The first week of every month for a Social Media Manager is a minefield of CSV exports, graphs, tables and the occasional pie-chart. You’ll find the poor souls staring off into the distance wishing they were somewhere less analytical, but it shouldn’t be this way.
Now, I don’t expect anyone to believe that data is delightful, but if you’re in social media (or the digital industry at large), you should know that in those spreadsheets and many-page reports are incredible insights about your community, your content and your performance.
Of course, reporting is not just reporting, so if you’re hell bent on making some recommendations and finding the meat on the bones that will serve as a springboard for your next idea, here’s somewhere you can start.
Do the Groundwork
Behind every great report is an exceptional reporting framework and a fair amount of groundwork, but behind every framework that works is a clear-cut set of objectives. Reporting without an objective is a bit like driving your car without knowing where you’re going. There’s not as much value in reporting on general performance, so think about what you need to measure, and in comparison to what. Boil down your objectives to what’s most important and let that be the foundation for your reporting framework.
Is fan-growth an objective for your client? Then tracking your rate of fan-growth month-on-month and potentially throughout the month should be a priority in your report. Trying to prove that your new content direction was worth the hard work? Then comparing content performance in terms of engagement rates and post consumption could be what you need to illustrate your standpoint.
Once you’ve established what your objectives are, you can start putting together a framework that answers back to whether or not you’re on track, or how you’re performing to meet your objectives.
Less is More (for client), More is More (for your team)
Believe me, the raw data that we export on a monthly basis from social media platforms can feel like an information overload to many people, and the trick to not feeling overwhelmed is knowing what you need to look at but also knowing how to tackle and digest the various streams of data so that you can get the most out of it. If you’re posting multiple times a day, your client is probably not interested in a per-post breakdown, but in order to fish out the best performance and content findings, you’ll need to have a comprehensive set of data at your fingertips.
Keep the data you’ve sorted and sifted through on hand, and make it accessible to your team, keeping a Google Doc is a great way to have a living reporting document that can give your team important findings at a glance.
Compare Apples with Apples
Always remember that what you report on and use as the basis for your insights needs to factor in a number of variables, ranging from your content format (i.e. Image or video) to your posting time (i.e. Morning, evening, weekend). Having a campaign split is a great start to measure what may have media spend separate from what you’re posting organically on a daily basis.
Another good tip is splitting your performance report based on the type of content which will help you get a better idea of what your audience is engaging with. On Facebook, video content generally gets a higher engagement rate, so comparing a static image’s performance to a piece of video content wouldn’t always give you the best idea of whether a post has performed well or not.
Back It Up (your insights that is)
In a much earlier age of social media, reports could get away with vague insights, but in a rightfully data-driven era, you’ll be in a much more empowered position of expertise if you chucked your “could be” into the bin. Social Media doesn’t have to be a guessing game and you’d be doing a great disservice to the work you pour your soul into by making unsubstantiated claims in your reports.
A lot of the time, social media managers have a good idea of what an emerging community trend is because we’re active on our pages every day, this is why so many of us are confident in findings that aren’t backed by data, but I can’t stress enough how important it is to start using data to support our strategic insights.
Track performance month-on-month, use a/b testing to explore your ‘hunch’, pit pieces of content against one another and compare their performance to optimise with insight. These are the makings of the kind of reporting that won’t just unveil gems of information to your client, but also to your team.
Reporting doesn’t need to be scary, or overwhelming, it just takes some hard work and planning to get going. Remember, there is no set formula to an exceptional report, it may take some trial and error to get to where you need to be. The same way that good social is about catering to your audience, great reports are tailored to answer your objectives. Now go forth, and conquer…the spreadsheet/s.