highly recommend it. Why? Because content marketing is not often enough on its own to generate results. With a growing volume of content, advertising through Outbrain, Facebook and other options can help give your content the boost it needs to be seen and develop more viral traction.
- What is your total advertising budget for the month?
- What did you spend for the month?
- What did you spend advertising dollars on? (Content? Graphics? Video?)
- Total engagement from advertising?
- Other metrics (TBD)
Section 6: Conversions – What economic / monetary actions (eg, downloads, registrations, enrollments, sales, etc) have taken place?
The last section is going to be important to telling the ROI story of your social media efforts. Many social media campaigns, indeed, many efforts or programs, do not have monetary goals. However, you can define “monetary” in a number of ways. Overall, you want to quantify what your efforts are doing / how they are performing. If you have not been measuring to this yet, you should take a few months and collect data and then set some goals. Overall,
- Conversion rate (You will need to set a basic understanding of what a “conversion” is for social media. Are you driving people to a specific call to action? Are you driving them to content and expecting them to interact with that content in some way? This is a complicated exercise, because it will vary for many companies and many social media marketing programs.)
- New conversions
- Cost per conversion (or do you measure by time or LOE?)
- Need fingerprinting to capture anonymous user data and track content to conversion (Anonymous user tracking and other analytics are necessary to show referrals from social media channels and other conversion metrics.)
Section 7: Retention, Advocacy and Reputation – Do you have happy prospects and customers?
Section seven covers the issue of customer retention, advocacy and reputation, and should make up the last section of your social media report. This ties into online reputation management, customer satisfaction and other pieces of the social media puzzle. Your SLA data (a common report in Sprinklr for example) or response time to inquiries made over social media, is a great indicator of how customer-friendly your social media efforts are.
- Response time (SLA)
Another aspect of this are online reviews (as mentioned in the bullet above). You will have to go outside of your social media channels to get a clear picture of this (depending on your business type, Yelp, Angie’s List, Google, etc), but understanding how you are viewed online is such a critical component to a social media report. If you collect all the information I mentioned above, including who your key brand evangelists / advocates are, you can build a program to help counter negative reviews.
After reading everything I have outlined above you might be suffering from information overload. There is a TON of data collection involved in making a good social media report. And worst of all, not every social media tool will give all the insights you want. Even Sprinklr, which is the most robust, enterprise-level solution available on the market, will not cover absolutely everything (though they come incredibly close). To gather each piece of data, you will have to use the tools available for each social media channel (eg, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc), as well as third-party providers. It is time consuming – but the value in telling your social media story to executives is… to borrow a very overused word… priceless.
Lastly, if you find that you want help building out your social media reporting to get a better handle on analytics, please reach out to me and my team at Social Web Tactics. We provide a full range of social media management services and also – online reputation management services.