Measuring social media and gleaning meaning from analytics

17 July 2015

Sheena Fletcher discusses how to track and measure progress using social media and website analytics tools and how to use this information to review and improve your online communications.

If you are thinking of using social media as part of your communications process, as outlined in my previous blog, you’re going to need to be able to measure progress and track over time. If you’re starting a new project, opening an account on a new platform or really starting any kind of engagement drive, it is really useful to record baseline figures and have an idea in your mind of how you’re going to measure and what you’re going to use to measure it. 

In my job as the Centre’s E-Comms Officer, I record website and social media analytics monthly, using the industry-standard online software Google Analytics, in conjunction with the HootSuite analytics tool (others are available), which is part of the software I use to manage social media accounts. This monthly process allows regular tracking of key data for the websites and social media accounts, in order to ensure any issues are picked up as soon as possible. 

While you can get a buzz from seeing your follower count rise, it is important to look more closely at the analytics data available as there are many more metrics which can be used than simply follower number. I should mention Klout scores here – Klout is a score/ranking designed to indicate how influential a user is. I find these scores fairly useful for quickly gauging influence but not that useful for tracking progress over time. 

Measuring Twitter – an example 

Two ways to measure Twitter engagement are the number and nature of mentions (including retweets) and the number of click-throughs and what links were clicked. 

For newbies: mentions are when another user tweets about or mentions your organisation, using your Twitter handle. Retweets are when another Twitter user republishes your account’s original tweet, so that their followers see it in their feed – this extends the ‘reach’ of the original tweet. Click-throughs refer to the number of Twitter users who have clicked on a link in one of your tweets. 

These two metrics allow you to see what was popular, what worked and what didn’t and you can build up a picture over time of the type of content which is popular among your audience. 

Tying it together – social media and your website 

By using Google Analytics and looking at the website statistics for your organisation’s website, you can work out the percentage of visits to the site that came via social media links and interactions. 

This is a way of showing the value of using social media to promote your organisation’s online resources. You can also look at user behaviour – for example if the bounce rate for visitors coming onto the site from social media is very high (i.e. people are arriving on the page and immediately leaving) you may wish to consider whether the user is getting enough information about the content before they click the link. Visitors who arrive on the site from a social media platform are more likely to be viewing the mobile version of the site on their phone or tablet; so you could also review your mobile web offering to ensure it’s user-friendly and not off-putting to mobile users. 

Likewise, you should also ensure that your website clearly signposts to your social media channels. This is easily achieved using hyperlinked icons which users can click to access your social media platforms – for example, on this site, you will see Twitter and Facebook icons in the top right-hand corner of every page. 

On our main website, we average around 7% of visits being referred from a social media channel. These are visitors who may not otherwise have used the website or who are aware of the site and are using the social media channels to stay up to date with new content. In the future, as more and more of our audience adopt social media as part of their roles, I anticipate this figure will rise. 

Coming up next… 

In the next blog, I’ll be looking at using infographics to promote research findings and key messages.


About the author

Sheena Fletcher Digital Communications Officer


Sheena was the Centre's Digital Comms Officer from 2012-22 and was responsible for management and development of the Centre's websites and social media. 

Sheena also designed infographics and animations to help promote key findings and increase the accessibility of the Centre's research.

Read all articles by Sheena Fletcher