What Marketers Need to Understand about Measuring Social Media Data


Author: Benjamin Kepner

Over the course of the last five years, the social media industry has dramatically evolved. Marketers still struggle to grasp understanding how to best go about measuring social media data they see coming from their different accounts.

The more time social media managers spend in the cutting-edge development of the social platforms trying to prove social media ROI, the more they must question the data that is being provided.

Only in the last year have Pinterest and Instagram stepped up their game to provide more robust social data metrics. There are a plethora of third party applications providing data analysis that have arisen also.  Facebook, however, has been more elusive than the other networks, shying away from releasing all of their data to third party social analytics companies.

The Trick to Understanding Social Media Data

To throw another wrench in the process, analytics sections of many social networks have proven to be inaccurate at times. Take Facebook for example.  If you manage a Facebook Business Page and compare the post reach to the sum of all posts found under the Facebook Insights Posts section, you might find different numbers.

Or, have you ever noticed how Facebook Insights shows post clicks before URL links like Twitter Analytics does? Or how about Facebook’s recent announcement of miscalculations of video views and organic post reach?

Facebook did release that they’re working to better assure the data by having more descriptive names, clarified calculations and more consistent calculations. They also mentioned introducing third party oversight of data by Neilson for the first time in the company’s history.

What Does It All Mean?

Are we saying you should abandon social media altogether? Of course not.  As a matter of fact, a recent Forbes article outlined that,“social media spending is expected to climb to a 20.9% share of marketing budgets in the next five years.  This denver social media marketing agencyshare was only 5.6% in 2009.”

The reason? A massive trend toward mobile devices as the primary screen that people consume media and information. Millennials, in particular, are looking to social for news, staying in touch with their friends, and connecting with their favorite brands.

Despite some gray areas in interpreting the data, social media is still an incredibly effective tool for increasing sales and brand awareness when approached with the proper mentality and strategy.

As for interpreting social media data itself, setting goals and measuring against those specific key metrics is a great place to start. Exporting the data you’re seeing at a micro level into a pre-built spreadsheet has its merits, and here are a couple reasons why:

  1. The data being provided in the native platform is not 100% accurate all the time
  2. There is no standardization of metrics across social platforms

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What Social Media Metrics Should You Measure?

Marketing directors should and will continue to push for social KPI’s that contribute to the larger overall goal: more sales. Thus, it’s crucial to incorporate metrics that are measurable across all social media platforms, such as website traffic, direct leads, share of voice measurements, etc., and how to achieve them into your overall strategy.

While dark traffic often leads to lower website hits being reported from social media, Google Analytics is a great place to start with measuring traffic to your website from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.

As time passes, more advanced and comprehensive social media analytics tools will rise to the top. As for now, Scraawl is one of the platforms doing a great job of clearly defining their definition metrics, (large in part due to partnerships with the networks to have access to all the API’s, and utilizing a network of social media analysts to translate the data into actionable insights).

Despite current state of less than perfect analytics tools, social media still drives results in measurable ways that help achieve business goals. As the use of social media becomes more universal and measuring metrics becomes more of a priority, advances are sure to be made by new or existing players in the analytics game to make social media marketers’ lives easier.

In the meantime, it certainly doesn’t hurt to manually double the check metrics yourself.

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Blue Bear Creative is a Denver social media agency focused on helping food and beverage brands market to millennials.