How brands can use social media analytics in 2017

Social media has developed into an effective component of digital strategy, but measuring its performance is still a challenge. How will analytics affect social media in 2017?

It’s interesting to examine how social media analytics change the landscape of digital marketing, as their sophisticated use brings out more opportunities for marketing campaigns with a clear ROI.

I discussed the latest trends in social media analytics with Julian Gottke and Tilo Kmieckowiak from quintly, and they offered some interesting insights into how brands can take advantage of them.

How do you expect social media to change in 2017?

Video content already saw a steep rise last year, and this is not expected to change this year. On the contrary, we expect video content to play an even bigger role in 2017. A survey has shown that people are four times more likely to inform themselves about a product if the information is presented in a video rather than in text.

On top of this, Facebook Live videos have shown to be rather popular among its users. This powerful feature for streaming live video content will likely become even more important this year.

Among Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, we are currently seeing the highest rate of engagement on Instagram. This draws much attention to the photo network, and since it’s perfect to present consumer products, it’s expected to be used even more heavily in 2017. This means that Instagram will become more professionalized which may, in turn, lead to lower interaction rates. Our observations of Facebook have shown a similar effect before.

Nevertheless, Instagram successfully released its Stories feature last year, and might steal that momentum away from Snapchat

What’s the best way for a brand to drive ROI from social media?

The magic word here is “strategy”. Without running your social media channels with a clear goal, they are not likely to generate the optimal leverage. It is very important to understand the effects of what you are doing on social in the first place.

Without assessing your current performance, it is hard to make decisions for the future. Based on this assessment, you can set your goals. When you know what you want to achieve, you can find and choose the right social media KPIs to measure these objectives. Social networks are always changing, and so is the behavior of their users. This is why it is important to carry out performance measurements on an ongoing basis to keep up with new developments.

A useful piece of advice that some still seem to overlook: make the best use of Facebook Insights data! It provides you with additional information on metrics like your reach, when users are on your page, and detailed follower demographics.

How can spending more time on analytics change your use of social media?

While using social media analytics on an ongoing basis, your activities will become more refined and better-tailored towards the content consumption and general behavior of your followers. With the ability to benchmark your performance against your competitors, you will view a new angle of your own performance. With this reference point, you can make your content even better.

Your targeting can improve greatly when you analyze data that can show how users digest your content. Based on this, you can ground your posting patterns on solid information and not only on random spot checks. This can help tremendously to get closer the ideal posting time – one of the age old myths of social media.

Besides that, analytics can make it a lot easier to find the right post format for individual goals. For example, we perceived that picture posts on Facebook get a much higher Reach than links posts. However, you cannot get as much information across as with a link to your web page or blog. Accordingly, link clicks increase when you post links that contain a proper preview.

What can a brand learn about its audience from social media analytics?

First and foremost, you can draw conclusions of how the audience interacts with your content. You can find out the post types that are most popular with your followers. For example, we have observed that posts with a personal touch work best. Pretty much every post that includes real people works better than anything else on average.

It is also possible to see when users interact with your content and where they come from. You can also compare the interaction rates of different networks, so you can identify which network may be the most viable for your strategy.

Another hot topic is customer service. A growing number of people tend to see social media as a channel of communication with brands. With social media analytics, you can find out more about how much people post to your Facebook page and get more data on the messages they send to you.

It is also possible to monitor your response times and these of your competitors. By using this data, you can further improve your own customer service on social

How does engagement change year-by-year on social media?

Last year, we witnessed a distinct drop in average interactions on Instagram. However, this does not mean that Instagram is generally declining. We can still find the highest amount of interactions on Instagram compared to Facebook and Twitter. On these two, interaction rates have remained rather stable with Facebook still being above Twitter.

As of now, we don’t expect that to change much in 2017. Instagram remains hugely popular with an increasing post frequency, but Facebook is also far from being dead as big brands have been ramping up their post frequency in 2016.

Instagram was probably the most discussed social network in 2016. What’s the secret to mastering Instagram analytics?

While Instagram is very successful at the moment, the approach to mastering Instagram in analytics is not too different from other networks. It is important to find the right social media KPIs that fit the goals that you are striving for.

Also, don’t forget to benchmark your own performance against your competitors. However, choose them wisely, as not all competitors are necessary doing so well themselves or can act as the perfect reference point to what you aim for.

Hashtags can also make a big difference on the performance of your content. With Instagram analytics, you can monitor the performance of certain hashtags or find out which of them are the most successful among all the ones you used in a certain time frame. Finding the right hashtags can still be crucial for your success.

As on all other networks, the time of publication of your content can play a big role in your social media success. Find out when most of your followers interact with your content by comparing your post times with the interaction rates of your content. In general, you should really take your time to think about who your audience is to tailor your content around it.

Connecting with other Instagram users on other networks or outside in the ‘real world’ can be highly beneficial if you bring back these connections to Instagram and for example receive shout outs from them.

At the end of the day, there are more ways to master Instagram analytics. One of them is the ability to tailor your measuring approach to exactly what you need. Tools like quintly offer the option to customize the default metrics or write new metrics from scratch, giving you almost limitless possibilities to evaluate your social media activities.

There was widespread discussion regarding Facebook’s miscalculated metrics. What can we learn from this and how does this affect a brand’s decision to pay attention to social metrics?

Mistakes happen everywhere, even huge companies like Facebook are not completely safe from that. In the end, however, we have to rely on the data we get from the social networks. In the case of the miscalculated video metrics, Facebook made this mistake public. Accordingly, it was possible to correct one’s view on the wrong statistics.

So it is never lost time to closely follow social media news and the blogs of the companies behind the social networks we use. This way you can make sure that when such an error happens, at least you don’t miss it.

As always in our industry, it’s important to stay agile! But all in all, we don’t expect too many mistakes, as the social networks have to keep credibility high and thus constantly work on getting their things right. Nevertheless, it is always good to double check if possible every now and then.

As video gets bigger, which metrics are most important to track regarding video performance?

With video becoming hugely popular on social networks, it is also important to monitor their performance more closely. In the case of Facebook, there are many data points available in their API.

Of course, it is interesting to monitor the number of views on your videos, but Facebook offers many more options for analysis. By analysing the audience retention, you are able to identify if a video attracts the attention of its viewers or if the viewers quickly lose interest.

Interest over time is a good indicator of how the content of your video is perceived. This might help you to identify certain characteristics in your videos that drive interactions and check which of them seem to be less engaging. Similar to a TV spot, you always try to keep the interest of the viewers as high as possible, so that the relation between the brand and the user can last as long as possible.

What would you advise to someone feeling confused with all the available metrics in social media marketing?

We can give rather concise advice here: take the time to explore the tool you use, get a demo first, and use account review options that the provider offers. At first, it might seem a bit overwhelming to see all the different metrics for all networks. But after some time, you will see that quite a few metrics are rather similar for different networks.

After you have taken some time to explore the available metrics, it is a good idea to think of what you want to measure. If you focus on content marketing, for example, you will have to utilize different metrics than for measuring customer service on social media.

If you still have some doubts, any good social media analytics provider should offer some form of onboarding information as well. At quintly, we also provide personal onboarding via phone.

Which is the most interesting observation you’ve made about social media through quintly?

We were closely covering the US election 2016. By performing monthly analyses, we uncovered quite a lot of data on how Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump communicated via Facebook and Twitter. Early on, it became rather obvious that Trump was far ahead of his democratic rival on these platforms, and that social media might really make a difference in the election.

During our Election Analysis we also launched a new metric that makes it possible to see Twitter Interaction Patterns. Twitter interaction patterns are meant to describe the interactions of a user with one profile page and showcases which other profiles the user interacts with.

Our various studies also showed some interesting results. For example, we could see that interactions went down by 33% on average on Instagram from 2015 to 2016. We were also able to show that, despite increasing claims, Facebook is far from dead, as the biggest brands on the network tend to post more than ever.  

Finally, what is the story behind quintly?

Quintly is a social media analytics provider that was founded by two brothers, Alexander and Frederik Peiniger, in 2011. We are now based in San Francisco and New York in the United States, Sao Paulo, Brazil with our headquarter remaining in Cologne, Germany.

We doubled our number of team members in 2016, which is a great sign. Our professional social media analytics platform enables users to track all their channels and their competitors in one place.

We also run a blog which covers general topics on analytics and social media marketing. Our frequent studies deliver deep insights into social media data, and we also cover events like sports tournaments and elections on social.

Related reading

Screenshot shows a Google search for outdoor grills, the shopping ads shows images with “in store” showing the product is available nearby.