What You Need to Know About Social Media Analytics Tools

September 21, 2016

I spent the better part of the summer researching social media tools that could help meet our needs for more comparative and targeted analytics, and after looking into dozens of platforms and viewing numerous demos here’s what I’ve learned:

The majority of social media analytics tools fall into one of three categories: a content management tool, an analytics tool, or a listening tool. 

No one platform offers all three options.

Some may offer two of the three categories, but you will find them robust in one area and pretty thin in another.

If you’re looking for meaningful metrics that go beyond the number of followers, engagements, and impressions – also known as vanity metrics – they will not come cheap.

Here’s an explanation of the three types of tools:

Content management tool

A content management tool is probably the most widely used tool at the moment. Some examples include Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, and Buffer. It allows you to post content efficiently to multiple social media channels. It also lets you schedule posts in advance and view published content from multiple accounts and channels in one convenient dashboard.

Content management tools also help streamline approval processes, allow you to follow hashtags and keyword searches, and usually offer some type of analytics dashboard with high-level metrics – much of the same metrics you can find in Facebook Insights and Twitter Analtyics.

The primary function of a content management tool is posting. It helps you manage the posting of content from one platform, rather than having to post natively in several different social accounts. 

Analytics tool

An analytics tool allows you to analyze years of digital content data across multiple channels to determine the best-proven topics and tactics to meet your content strategy goals. Analytics tools include Simply Measured, Track Maven, and LiftMetrix.

The key to an analytics tool is in who you choose to track. It allows you to take a deep dive into the social content of any organization — a competing university, global corporation, non-profit company. Once you take a look at their content underneath a microscope, there are insights to be gained from what leaders are doing in the social space. 

At the granular level, it will tell you how each individual post performed — your own posts or that of another organization’s that you are “tracking.” It clearly shows you what content is resonating with audiences so you can make informed decisions about your own content strategy.

It can also help you identify topics where you can provide thought leadership, and will give you a benchmarking comparative analysis of your social channels versus your competitors’. 

Listening or monitoring tool

A social media listening tool can hone in on and measure opinions expressed on social media about a brand, content, campaign, or any topic discussed within social media. It can also search historically and in real-time, in any language. Current listening tools include Crimson Hexagon, Sysomos, and Nuvi. 

The key to a social media listening tool is in the conversation topics you choose to “wiretap.” So for instance, you could learn who is being mentioned the most in social media about having the best athletics program, most beautiful campus, or best cafeteria menu. Once you learn who the leaders are in these conversations, you can study the “why” and “how,” and learn from their successes. 

Again, getting granular, think of it as a massive keyword search. You can  also determine gender, geography, and age of your audience and filter by demographics. Learn how to best reach and engage those audiences by identifying their interests through their social media conversations. 

So what type of tool or tools do you need?

When it comes social media analytics tools, there is no “one-size-fits-all.” 

You have ask the hard questions:

  • Where are we with our social media activity – are we trying to create a seamless posting process or are we trying to create a content strategy?
  • What are we trying to measure?
  • What are our goals? And I mean measureable goals, not fuzzy goals like, “getting our message out there.” 
  • What is our budget? Let’s face it; this may be the deciding factor.

I think the most common need that tends to arise is for a content management tool. After a while you may hunger for more meaningful metrics, and from there you will have to decide if an analytics tool or a listening tool, or both, will help move you forward in your social media efforts.