7 Ways to Tame the Beast in Your Social Reporting

Pop their bubble by asking how to make those pretty charts actionable and how it ties to actual business performance

We’ve been looking at a lot of social data over the years. By 2011, we had gathered 120 billion impressions on Facebook alone — and now we’re into the trillions.

That’s thousands of Facebook accounts, Twitter profiles, YouTube channels, and so forth. But let’s not mistake having lots of data with performing lots of analysis or creating lots of value.

When you hear someone mention “big data,” you know you’re getting big buzzwords and big confusion.
Pop their bubble by asking how to make those pretty charts actionable and how it ties to actual business performance.

Here are 7 simple techniques to extract value from your social analytics.

1) Show context

This is what a typical chart looks like:
Screenshot 2015-01-21 11.48.05

Colorful and likely viewable on your ipad in real-time or whatever.

Great, fans are increasing. But why? And does this have any bearing on revenue, leads, or whatever business goals you have?

There are a lot of tools and analysts that claim to be doing analysis, but are really just generating charts. Bust through this by using the MAA framework — Metrics, Analysis Action.


Metrics are what the numbers are — perhaps your dashboard or recurring performance report.

Analysis is WHY the key numbers went up or down — can you trace it to a campaign, creative, competitor action, or seasonality?

Action is what you’ll do to amplify what’s already working or correct what’s broken.

Any time you have a chart with lines that are going up or down, ask the “so what?” question to determine context. It might just be noise or something nor worth paying attention to.

2) Make sure you’re looking at business metrics.

Don’t get caught up in vanity metrics like impressions, fans, pins, and favorites. You can use them as diagnostic metrics to troubleshoot if one of the key business metrics is down.

Narrowing down to just 2-3 key business metrics will eliminate much of the clutter and cost of your reporting. Then you’ll avoid the siren’s song of the flashiest new software, which despite its real-time reporting, doesn’t know your business or its underlying drivers.

When you start with business metrics and trace back to the early indicator metrics that affect performance, you save time. What most people do is ask for an exhaustive inventory of all data elements possible, then select what they think might be interesting.

You don’t have time for the needle in a haystack game.

3) Always set metrics in pairs.

If you don’t, you subject yourself to gaming, intentionally or inadvertently.

Want to increase your conversion rates instantly? Just cut the ads or campaigns that are lower performance, even if they’re profitable.

We had tried out one consultant who went into a client campaign and cut nearly everything. He didn’t optimize a thing for two months, but claimed victory based on this sole metric.

Usually, you’ll have a volume and margin metric trade-off for each pair.

Here is the Facebook traffic for the Golden State Warriors. We can attribute their massive increase in engagement due to the team winning, as well as strong digital efforts.

Screenshot 2015-01-24 22.58.00

If you don’t have your counterbalancing metric, you’ll be taking credit for something that isn’t yours.

4) Show both grids and trendlines.

A grid is like an Excel spreadsheet — rows and columns. Finance people like this. I know — I have an undergrad in finance.

A trendline graphs a metric over time or another variable (product, geography, customer segment). You’re looking to quickly (visually) spot a change, which is hard to see in a grid view.