21 Social media analytics

Learning Objectives

By the end of this chapter, students must be able to:

  • Identify different types of social media analytics and their functions
  • List the steps in undertaking a review of a company’s social media performance, using analytics

Source: Netbase Quid [1]

The following material is derived from Brosius and Cless [2] and is used under a Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0 Licence.

The application of social media within programs has grown exponentially over the past decade and has become a popular way for programs to engage and reach their stakeholders and inform engagement efforts. Consequently, organizations are utilizing data analytics from social media platforms as a way to measure impact. These data can help managers understand how program objectives, progress, and outcomes are disseminated and used (e.g., through discussions, viewing of content, following program social media pages). Social media allows programs to:

  • Reach broad and diverse audiences
  • Promote open communication and collaboration
  • Gain instantaneous feedback
  • Predict future impacts – “Forecasting based on social media has already proven surprisingly effective in diverse areas including predicting stock prices, election results and movie box-office returns.”  (Priem 2014). [3]


Social Virtual Reality (or Social VR) has seen an increase in users recently. Photograph: Sally Tsoutas © 2022  Western Sydney University taken by  Sally Tsoutas Western Sydney University Photographer is licensed under an  Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

What Is Social Media Analytics?

Social media analytics is the ability to gather and find meaning in data gathered from social channels to support business decisions — and measure the performance of actions based on those decisions through social media. Social media analytics is broader than metrics such as likes, follows, retweets, previews, clicks, and impressions gathered from individual channels. Social media analytics uses specifically designed software platforms (e.g. Twitonomy) that work similarly to web search tools. Data about keywords or topics are retrieved through search queries or web ‘crawlers’ that span channels. Fragments of text are returned, loaded into a database, categorized, and analyzed to derive meaningful insights.


Should social media analysis be conducted?

Metrics available for social media are extensive and not all are useful for determining the impact of a program’s social media efforts. As Sterne (2010)[4] explains, there needs to be meaning with social media metrics because “measuring for measurement’s sake is a fool’s errand”; “without context, your measurements are meaningless”; and “without specific business goals, your metrics are meaningless.”Therefore, it is important to consider specific program objectives and which metrics (key performance indicators [KPIs]) are central to assessing the progress and success of these objectives.

Additionally, it is also worthwhile to recognize that popular social media platforms are always changing, categorizing various social media platforms is difficult, and metrics used by different platforms vary.

In order to provide more meaning to the social media analyses of a program, it may be helpful to consider using a framework to provide a structure for aligning social media metrics to the program’s objectives and assist with demonstrating progress and success towards those objectives.


Knowing when and if to conduct a social media analysis is an important concept to consider. Just because a social media analysis can be conducted doesn’t mean one should be conducted. Therefore, before beginning one it is important to take the time to determine a few things:

  1. What are the specific goals that will be answered through social media?
  2. How will these goals be measured using social media?
  3. Which platforms will be most valuable/useful in reaching the targeted audience?


Social Media Metrics across different platforms

The following table and materials is derived from Forsyth, E and Doherty, A 2015 [5] and is used under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial ShareAlike 4.0 Licence.

Social media metrics are used to measure if particular communication objectives are being achieved. An organisation’s performance on social media should not only be measured through quantitative analysis. Qualitative analysis of comments and posts is equally important.

Table: Social Media Metrics and Associated Objectives

Social Media Metric  Performance Indicator Marketing/Communication Objective
Number and frequency of posts Social Media presence Basic presence on any social media platform
Number of followers/fans Reach The number and profile of people reached
Number of (‘post’) views
Number of ‘unsubscribed’ followers
Demographics of followers
Number of ‘comments’ Engagement T
The number of people who ‘engage’ with the content
Number of ‘shares’ or ‘retweets’
Number of ‘likes’
Number of ‘downloads’
Number of ‘mentions’ or ‘tags’
Amount of discussion generated
Ratio of positive comments in comparison to total comments Satisfaction The number of satisfied people
Ratio of negative comments in comparison to total comments
Number of ‘click-throughs’ to the order page Action taken The number of people who place an order (for example), or register for an event, or sign up to receive updates
Number of orders placed


After retrieving data from the a company’s social media platforms, it is important to analyse the data. The results from the analysis can be organised to include the following information:

  • The extent to which the company’s message was viewed on various social media platforms
  • The type of audience viewing/engaging with the content
  • The engagement and preferences of audiences with reference to the content being posted on various social media platforms
  • Potential areas of focus for the company’s future social media efforts


How to track social media performance with social media analytics tools

Below is a systematic process to track a company’s social media performance

1.   Define the goals for a company’s social media campaign (e.g., to gain 10,000 followers)

2.   Choose social media platforms to use

3.  Choose relevant metrics which would measure performance against each goal

4.  Set benchmarks/ growth rates for each metric to demonstrate progress

5.  Generate a social media analytics report (identify emerging trends/insights into customer behaviour)

6.   Take action to improve your social media performance (e.g., making it easy for customers to send a query on FB)

7.   Revise and revisit (social media metrics) regularly

  1. Netbase Quid 2016, The importance of social media analytics for business, 28 Jun, online video, viewed 1 May 2022, <hhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ocK8o9ROkhE>.
  2. Brosius, L & Cless, A 2019, Utilizing social media analytics to demonstrate program impact,  viewed 11 May 2022, <https://evalu-ate.org/blog/brosius_cless_nov2019/>
  3. Priem, J 2014, 'Altmetrics', in B. Cronin & C. R. Sugimoto (Eds.), Beyond bibliometrics: harnessing multidimensional indicators of scholarly impact, The MIT Press, Cambridge, pp. 263-288.
  4. Sterne, J 2010, Social media metrics: how to measure and optimize your marketing investment, John Wiley, Hoboken NJ.
  5. Forsyth, E and Doherty, A 2015, Social media analytics in an imperfect world, Australian Library and Information Association, <https://read.alia.org.au/social-media-analytics-imperfect-world>.


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Customer Insights Copyright © 2023 by Aila Khan, Munir Hossain and Sabreena Amin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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