What Are Social Media Analytics?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Social media analytics provide businesses with valuable information to drive not only social media strategy but also overall business success. Learn how social media analytics optimize metrics to increase ROI.

[Featured Image] A marketing specialist goes over social media analytics on her laptop.

In 2023, the amount of social media accounts reached 4.80 billion, just over half the global population, and is still growing [1]. According to the Pew Research Center, 72 percent of US users used at least one form of social media as of 2021 [2]. With more people using social media than ever, the need for social media analytics increases as businesses and institutions desire strategies to optimize the performance of their content. 

Read on to learn what social media analytics is, what metrics are important, what types of analytics are available, and how to start using them in a coherent social media strategy. 

What are social media analytics?

If data analytics is the process of using collected data to describe trends, ask questions, make predictions, and reach goals, then social media analytics is just that—except with specific tools that use social media data to create an effective social media strategy. Social media analytics are tools developed specially to leverage data from social media platforms and social conversations to help businesses make informed decisions on how they should respond to customers, promote content, and target audiences. 

Social media analytics assess the performance of various social media actions and how they affect the customer experience. Many social media tools collect data, but the function of social media analytics is to use the data, moving beyond the basics of how many likes a post received into why it garnered that many. Social media analytics helps organizations learn how customers truly feel about your brand so that you can create an effective strategy to meet your goals, whether it be reputation, sales, or customer experience. 

Read more: What's a Social Media Manager? And How to Become One

Types of social media analytics metrics

Various metrics exist to provide the insights necessary. Social media is always changing, so relying on more than one analytics is important. You must ask questions and create concrete goals. Some starter questions for your organization might be:

  • What are we trying to learn?

  • What is our current social media strategy?

  • What analytics do we already have? What are we missing?

  • What are customers saying online about our business?

To answer these kinds of questions, social media analytics gives various tools that look deeper than basic social media metrics, like conversation rates, likes, and reach. Below is a list of some six metrics social media analytics uses to analyze data:

  • Performance

  • Audience

  • Competitor

  • Paid social

  • Influencer

  • Sentiment

Let’s look at how a social media analytics strategy incorporates each metric in more detail. 

1. Performance metrics

Performance metrics offer insight into the performance of a social media campaign through interactions, click-through rates, and follower increases. Another metric is reach, which tells you how many accounts see your content on their timeline or feed. Reach is an important metric to hit, as the more people view your content, the more chances you give for interaction or engagement. 

2. Audience analytics

Audience analytics show who views your social media profile and how they engage with it. Social media analytics use segmentation to break your audience into demographics such as location, interests, age, gender, and life stages. Doing so allows you to define your target audience, those who will engage with your content. Defining your target audience is as new analytics tools help you predict audience behavior and save budget on paid ads that go directly to your defined audience. 

3. Competitor analytics

Competitor analytics uses performance metrics from across all competitors in a specific industry to create a baseline for social media strategies. It shows directly how you compare to those attempting similar campaigns as yours and how audiences engage with your competitor’s brand, giving insight into how your social media strategies can improve.

4. Paid social analytics

Paid social media advertisement is a risky endeavor that can lead to a waste of resources if your goals are not met. However, paid social analytics help you decide which content has the best chance of success. Metrics show a variety of analytics on the engagement and clicks your ad spend dollars get you by breaking it down into a series of logical metrics, starting with your total ad spend and click-through rate to your cost-per-click and cost-per-purchase. 

5. Influencer analytics

As social media analytics use segmentation to define a target audience, influencer analytics help you find which influencers can best help your brand. Influencer analytics also help you see the past success of a campaign run with an influencer by showing you their audience and posting schedule. These metrics show the influencer’s reach and engagement with previous campaigns.   

Read more: What Is Influencer Marketing? How to Develop Your Strategy

6. Sentiment analysis

This type of social media analysis uses natural language processing to measure the tone of audience comments and about your brand. It analyzes how positive, negative, or neutral the conversation around your brand is. This metric is useful in seeing the decline in enthusiasm for a particular campaign through its analysis of the language or lack thereof, allowing you to pivot your marketing efforts elsewhere. 

What are social media analytics used for?

As more people are on social media, it’s vital to leverage customer data, understand how they interact with your brand, and track key performance indicators. Social media analytics allow for a streamlined approach to staying on top of trends while predicting consumer behavior. It puts all of this information in one place so that you can make informed decisions about your business. Two key aspects of social media analytics help are social media return on investment (ROI) and social media strategy:

  • Social media ROI: Social media analytics give you in-depth insight into your key performance indicators to see where your campaign efforts can improve to maximize the ROI of each social post. 

  • Social media strategy: Social media analytics helps you make informed decisions about strategies based on which ones are working and which are not, maximizing your strategic efforts.  

Who uses social media analytics? 

While many businesses use social media analytics to see how their content performs online, other members of your social media team may use these tools more than others. A few positions that use social media analytics include:

  • Director of digital marketing: Works to plan, manage, and maintain use engagement with social media and digital marketing efforts. They have skills with key performance indicators, analytics, ROI, and digital strategy to monitor the marketing team's progress. 

  • Social media marketer: Creates content for social media accounts, including videos, copy, and photos. They leverage market research and create content for the defined target audience to ensure engagement. They have skills in social media analytics to ensure their content meets marketing goals. 

  • Social media manager: Works with the day-to-day operations of running a company’s social media platforms. They also prepare analytics, learn about new trends, and measure how effective the current campaign strategy is with the target audience. They have knowledge of multiple social media platforms, digital marketing, and analytics. 

Read more: What Does a Marketing Manager Do? A Guide

How to get started with social media analytics

Social media analytics helps assess important, strategic business decisions by providing information on key performance metrics and ways strategies can improve. Here are a few steps your organization can use to maximize your social media ROI:

1. Create goals and collect social media data.

By creating goals and benchmarks, social media analytics may create a sense of direction. Setting specific goals with a tool like SMART (Specific, measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-based) allows you to leverage your analytics optimally. Specific goals let you see where your organization stands and how you can improve it. 

2. Focus on your audience.

Social media analytics is a vital way to make the customer experience as easy as possible. You can use audience analytics to hone in on your target audience to ensure your social media reaches potential customers. Sentiment analysis helps see your brand’s reception online and areas for improvement.

3. Engage in continual improvement.

It’s essential to always stay on top of trends and reduce ad spend waste. Continually generating in-depth social media reports and viewing analytics in real-time will show you how close you are to reaching your benchmarks. 

Learn more with Coursera

Are you looking to take advantage of your social media analytics or get the skills for an entry-level career? Consider the Social Media Marketing Specialization from Northwestern or the Meta Marketing Analytics Professional Certificate, both found on Coursera. Upon completing either program, gain a shareable Professional Certificate to include in your resume, CV, or LinkedIn profile.

Article sources


Datareportal. “Digital 2023 April Global Statshot Report,” https://datareportal.com/reports/digital-2023-april-global-statshot#:~:text=The%20worldwide%20number,of%203.2%20percent.” Accessed February 27, 2024

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