You might have been able to avoid them and get away with it but eventually you will have to back your social media efforts with hard numbers. Sooner or later someone is going to ask for them. So beat them to it!
Start small and establish a routine
If you are managing social media for your organization it is pretty likely you have an overall idea of the health of your accounts. But if you start looking at data over a period of time, you will be able to see trends, which are hard to see on a day-to-day basis, as well as anticipate reactions to different type of posts.
Personally, I had an aha! moment when I analyzed the engagement on our Facebook page and realized that what our audience liked best were photos and then videos. This simple insight made me rethink how I present content. It’s ok to keep distributing news about our organization but not ok to just share a link and some text. Instead, I have been trying to use images and videos more whenever possible. I would have never made this realization without taking a second look at our Facebook insights.
Set up a simple excel file and keep track of your followers, likes, reactions to posts (likes, RT, replies, mentions). Ideally, you will do this weekly but at least monthly.
Share! If you don’t communicate it, you didn’t do it
I had a boss that would always say: “If you don’t communicate, you didn’t do it.” Find a recurring event in your organization (team meeting, weekly reports, weekly emails) that you can use to share your metrics. I share our statistics on a weekly basis during our crew meeting and try to highlight posts that worked the best, among other things. At my previous job at LinkedIn, I would compile statistics related to user acquisition and report to the executive team in a weekly email that went out every Thursday at 4pm. Share insights and your interpretation of the data that can be easily reused by others (graphs are key!) A sophisticated excel file that is hard to understand will go unnoticed. KEEP IT SIMPLE. You don’t have to share everything you collect. Rather, select some key metrics to share that make sense in the context of your organization.
Sharing this kind of information will do two important things: force you to stay on top of your statistics and educate others in your organization about what you are doing.
Find the right tools
There are more tools out there that you can use. A lot of them are free or available for a small monthly fee.
Decide first what is it you want to track. This will make it easier to find the right tools. You might also decide on some new indicators once your start using these tools but set your goals before diving into the ocean of tools available. For example, if your organization has just built a new library, it might be interesting to keep track of check-ins (provided you have a Facebook place or Foursquare location) and mentions. Or if your admissions office seeks to enroll more graduate students, keep track of your Facebook likes user demographics. You can always just focus on what are known as “vanity metrics” such as followers, RT, replies, mentions, and likes.
Facebook Insights: Need I say more? Facebook might know everything about us but at least we can benefit and get great stats from their Facebook page insights. Get into the weekly/monthly habit of downloading them. I have analyzed 6-12 months at a time and it ain’t fun. You will get really good with Excel.
AllFacebook stats: These guys are based in Germany and will send you a weekly email with your like growth on Facebook. I have not used their full service but really like getting their weekly emails.
Twittercounter: As we all know, trying to get historical information about your Twitter account can be hard. This little tool makes it a lot easier plus you can track your competitors’ account as well. You have the options to download the data to excel and create some graphs. However, to obtain 3 month and 6 months figures you need to pay a $15 monthly fee.
Google Analytics: I have said it before and I will say it again: Get access to your analytics to see if your social media efforts are resulting in more traffic. Become friends with your webmaster and take the opportunity to learn about his/her goals for the year. You might be able to help.
YouTube Analytics: All Google products will provide you with great insights. My favorite is the “audience retention” metric which shows your video’s ability to retain audience through its playback. It’s a great way to learn what length works best or at what moments retention fell. Share these periodically with the person in your team who creates videos.
LinkedIn Company page Analytics: While I don’t analyze these, I do keep track of followers and share with my team any new followers that could be of interest to them. Unfortunately, no analytics are offered for groups. More of a reason to get a hold of your Google Analytics and see what kind of referal traffic comes from LinkedIn for example.
Timely.is: Staci Baird, social media manager at Stanford’s School of Engineering made us aware of this tool during the Fall 2011 Study Tour. Timely will schedule your tweets to the time your audience appears to be more engaged—the tool will require some time first to determine this. In addition, it keeps track of the performance of your tweets. You also get a nice weekly report in your inbox.
Crowdbooster: Another one of my favorites, which I use to get quick weekly stats. It will also give you some recommendations about when to tweet or post on Facebook. In fact, I have found this feature very useful for Facebook as it allows you to pick the thumbnail and exact link description, which sometimes is hard to control on Facebook.
Social Media Presence Reports: We are already doing some of the hard work for you. You can cheat your way through 2011 and just use these to show traction and progress. Download the appendices with the excel files if you want to refine them further. And if you notice something odd, let us know.
Radian6 reports: If you have not taken a look at these, download your report now from this website. These reports will provide you with graphs and complete list of mentions, share of voice, and more.
Other fun tools
- Tweet stats: Get fast facts about your twitter accounts
- Know your followers: Know your twitter followers including location, interests, and more.
Set your priorities and start today
The most important principle to keep in mind is to first decide on what you are going to track, set up a simple excel with several worksheets to store statistics over time, and force yourself to share this information with your team on a regular basis. Establishing simple milestones and deadlines, will not only force you to keep an eye on your accounts but will also help you be more effective and efficient, and more importantly educate others about your efforts and achievements.
Mashable had nice post “5 Essential Spreadsheets for Social Media Analytics” on available tools that offer spreadsheets, which you can then manipulate to your own needs.
Social Media Examiner’s post listing 13 tools to help you manage social media