Turning Data Into Insights: An Overview of Social Measurement

August 23, 2013 Paul Van Winssen

No matter what industry you’re in, data and measurement play a key role. In social, data in the form of metrics provides cold, hard facts to help you understand if your social media efforts are successful. The importance of data has caused the majority of social media sites to implement native analytics tools. There are also a plethora of third-party providers available to give marketers a broader, more robust look at social data. Some of my personal favourites are Marketwired tools powered by Sysomos and Sprout Social.

Social Listening Is Just The Beginning

Social media measurement is built on a foundation of social listening. New mechanisms are capable of tracking an abundance of social stats in real-time (anything from likes and retweets to customer sentiment). This affords marketers an in depth view of conversations surrounding their brand. Brands can use these tools to build enormous social databases of which to leverage.

However, listening does not necessarily equal understanding. Sometimes there is so much data available that it can be difficult to sift through to what’s important. Having access to mountains of data creates an opportunity for brands, but if you aren’t capitalizing on it you aren’t any further ahead.

Brands and consumers have access to all this data right at their fingertips, but we are still only in the early stages of utilizing that data to drive business value. A study done last year by Oracle states that 93 percent of North American executives believe their organization is losing revenue by not leveraging the data that’s available to them. Brands need to be able to move past just collecting numbers and connect data to social objectives and business goals.

Take A Top-Down Approach

When faced with a data overload, an often-cited warning is to avoid vanity metrics, which look nice but provide little overall insight. Marketers will frequently point to “likes” as metrics that look nice on paper but aren’t a good indicator of overall community health. Engagement is commonly counted on as a much stronger metric for determining social success (I have commented on this in a previous post).

However, when filtering out metrics to determine what is important, the data that matters will vary depending on your brands’ social and business goals. Rather than dismissing certain metrics as unimportant to community health, focus on taking a top-down approach to social strategy. Start with the business goal your brand is trying to achieve. Next, outline how your business goals are reflecting in your social strategy.

What social objectives do you want to achieve which reflect your business goals? Finally, narrow down to a specific set of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that allow you to evaluate your success based on your objectives. By using this top-down approach, you can focus on these KPIs as metrics that accurately reflect what you’re trying to achieve with social and as a business. Looking at these metrics allows you to draw insight regarding whether your social strategy is effective.

Collaborate With Advocates and Influencers

As social listening tools continue to evolve, brands can create new ways to drive strategy towards deeper collaboration with their customers. Marketers can use new tools to understand their fan base on a more granular level, so they can better target their most important customers.

Brands can start to adapt to this new idea of collaborative marketing by conducting an audit of all of their social presences. Take a look at your communities and understand the value you provide to your fans. This will give a better idea into why users actually want to become your fans. After this you can use advanced tools to segment your fan base into different levels based on participation levels. This allows brands to focus on their most important segments. 80 percent of content about your brand is created by 20 percent of your fans. While your whole community is important, your key influencers add value to your brand by sharing their thoughts. You can connect to these users to show your appreciation for their feedback and helping to spread the word.


As a brand getting into social media, its important to understand that measurement is about more than just data. It’s about using that data to draw actionable insights. Marketers can use social listening as a foundation to understand the conversations around their brands. To avoid a data overload, make sure to focus on metrics that reflect the core business goals you’re trying to achieve. As listening tools evolve and your social strategy becomes more advanced, use precise segmentation to drill down to your most influential fans. Build relationships with those fans to strengthen your online communities and develop your brand presence.

About the Author

Paul is a social media marketer and startup enthusiast based in Toronto, Canada. He likes to traverse both the tech startup and marketing agency worlds (and everything in between). Paul divides his time equally between tech events and Blue Jays games.

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