What Is Social Media Analytics? [For Beginners]

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What Is Social Media Analytics? [For Beginners]

“What in the hell is social media analytics?” is how I picture my grandma Mimi asking me “what it is” I do over a cuppa. 


To explain social media analytics, first I’d have to explain what social media was. So I’d compare it to the old general store where she worked as a young woman. She loved telling us stories about it. It was a gathering place of sorts. Locals would stop in for their regular order and through the exchange, Mimi would get the news (whether she wanted it or not.)



But I’d remind her how the general store would bring in goods that their customers asked for, as well as the stuff that was regularly bought. She often talked about how they would arrange various grocery items, like flour, sugar, oats in the front and how they’d kept special treats in stock as well. So I’d tell her that Social Media Analytics was kind of like that; observing what customers and prospective customers were most interested in, as well as what customers actually bought and ensuring that they had exactly what was needed.

Okay. That may be too simple of an explanation.  And truth-be-told, she probably would have rolled her eyes. 

So then I’d just tell her that social media analytics is the science of analyzing social channels and the impact on customers, their behaviours in relation to our business. 

I would tell her how social media analytics gives us a chance to correct false biases (like, LinkedIn is always the best place for B2B interactions etc.) I’d tell her how it helps us answer questions, like “who hangs out on our Facebook page?”, “What kinds of content do our people engage in?” “How does social media truly impact our business?” 

I would tell her how about how we can gather and access data from all kinds of social media channels like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn.

I would tell her how each social media channel has specific metrics (numbers) that they track and we can access that information by exporting the data to excel. 

I would tell her how magical it is to generate your own, custom visualizations (charts, graphs, heatmaps and more) of social media data – and how much we can actually learn about our people and how they interact with our business when we know what’s important.

I would tell her just how incredible it feels to spot trends and patterns and then use these insights to make better decisions on how to best optimize our social channels (which includes how to better allocate our resources.)

I imagine at this point she would regret ever asking me. But she would probably nod and ask: “Do you like the work?” And then I would respond with a resounding, “YES!”

The truth is that Social Media Analytics can be seriously overwhelming to understand. There are so many things we can measure in social channels, it can be hard to know where to start. 


Let’s Start With A Simple Example

Let’s pretend I just opened a jewelry business. (We’re really going out on a limb here because I couldn’t even make those braided bracelets that were tres popular in the 90’s.) 

But just stick with me here. 

Let’s say I have a limited marketing budget. I’ll probably opt for leveraging social media and  sign up for Instagram because some guru somewhere told me that that’s the place I need to be.

So I get to work creating cover photos and images in Canva. I make sure I create lots of different variations to showcase my awesome creations.

I start posting my little heart out on Instagram. I’m pretty much on fire. The guru says a minimum of 3 posts per day, I’m posting at least 10x that. 

I expect when I open the “Analytics” tab on Instagram to be overwhelmed with (at a minimum) a lot of numbers in front of me.

But instead, I am shocked.

Crickets! No one is liking my content (except for some weird person whose name is @YourEtsyFriend09837645) No comments (except for one that says, “I like your channel, come give mine some love too!”) and most important, absolutetly no sales. 


What did I do wrong?



I didn’t start with a goal. ?‍♀️If I want to actually know what’s up or down, we need to start with a goal. ⭐Think: what am I trying to accomplish? 

We can start with the same three universal challenges all businesses owners face:

(1) Must continually increase revenue

(2) Must decrease operations costs 

(3) Must keep customers (and employees) satisfied.


For our jewelry business, we obviously want to make sales. But to start, our number one goal is likely going to be to generate brand awareness (because if people don’t know I exist, how are they going to become my customer?) 

Here’s the thing, brand building takes time. So it is important that we set realistic expectations, especially if we’re growing this biz organically. 

But there are many other ways businesses and organizations can leverage social media. We can offer customer service, use it reach and recruit new employees, or generate awareness around products and services. 

No matter how we plan to use it, we must first answer this critical question, “What are we trying to do here?”

Knowing first what you’re trying to do, and establishing goals at the outset will help you choose effective metrics and KPIs to monitor. Which then makes extracting data from the social media channels easier (because you won’t be overwhelmed by metrics that no longer matter.) 

And of course, if you remember what Social Media Analytics is all about, we want to use the data to gain insights and optimize our efforts.

Next up, we’re going to talk about setting SMART social media goals. (Try to get a handle on your excitement.)

[If my grandma Mimi was living today, she would be celebrating her 105th birthday on December 26. I often think of her and what she would make of this “social media crazed world” – which is what led me to write this blog post!]


Kat Macaulay, BA ADdPR BnC
Kat Macaulay, BA ADdPR BnC
Kat Macaulay is a Marketing Strategist, Writer + Speaker known for her no-nonsense approach to pretty much everything. Using data insights, she helps organizations market more effectively to get results that matter. She's also a high-scoring instructor at Mount Royal University, where she teaches Social Media Analytics and Google Analytics + Marketing Measurement. She holds certifications from Google, as well as Facebook and is currently working toward a specialization in Marketing Analytics and a certificate in Data Science from IBM. When she’s not busy juggling kids, volunteering + work, she’s busy planning her retirement to Cape Breton.