SMA Guide Hero-04

The Ultimate Social Media Analytics Guide

In times when marketing shifts away from gut feeling, data-driven decision making analytics gets increasingly important. As soon as a website is set up, Google Analytics is installed in order not to fish in murky waters. It allows you to see which pages work and from where visitors come to your website. Social Media Analytics works similarly, analyzing similar metrics in the social media sphere.

When I speak to someone at a conference who asks what quintly does, I always reply: “We do analytics for social media, basically the Google Analytics for all social networks.”

Of course, that is not entirely correct but certainly goes in the right direction.

The following, in-depth article will cover everything you need to know when approaching social media analytics. We will show you a proven process, talk about features that can be important, which metrics can be relevant and which tools can help in order to get deeper insights.

The Social Media Analytics Cycle (SMAC)

Before we jump into the details of social media analytics itself, I would love to provide you with a framework that helps you to understand the process behind it. It is also the starting point of our social media analytics academy, which is also a recommended resource and linked below!

Social Media Analytics Cycle analytics

Step 1 - Access collected data 

With API restrictions from networks, accessing data became harder to do for many companies that have not been whitelisted.

Luckily there are tools, like quintly, that do exactly that for you. Collect data, structure it and visualize it in easy digestible graphs. After you have logged into your tool of choice, start to track your own channels and some of your competition (the last part is often forgotten, but essential in a competitive market). Now, you can have a closer look at your already-existing social media footprint.

Tip: Take your time in this step and be critical!

Step 2 - Understand collected data and set your goals

The second step in our SMAC is understanding the data and setting goals. And the first part - understanding the data - is more than crucial! Here, you should be very detailed and ask all critical questions. Once you have understood the data and its effect, you are ready to set a goal.

An example here: You have achieved 10k followers on Instagram which was your goal for a while and you are at first happy with that. While analyzing, you see that your competitor has a similar amount of followers but receives more comments on the average post. Based on this, a new goal could be increasing comments and the social media KPI to it could be the amount of comments in a specific time frame

Step 3 - Reporting

Last but not least, reporting should be your last step. Here, think wisely who the recipient of the report is and set up an automated social media report.

For example, your upper management or clients are interested in different data than your close team members. To keep the former (upper management or clients) in the loop, very basic numbers are needed. Thus, a basic report with the most important social media KPIs is sufficient.

Social Media Landscape - Understanding Limitations

Ok, now we know how an analysis should be approached. Frankly speaking, this is the most important part of it and thus was the reason I started with this.

Another important factor to set the scene is to understand the role of social media analytics. To understand what it can help you with and know its limitations.

In a competitive market - such as social media software - providers tend to claim they can do everything perfectly. This is rarely (perhaps never) the case as tools are always either specialized or general. Perhaps you can compare tools to colleagues; some oversee a lot of different tasks, whereas you have one colleague who knows everything about performance marketing.

The available social media tools are, roughly speaking, divided into three areas:

1) Social media management 

Allows you to manage your social media efforts. By that we mean crafting and publishing tweets and posts. Often these tools offer you some kind of insights as well.

2) Social media listening/monitoring 

These tools work a bit like Google (oversimplifying again). They crawl the entire web and search when your brand (or the keyword you are looking for) is mentioned. For us, this was really helpful after launching one of our social media studies, or for Nike, when they launched a new running shoe and wanted to see how many people were talking about it.

3) Social media analytics 

We talked about this already a bit. A layman could call it Google Analytics for social media. Tools, such as quintly, provide users with deep insights into how content performed. The best time to post, how the perfect social media post looks and many more in-depth questions can be analyzed.

Here’s a graphic that summarizes the whole market and visualizes the three very different disciplines.

quintly social media landscape

Social Media Analytics Features & Solutions 

Several things are important when investing in a tool. Features and their solutions to a problem are amongst them.

Let’s cover some of them now.

The possibility to analyze all networks in one place

Most companies focus on one network. For some it is LinkedIn, for others it is Instagram.

Anyways, you should have an eye on the networks the tool that you might invest in analyzes.

More networks give you the option to also try different strategies on different platforms, or even other teams from the company can use the tool.

Adjustable dashboards 

Nowadays, most analytics (social or web) as well as monitoring tools are organized in dashboards. Here, metrics are bundled and graphs are displayed. What is important here is that these tiles should not be fixed but you should be the driver of the size, order and content of them.

Ideally you can also export metrics and graphs, and report entire dashboards to recipients of choice. This aspect nicely leads into our next part, social media reporting.

Automated Reporting 

Social Media Reports can be, if the right metrics are chosen, extremely helpful to keep your team informed and your upper management and boss in the loop.

Ideally, these reports are automated.

That would mean once the report is set up and scheduled to the desired frequency, a system sends it out without you needing to keep an eye on it.

The importance of customization

When it comes to measuring your marketing efforts, you should not be satisfied with a basic standard metric set.

Some tools offer the option to adjust dashboards and metrics. Even if that seems to be irrelevant in the beginning, it’s not after you get deeper in your analysis.

Customization and flexibility will be important going forward with social media analytics!

API & data import options 

Also something that might not be important at the very beginning, but will certainly become relevant when your company’s data centralization approach matures. The fact that data silos kill productivity in companies and that we can all profit from data for our decision-making also affects social media.

The tool you choose should surely offer a social media API that allows you to get data and integrate it with help of a social media data warehouse into BI tools, like Looker, or visualize data in your own solution.

Social Media Metrics and Potential KPIs 

Metrics are the backbone of analytics. 

They are a parameter for measuring, answering specific questions, and helping you to get more data-driven in decisions to better stir marketing initiatives.

There are gazillions of metrics in web and social analytics floating around, which can be a bit overwhelming. I will provide you with a few examples that show you which metrics might be best for your own company. 

If your company is still in the early stages of social media analytics, a small set of general metrics is fully sufficient.

A few examples of basic metrics:

Followers Change, Posts, Interactions

Followers Change quintly sports brands 

A simple metric that answers a single question: “How did my (and my competitor's) followers evolve over time?”. Although this metric is rather a basic one, it is still extremely important. You can learn a lot about when you managed to get more people to follow your page. The content or initiatives in this time period went well and should be replicated and further improved. Times where follower growth plateaus are normal but this metric tells you when the slow growth continues too long, from your own perspective.     

If you consider social media as a central part of your marketing mix, social media analytics should provide you with more, in-depth metrics.

Some examples of advanced metrics:

Follower distribution (for a competitive analysis), post type comparison (analyses the different post types used), post/interaction comparison (reveals the best time to post)

PostsInteractions Comparison quintly

This metric sheds light into the dark when you receive the highest amount of interactions and when you post the most. Ideal of course would be a bigger bubble for interactions, where you should then consider to post more.

Generally speaking, it can be said that there are hundreds of metrics that could help you to improve your social media marketing initiatives. All of those answer one specific question and help you with one job that needs to be done. For you as the analyst at this moment, it is essential to understand the question you ask. Be clear about what you are trying to achieve by asking this question, then think of a metric that would help you achieving this!

Tips When Buying a Social Media Analytics Tool 

Irrespective of costs or contract times, you should take a couple of aspects into consideration when buying a social media analytics tool. The following points are essentials in order to be sure you do not commit to the wrong tool and that it serves your needs the best.


Reviews on G2 Crowd or similar platforms are a great way to understand which problems other users have had with the tool you are considering, and what they liked about it.

The best tip here: Take your time reading and understanding the reviews. In order to be critical and to get the most out of them, ask a couple of questions.

  • Do the reviews sound authentic or too good to be true?
  • Are the users complaining about a certain feature (missing)?
  • Do the users like one aspect and emphasize that?
  • Are the users that reviewed similar to you? Can you imagine facing the same challenges?

Generally speaking with reviews, you should never go by the quantity but rather have a look at the reviews that are there and which parallels you see to your area of use.

Another indicator that helps you understand how well the tool you are looking at is perceived by other users, are the badges. These badges are rewarded to companies by platforms, such as G2 Crowd, for getting (a lot of) good reviews. 

Most companies will then put these badges on their website to proudly show page visitors that other users have given them a high rating. If the website of the tool you are interested in has such a badge, chances are high that the tool is considered to be good by its users. 

G2Crowd Certificate

Efficient support team

At some point you will have a question. That’s for certain.

The question to answer here is which of the tools you are considering has a good support team to help you. Are they fast enough in all time zones? Try to find out what people say about the support of your tool of choice.

A good indicator also is a chat bubble in the bottom right. The possibility to chat with a support employee in real-time can solve things incredibly fast.


As soon as you are in the sales process, be aware what people say to you and have an eye on honesty. Is everything you ask for no problem and absolutely doable? Be aware, it’s extremely normal that tools have limitations as they need to focus on a number of aspects.

No tool can do “everything” and as soon this is promised, be careful and ask for proof.

Recommended Readings

The Digital Analytics Guide 
How to Measure Instagram Performance 
Top 10 Social Media Analytics Features