Updated: Aug 11, 2020
“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half.” – John Wanamaker (1838-1922)
One of the most influential quotes in marketing, this message gets across a very complex idea in an effortless way. When it comes to digital marketing, it’s crucial to know what you’re doing and how to navigate this space. There are so many sophisticated and comprehensive reporting techniques and tools available to you, that if you don’t know which half of your money is being wasted, then you’re wasting your time.
Social media reporting is not an afterthought, and it’s not something you can just string together without any prior planning. If you want to draw real insights that can improve your business, you need to put the work in from conception to delivery.
Don’t fret, though. While reporting can seem like the hardest part of advertising, there are some simple steps you can take between all your content planning to ensure that the data you need is being captured.
Step 1: Define your organisation’s goal
“Success requires definition.” It’s a simple thesis statement, but one that is often overlooked. When you commit to any undertaking, the first thing you must do is define what success looks like.
In theory, you’re already doing this as part of your content planning, but when it comes to reporting, this goal is crucial. Your definition of success is you saying, “this is what good looks like to me,” and “if I accomplish this, then the money was well spent.”
As such, it’s important to reassess these goals through a reporting lens. What is the overarching goal of your content or campaign? Is it driving increased revenue? Perhaps you want more visits to your website? Or are you just trying to get your name out there?
Step 2: Define your goals
It’s natural to think that the best reports include the most information. However, the reality is, as the reporter, your role is to ingest the data and use it to tell a narrative.
When coming up with a report, keep in mind what your goals are as the reporter and who the audience for your report will be.
Are you trying to convince your head of marketing to invest more in a specific campaign? Are you creating an internal report to use insights to drive content? Is this report just for yourself so you can plan content with additional data and insights?
Who is this report for and what is it supposed to do for them? In what time frame are you delivering this report? What outcome are you trying to achieve with this report?
Step 3: Turn your goal into a metric
Once you have an overall goal, it’s time to distil this into your desired outcome and then attach that to a metric.
Depending on where your business is, come up with an achievable and attainable goal or KPI for success. We’ve put together a cheat sheet table for you below with some common goals and the metrics they relate to:
Let’s reiterate and emphasise achievable metrics here. The last thing you want to do is dream too big, and turn your KPI into something unattainable. A score you can’t get just breeds apathy and is ultimately meaningless. Your goal doesn’t have to be a set number as well; it can be a growth rate if that’s more meaningful.
Step 4: Set up your metrics on social
So, you’ve set your goals, you’ve devised a plan for how to achieve them, and you’re ready to get this train moving, right?
It’s time to set up your reporting apparatus. Otherwise, you’re not actually capturing any of the metrics you need, and you’ll find yourself scraping some metrics together from four or five unreliable sources after the fact.
If you’re running any paid campaign through Facebook Business Manager, you already have Facebook Ads Reporting. This is a free tool that comes with any Facebook Business Manager account and will give you detailed insights on how your pages and campaigns perform.
Use this tool to set up a basic report to review weekly, using some of the metrics discussed in the previous step. Facebook reporting will only provide you with insights on how your ads are doing across Facebook and Instagram.
You’ll want additional information from Instagram Insights and Facebook Page Insights to build out more data on how your content is performing organically. These are easy to find on the top of your Facebook Business page and Instagram Business page.
A big part of capturing proper conversions will be setting up your Facebook Pixel. This is a little piece of code that gives Facebook access to what happens on your website. The pixel will track any conversion events you set up, allowing you to gain insights on the total number of conversions and your cost per conversion.
Conversion events are the most important events for your business as defined by you.
Facebook will use the pixel to track these events, such as who is adding items to cart, filling out forms or making purchases on your website. You can then use these to retarget those users later.
While the word ‘code’ can cause unrest for some, Facebook has made it relatively simple to set up the system if you’re using a website like Squarespace, WordPress or Wix. If you aren’t using those systems, then it may be more difficult, but it’s worth calling up your web developer (or experts like us) to catch these rich insights.
Go into Facebook Events Manager and click ‘connect data sources’, then select ‘web’ and ‘Facebook pixel’. From here, it’s a straightforward process that will check your website to see if there are any easy setup options available to you:
Step 5: Capture your metrics through links
You won’t always be using social media to drive your campaigns, and as such, you can’t just rely on these platforms to offer you data. Fear not, though, because there’s a simple and effective way to gather data in the very link you are using to drive people to your website. You only need to turn your standard links into UTM links.
UTM stands for Urchin Tracking Module; it is essentially building a reporting apparatus into your link by adding a piece of code to the end so that you can track how many people clicked through using your different links. These can be customised to capture insights on where your traffic is coming from, whether it’s from a different platform, a paid campaign vs organic content or mixed audiences.
Here’s an example:
The bolded area is the code, while the green is the original link.
You’ll want to make sure you’re using the right UTM link structure. This may sound intimidating at first, but we’ve pulled together a quick cheat sheet to help guide you through it. Follow the link here to go to the URL builder and give it a try: https://ga-dev-tools.appspot.com/campaign-url-builder/
Common Campaign Sources:
Common Campaign Mediums:
CPC (Paid Social)
Step 6: Set up your Analytics Suite
The final step is to set up your Google Analytics. There are numerous tutorials available for setting up Google Analytics, and it’s a relatively simple process with a fair few shortcuts built-in if you’re using an easy platform like Squarespace, WordPress or Wix. Analytics is where you will see the outcomes from your UTM links.
While Facebook is concerned with your social’s performance, Google will tell you how your website is performing. It will give you detailed data on revenue generation, traffic and user behaviour on your site. You’ll also need to set up goals and conversions for Google Analytics, but just like with Facebook, it’s easy and 100% worth it.
Facebook will tell you if your social networks are driving people to your site, but Google will be able to tell you if your website is driving people away.
Step 7: Draw out your insights
So, you’re capturing data, you know what your goals are, and now is the time to begin analysis.
This is the step that makes it all worthwhile, the moment where you dive deep into the data to figure out what it all means for you.
Take the time to look for connections between your content and performance spikes or drops. Focus on the metrics related to your goals and try and find causal links between them. For example, is your reach higher when you post more often? How does this relate to revenue generated?
Analysing data like this can be tedious and complicated, so here are a couple of tips to help you avoid some common analysis mistakes:
1. Don’t assume anything. A common mistake is using data to confirm pre-existing biases. You may already have an idea of what type of content you think works and subconsciously, you’re likely to twist the data to match that preconceived assumption. Make sure to separate your own ego from your outcomes. The data isn’t your enemy, it’s here to help – let it.
2. Remember you live in a big world. The data isn’t always going to have all the answers. No matter what industry you’re working in, environmental factors will invariably impact you. Did you have a bad month? Is that because of your ads or is a global pandemic causing people to spend less? You had a good month. Are your ads suddenly amazing, or is there increased consumer confidence?
3. Avoid paying attention to vanity metrics. Vanity is natural, and validation is addictive, but when you’re spending money on social media marketing, getting too caught up in vanity metrics can be deadly to your bottom line. Our brains have been trained from years of personal use to think some metrics like “likes” always matter. But the reality is, your metrics only matter if they impact your stated business goal. While page views and clicks may be core metrics for an e-commerce platform, they may be less relevant for other types of companies, such as a tech startup, which would focus more on metrics like app downloads and user retention. The simplest way to determine whether a metric is relevant to you is to ask yourself this question: Does this affect my Return On Investment (ROI)? If yes, then it matters. If not, question it.
4. Compare Like to Like. Seasons change and impact buying patterns. Don’t make the mistake of comparing December to August. Don’t compare campaigns with higher budgets to lower campaigns. The best insights you get will be those you get in controlled environments. In any scientific test, you want control variables that don‘t change and the one tested variable that does.
5. There are flow-on effects to strong campaigns. This is a small one, but it can lead to big mistakes. Say you have a big budget campaign running, then one of your organic posts suddenly does well. Does that mean that type of post will always work? No, not at all. Your page will get more traffic if you are spending more money. Meaning the reach for your post will be higher. Higher reach means more people seeing your content, which means more opportunities for people to interact with your content. Always consider your entire ecosystem when analysing data.
Step 8: Design your report
Now's the time to go back to the work we did in step 2 to think about how you want this all to look.
You can use PowerPoint or Canva to design the report itself. Or, if you want to take some shortcuts, use the customisable dashboards in Google Analytics and Facebook Insights to export pre-made reports.
Follow these simple rules to ensure your report works:
Don’t over-complicate your work. Focus on what is essential. Select vital insights to build your report around visualising what is important and getting your core idea across. Your report is a narrative, so tell a story.
Aesthetics matter. If it doesn’t read well or look good, people are less likely to engage. Spend some time making it look eye-catching.
Remember that what you leave out of a report is just as important as what you include. Don’t overload your stakeholders with data. Your job is to provide them with insight, not have them do the work for you.
Always include a summary page. It may sound defeatist, but a lot of people don’t read reports. Include a summary page with the top-level insights you want everyone who receives this document to know.
Step 9: Make an action plan
You’ve got your insights, now use them! Set up tests and create more data to create more insights to create more tests.
Reporting is only a component of constant improvement. To improve your business, you need to push to have these insights actioned.
Determine the areas for improvement and include recommendations that can be easily implemented.
Highlight content that performs well and perform a deep dive into the reasons why it resonates with your audience.
Analyse how your budget is functioning and determine areas for improvement.
If you spend time following through on your reporting, you’ll be giving your organisation the edge it needs to succeed.
Need some more guidance on your social media marketing? Whether you’re pulling together your initial strategy or looking to build your online community, we’ll keep you in the loop with all the top tips, updates and tactics you need to be a better brand for your audience. Sign up here.