Blog: More to Social Media Reporting than Engagement

The qualitative side of reporting drives the most impactful conversations about what the data is really telling us.

By Reed Scherer, Campus Sonar Social Media Data Analyst

How do we measure social media?

Reed with social logos swirling around his headBeing a social media manager can be a tough role; creating enough content while maintaining a positive relationship with your online network is a heavy task. Social media itself is so abstract and seemingly limitless, being able to quickly and accurately measure a brand’s or organization’s online performance is essential to tracking progress and maintaining a proper image.

Traditionally, social media performance is measured in very simple terms: engagement. This might include number of followers, likes/favorites, retweets, comments, etc. Quantifying these ideas is a great approach to both comparing your own audience to that of other organizations and having a benchmark to compare current to past performance.

What is the true value of social media?

In other industries, a dollar is worth a dollar, and every product in a store has its price. The realities often missed tracking engagement is that not every online mention is created equal, not every social media follower will be engaged, and not every retweet reaches a sizable audience. So why treat them as equal? Social media appears shallow and simple when measured using quantitative figures. Social listening, on the other hand, identifies key voices and important areas of conversation that 1) would never be recognized using traditional engagement metrics, and 2) contribute to impact-driven decision making. In many cases, we see that one-off mentions from smaller accounts, or even anonymous individuals, can provide more insight than larger mentions that initially rise to the top.

How can we find this impactful conversation?

In the case of higher ed, let’s look at enrollment and admissions. A quick search on a social media management platform, filtered by admissions-related words and phrases, would produce an easy-to-digest list of content relevant to you. Your options from there would be to manually scroll through these mentions, or to summarize them using engagement statistics, maybe pulling out a few pieces of conversation that stand out. In this case, what types of mentions would rise to the top, strictly based on follower count, likes, retweets, and comments? Most likely they would be related to admitted students as opposed to prospective students, or related to athletic commitments.

A secondary approach using social listening would be to segment our mentions based on the audiences we’re most interested in. This could mean temporarily excluding student athletes and admitted students to focus on prospective voices on forums discussing application struggles, financial aid concerns, or even competitor institutions. Or segmenting only by admitted students to congratulate them in real time on their acceptance. 

There's more to social media reporting than just engagement. Often, the voices and ideas driving conversations are more interesting and valuable than how many followers a poster may have. Reporting can certainly be driven by numbers, but it’s the qualitative side that drives impactful conversations about what data is really telling us.