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Jessica Malnik on August 10, 2021 (last modified on August 9, 2021) • 12 minute read
If you’ve ever run a social media report, you know how time-consuming and challenging this process can be.
Calculating the ROI for a specific channel or an individual campaign often means aggregating different social media metrics from Google Analytics and various reporting tools.
That’s if you have attribution modeling set up correctly. Hint: most people don’t.
Then, you are likely pulling all of the data into Excel, where you are running complex calculations and spending hours justifying your decisions to your manager and/or client.
If this sounds familiar, you are making your job harder than it needs to be.
In this post, we’re taking a closer look at seven of the most common social media reporting challenges along with strategies to overcome them.
Let’s dive in.
It is no surprise that setting and calculating the ROI of your social media marketing strategy is still one of the top challenges that marketers face.
“The biggest challenge I’ve faced with social media reporting is measuring return on investment,” says Charlie Patel of Ampfluence. “As the CEO of a Social Media Growth Company called Ampfluence, it’s important to articulate how our service adds value to our clients. To solve this challenge, we redesigned our reporting process to include measurable KPIs and qualitative observations.
For example, a high-performing social media post in a competitive niche may garner 9% engagement. In contrast, a medium-performing post may garner 6% engagement but yield more followers. And there’s a chance that a low-performing post may garner 3% engagement but generate higher value leads or sales. In this scenario, a client may believe the high-performing post yields a greater return when the opposite is true. Our reporting process now articulates the full scope of data.”
Wunmi Hassan-Bello of Mom Baby Heart adds, “The biggest challenge faced so far in social media reporting is that of difficulty in determining value per engagement. It is usually hard to quantify how much a like, share, retweet, repost, or comment actually impacts the business. Especially since the metrics across the different social media channels differ (e.g Clicks for Facebook, Retweets for Twitter); so it is almost impossible to accurately determine the exact value per engagement.
This can be mitigated by separating the reports and classifying them based on the social media channels. This would help streamline each report to suit the channel. Another hack that helps is to determine what percent of engagement translates into a specific amount of sales. This would enable you to know what type and quantity of engagement to aim for to get the desired conversions.”
Want to make your performance more predictable? Use Databox to visualize your goals against current performance so you can make adjustments when they matter most.
Because of the nature of social media, your results are likely to compound the longer you stick to a strategy that is starting to work. That’s why it is key to set realistic goals and ensure that you and your client are aligned on metrics you are tracking, especially when you are investing thousands of dollars each month like all of our survey respondents.
Amber Reed-Johnson of Giraffe Social Media says, “One of the challenges we face as an agency is helping clients understand their social media reports and managing client expectations. Metrics week-on-week usually fluctuate for most industries and it’s all part of the ‘bigger picture,’ whereas seeing fluctuating results can seem alarming for those not well-versed in social media marketing.”
Caroline Lee of CocoSign adds, “To overcome this, we compare our numbers with the industry standards and our previous month’s status to explain the changes and their effect.”
Nate Tower of Perrill explains, “The biggest challenge by far is getting clients to understand the incremental lift that social media, especially paid social, often provides. The direct return on ad spend often appears low, but there is a clear correlation between running Facebook ads and an increase in revenue. However, because the direct return on ad spend is below a certain threshold, clients want to turn it off or drop the budget way down. The best way to overcome this gap in reporting is to run tests and plot the difference in revenue when ads are on versus when they are off. Then the client starts to see the reality and the impact of social media. They never believe you if you just tell them that Facebook ads provide an incremental lift. You have to use the data to prove it, even if it is just correlation data.”
Marissa Ryan of VisualFizz agrees, “When it comes to social media reporting, it is redefining the client’s thinking on what counts as social media success. Very rarely does social media result in a direct 1:1 sale. Very often, social media is the first touchpoint a customer will have with a brand. Social media channels should act as a standing profile for the brand. The true question is, ‘What type of messaging do those brand profiles consistently convey?’ The question is not ‘How many likes did my picture get in the feed at 2 pm on Tuesday?’ Focus more on the brand you’re creating and less on the direct 1:1 engagement or ROI from social.”
Of course, when you are running paid social media campaigns, then attributing sales to the proper channel and campaign is critical but certainly not easy.
“Our biggest challenge is to attribute a real ROI / sales value to all of our combined social media marketing,” says Chris Labbate of SEOBANK. “The first step was adding all channels to Google Analytics and setting up proper Goal Conversions. After we installed all of our marketing channels into GA we started to get a better picture of which channels were performing the best.
We also wanted a way to measure Brand Awareness and we would log into Google Search Console and set up a Query Filter on our companies Brand name to measure the growth of our branding campaigns.”
Brenton Thomas of Twibi Agency says, “The biggest challenge with social media reporting is tracking conversions when the conversion starts on one domain and ends on a third-party domain (cross-domain tracking). It helps to tell Google Analytics and Tag Manager to acknowledge the third-party domain but cookies are still falling off due to different types of browser restrictions (e.g. Safari).”
Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media Studios adds, “Google Analytics doesn’t do a great job of filtering social media from other sources. There is no pre-built (system) segment for social media traffic. You can make a segment using the social default channel grouping dimension, but it misses things.
Social visitors are often miscategorized as direct or referral visitors. The fix is to add campaign tracking code to your own social posts. That helps a lot! If you want to learn more about using Google Analytics for social media tracking, take a look at the video below.
In fact, out of all the social media marketers we surveyed, Youtube tends to be the most effective for generating businesses.
Attributing Facebook conversions is only getting more difficult after the iOS 14 update earlier this year.
“The biggest challenge we recently faced was Facebook advertising reporting because of the new iOS 14 update,” says Jonathan Aufray of Growth Hackers Services. “There’s a ‘tech giant war’ between Facebook and Apple where Apple refused to share his users’ data to the Facebook advertising platform, which makes it harder to gather the right data. It has an impact on reporting, optimizing, A/B testing, and targeting.”
Michael Steele of Flywheel Digital adds, “Since privacy updates like iOS14 cause digital marketers to miss up to 30% of real conversions, it is important that businesses do not count incremental results as part of their paid results to further skew the data.
How we’ve overcome it:
We provide coaching to our clients during weekly meetings to ensure they understand the effectiveness of their paid efforts in spite of incremental results and privacy updates restricting conversion data. It’s crucial that everyone understands the “real” results of our advertising in a nuanced way so they can make the best budgeting and ad spend decisions for future campaigns.”
Editor’s note: Use this free Facebook ads dashboard template to discover your most popular ads and see which campaigns have the highest ROI.
Another potential hiccup is properly tracking your influencer marketing campaigns.
“Social media reporting is more difficult when you use influencer marketing as we do at my apparel brand,” says Hosea Chang of Hayden Girls. “Most influencers use their following to advertise for multiple brands and products, and while they report metrics based on when they post about our specific brand, the total reach of their influence is hard to quantify. We keep a close eye on traffic bumps on our web store based on the timing of influencer’s posts to ensure that they are effective in driving interest in our brand. We also make sure that their posting schedule is clearly outlined and that they are following it accordingly. Otherwise, it is difficult for us to know which social media metrics are organic and which are influenced.”
Not to mention, creating social media reports on a weekly basis can be time-consuming if you don’t have the right systems and processes in place.
Mayuri Flanagan of Global Green Family says, “In my experience as a digital marketer, the biggest challenge that I faced in making social media reports would be creating a thorough summary of all the metrics that measure the performance of the social media profiles of my client. I had to manage more than 4 social media platforms and crafting a report for all of them without missing on the pertinent little details was definitely difficult. Thankfully, I was able to overcome such a hurdle by using a social media reporting software, specifically Sprout Social, as it allowed me to analyze social media profile performance across multiple accounts.”
This process can be even more time-consuming if you need to do any sentiment analysis.
Jon Barilone of Tripepi Smith & Associates explains, “Occasionally, our clients ask us whether we can gauge the sentiment (positive, negative, neutral) of user engagement. That can range from comments/replies on posts to direct messages to broader conversations about the client online. While it is technically possible, it is a lot of work. First, you need a powerful listening tool, which means paying a monthly or annual fee for it. Then, you need to manually review results and, often, revise the positive/negative/neutral labels the tool assigns. Listening tools don’t always have the best semantic language skills to interpret sarcasm, emojis, slang, and other intricacies of human speech.”
That’s why it is key to find tools that can streamline your reporting process. Databox is a reporting tool that can help you significantly cut time on reporting. All you need to get started is a free trial. Automate your reporting process now.
“The biggest challenge our agency has faced in social media reporting is time consumption,” says Jordania Nelson of Divining Point. “After several reporting tools and even manual reporting, we finally landed on a tool that provided everything we need: automation, comparisons, visuals, KPIs, and most importantly, time.
Do your research to find which social reporting tool works best for your business. You may not get it the first try, but you’ll be glad when you end up with a reporting tool that increases your efficiency.”
Editor’s Note: Looking for a simple dashboard to keep track of key activities and performance across Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, and Instagram? Check out this Social Networks Growth and Engagement Overview Dashboard.
Finally, make sure that everyone is aligned on the definition and methodology for each social media metric you track. This can avoid a lot of unnecessary confusion down the line.
“One challenge in social media reporting is making sure clients understand metrics and their meanings,” says Shika Lakshman of Online Optimism. “When we are running a campaign for a client across several social media platforms, these individual campaigns must be differentiated and carefully measured against each other. It can be difficult to offer a holistic view of the data and make sure there is a clear understanding of the value of each metric.
One way we’ve dealt with this difficulty is by putting all the data in context. We make sure our clients understand industry terms and note exactly what the engagement means. For example, instead of just telling a client they had X amount of saves and shares that week, we make sure they know that they had X amount of saves/shares, meaning their audience found that post to be valuable and that we should look to that information for future posts. We have learned to frame the data in a way that makes sense for each individual client so that they’re able to make decisions based on that rather than trying to make sense of numbers on a screen.”
In sum, social media can be a powerful lever for building and growing your brand. However, measuring the results isn’t as simple and clean as tracking Google Ads campaigns. That’s why it is important to know your audience, set realistic goals based on your business model, and ensure your attribution models are set up correctly in your reporting tools.
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