Social media statistics can be seen as feedback on the work you have done. Feedback that it is important for you to analyse and learn from. This can be done in a number of different ways.
Set targets, then measure and analyse them. But be sure to do this at several levels if you want to benefit from the results. Don’t measure for measurement’s sake, but ensure that you know from the outset what you want to use the figures for and focus on the benefit for your journalism.
It is not enough to measure once or twice a year. You need to set up a number of different measurement periods: some targets are measured once per quarter, while others are measured once per week.
TWO MAIN CATEGORIES:
Overall targets Overall targets help to point out the direction of the newsroom’s/department’s work in the longer term. Examples are:
Number of interactions (likes, comments and shares) over time. Measured over a month, quarter or year, and provide a good indication of the audience not just receiving your content in their news feed, but also engaging with your journalism in some way.
Number of followers/likers of the account. How many people are following an account is a very blunt instrument for measuring success on social media and this really says nothing about how engaged the audience is in the newsroom’s/department’s content. By comparison, the number of interactions related to posts over time is much more interesting.
The reach of posts on Facebook shows the size of the potential audience that received the newsroom’s/department’s post in their news feeds. This is also a blunt instrument for measuring success, because it does not mean that the audience read the content. But measuring the average reach over a longer period of time (a quarter or half year) is nonetheless a good indicator of whether the newsroom/department is on the right track. A rising average reach is consistent with the audience having done something with the content: liked, shared, commented on it, or clicked on links, for example.
Interaction rate. Displays the interactions in relation to the number of followers, and the number of posts, on the newsroom’s/department’s account. A high interaction rate shows that the account’s audience is active and means that a small account with dedicated followers can be comparable to a large account with a high proportion of passive followers or ‘lurkers’.
Comparison with relevant competitors. Over time, comparing your interaction rate with competing newsrooms (P4 Uppland with UNT, Radiosporten with SVT Sport, etc.) can provide a good picture of how well your newsroom/department is succeeding in actively engaging the audience rather than the audience being passive spectators.
Targets and objectives Overall quantitative targets should be combined with qualitative objectives, in order to find out if the audience is not just superficially following the newsroom’s/department’s work but also seriously engaging with its journalism: reading, viewing, clicking on links and listening to features.
Some suggestions on what to measure:
If you produce videos you need to know how many people have viewed your videos and for how long. A large proportion of the videos on social media pass by without the audience looking at them for more than three seconds and often with the sound muted.
The newsroom/department should measure the number of views, how long the audience viewed the video, and the percentage of viewings with the sound on. All these measurements you can get in Facebook Insights.
Clicks on links. A newsroom/department that publishes many posts with links to the website can find out how many users actually click on to the website and don’t just read the text in the post on social media.
The newsroom/department should set targets for the percentage of the audience that interact with posts by also clicking on the links in posts.
Also remember to differentiate between activity targets ("we will post something x times per week”, or “we will have x number of social media investigations during the year”) and impact targets (“we will increase the number of interactions by 100 per cent during the year”). Activity targets are often easy to achieve, but are a much blunter instrument than impact targets if the newsroom’s/department’s aim is to develop their social media journalism based on analysis of the statistics.
For those aiming to sell a product, it is easy to work out what success is on social media: the product gets attention and sells well as a result. For a public service broadcaster newsroom/department tasked with being where the audience is, it can be more difficult and more complex to determine which figures make us successful.
When you set targets, the most important thing to do is your own analysis of what you want to get out of the newsroom’s/department’s presence on social media and to not concern yourself too much with what others are doing, and not end up talking in general terms about posts going viral. The main objective of a newsroom/department that invests heavily in explainers in video format may be that as many users as possible view the videos and as much as possible of the videos; while a newsroom/department invested in capturing the hot topics of the days on radio and on the internet would be better off focusing on the content of comment fields attached to their own accounts.
Some examples of simple objectives:
Each week, we take up three new themes/topics/tips in the programme/on the website derived from the comment fields.
At least ten local celebrities/beacons on social media should share our content each quarter.
We should increase the averages of our Facebook page reactions (any of the predefined emotions under the Like button) or comments or shares by X per cent compared with last week/month.
The average (mean value) is a good figure for the newsroom/department to talk about at weekly meetings, for example. It provides a concrete, easy to understand picture of the trend over time for an account on social media. The average (for reach, comments or shares) is also an interesting figure to compare with the averages for other similar pages.
To use Facebook Insights on a PC to find out the averages for comments and shares:
Click on Reach in the menu to the left.
Set the time interval you want to measure.
Scroll down to Reactions, Comments and Shares.
Facebook Insights also includes the Benchmark feature (list to the right), allowing you to compare averages over time, and this is where you choose the category you want to measure. In the example below, the graph shows the average number of reactions, comments and shares, etc. for the period (24 April to 22 May), as well as the average for the previous period:
What makes a comments field successful depends less on the quantity and more on the quality of the comments, and whether you can create new journalism from them. A comments field with curious, engaged and intelligent/educated comments is generally worth more, from a journalistic perspective, than one with 200 wows, hearts and likes.
Keeping track of the average number of comments over time is a good idea, but to measure the qualitative success of comments fields you need to add a target like this: ten comments per month should lead to a follow-up or new news item.
When the audience shares your posts with their friends, this is generally a solid measurement of success. However, we know that many people also share what they haven’t read, viewed or listened to, and if your newsroom/department produces a video for example, you should supplement the sharing statistics with how many people have viewed your videos and whether they had the sound turned on.
Audience likes can be somewhat more difficult to interpret (a little clearer on Facebook, with its palette of emoticons). A straight-out like often means that someone likes what you do, but does not necessarily mean that they have read your journalism.
Unlike comments and shares, which in the best case measure journalistic value, many likes trigger the platform’s algorithms to show the post to more users. Furthermore, a high number of likes has a morale-building value that should not be underestimated – the newsroom/department will be encouraged by many likes, on a Facebook page and on individual posts.
Statistics of reactions (likes, shares, comments) can be used to advantage to identify patterns in what your audience respond to. Compare posts with a high number per reaction type and look for the common denominator. Was it a crisp close-up shot loaded with emotion? Or was it an enticing question in the post that led to insightful, content-rich comments?
THE GRAPH POINTS UPWARDS. WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
You come in to work and find that your newsroom’s Facebook post from yesterday has gone viral, and is the most shared post ever. Wow! But it is not enough merely to note that the figures look good. (Note that the figure in the picture above does not specify the number of shares, but the total number of reactions, which includes likes, comments and shares. A common misconception is to interpret the figure above as shares only).
You need to know more about why so many users shared the post and find out what contexts your journalism ends up in as well as what has been written about you and your content. In addition to the audience simply loving your post, there are other possible scenarios such as:
Many users are critical of an editorial mistake, and that is why they shared the post.
Your post has been taken out of context and many users have passed on a deliberate misunderstanding by sharing it – a misunderstanding that is likely to worsen, the further out in the sharing chain the post goes.
Your post has ended up with one or more activist groups who are using your journalism for their own agendas, maybe even to discredit your newsroom/department.
Many users share the post to denigrate or lie about one of the journalists involved.
These situations should be handled in different ways, and so you need to know why so many people shared the post, and what they have written about your newsroom/department and about the post. Identify the posts that ‘fly’ (get shared and commented on the most) and respond as quickly as possible in comments fields so that others will be able to see your replies.
The easiest way of searching to find out which Facebook pages your content has been shared on is:
Search directly in Facebook’s Search box: Two to three keywords from the publication + the newsroom’s/department’s name.
Search using Google: use the same search terms + “site:facebook.com” (then Google will only search on Facebook. To search on a different platform, use “site:twitter.com” instead for example). Don’t forget that the Advanced search function will narrow your search and generate better results!