The ultimate guide to social media analysts: Tools, techniques, and strategies for local business growth

What is a social media analyst and how do they benefit businesses?

You can run a one-person social media management team, but at some point, you’ll need to wear far more hats than you have heads. Outsourcing certain services or roles, like social media analysis, can benefit your agency by increasing your bandwidth and giving you more skills to offer prospective clients.

Be successful with social media on behalf of your clients by downloading “The ultimate guide to effective social media for business” now.

Here’s our ultimate guide to the fascinating world of social media analysis including info on how the metrics collected can be used time and time again.

What does a social media analyst do?

Social media marketing analysts gather, review, and interpret metrics generated by social media campaigns to gain a thorough understanding of the health and efficacy of those campaigns. In other words, they look at the data to see if a given strategy is working or not.

Here’s a look at some specific tasks a social media analyst may do from day to day.

1. Research and analyze social media trends

Leveraging current social media trends can help brands create content that connects with audiences and boosts engagement. Trends can inspire new, infinitely more creative content, too, like a crew of employees doing a viral TikTok dance or sharing a post that plays off a trending hashtag.

2. Develop and implement social media strategies

Most social media platforms have built-in analytic machines that continuously generate info about everything from ad impressions to click-through rates. But that data is useless unless there’s someone who has the training and experience to dig deep and turn numbers into actionable ideas.

The right analyst can build a strategy around existing data, constructing a game plan that's motivated by past successes but geared toward growth.

3. Create and manage social media campaigns

Social media analysts use the data they collect to develop forward-thinking campaigns, and they often participate in executing those strategies as well. Because social media campaigns aren’t exactly set-it-and-forget-it initiatives, analysts are constantly in the mix, looking at what’s working, what isn’t, and what needs to be tweaked ASAP.

4. Measure and report on social media metrics

Social media data analysts are hands-on with the tools used to measure key metrics like cost-per-click, conversion rates, applause rates, and virality rates. It’s crucial that analysts get to know these metrics intimately.

It’s also vital that analysts are running reports at regular intervals rather than waiting for a problem to arise before seeing what’s what. Being proactive can help steer a campaign in the right direction before it has a chance to veer off course, saving the client untold time and money — and maybe even their reputation.

Job responsibilities and required skills

Before you outsource your social media management or bring on someone full time to dedicate to your social success, get to know what’s required of an analyst in charge of multiple channels.

Excellent communication and writing skills

Analysts aren’t just playing with spreadsheets and comparing column A to column B. They also write reports, make presentations, craft ideas, and participate in creating social strategies and campaigns. All those tasks require a solid foundation in communication and the ability to translate basic concepts into cohesive, grammatically sound, error-free proposals.

Social media analysts may be responsible for guiding other employees on how they act on social media. Coaching individuals on what they share on personal and professional pages and what tone or language they should use when responding to consumer comments can reinforce branding and avoid potential public relations pitfalls.

Proficiency in social media platforms and analytics tools

All metrics require context to be properly understood. Therefore, it’s not enough for social media analysts to understand numbers, they also have to be familiar with all major social media platforms. That includes knowledge regarding:

  • How users interact with those platforms
  • Which content types perform best on each platform
  • Key demographics
  • What’s trending from platform to platform
  • Which tools each platform offers to help track analytics, run reports, and export the results

Knowledge of digital marketing and advertising

Social media ideas for businesses don’t live in a vacuum. Most companies stopped siloing their departments decades ago. Instead of separating marketing from data and finance from IT, there are cross-departmental teams that work together to create campaigns that are exponentially more effective.

But there’s another reason social media analysts need to be familiar with digital marketing and advertising, too. The data analysts look at doesn’t make sense unless you understand the context around those numbers, and you can’t apply the concepts unless you know how those metrics affect strategy.

Ability to analyze data and draw insights

Critical thinking is a crucial part of every analyst’s job. Why does a metric matter? How does a change from report to report impact next steps? Does a backward slide spell disaster or is it an expected part of the process?

7 ways social media analysts help drive growth for your local business clients

Being a data analyst for social media can be quite the juggling act, but the many benefits of social media management services can be rewarding for analysts and clients alike. Learning how to tackle lengthy to-do lists and leverage existing tools may be the ticket toward driving growth and developing some pretty exciting campaigns along the way.

1. Audience insights

Who is your client’s audience? Social media analysts can use data to get insight into the people who are connected to specific social media profiles and following clients’ channels. If someone is engaging with a profile and/or posts, they’re essentially opting in. Get a read on those people and use it to fine tune your campaigns.

2. Competitor analysis

Competitive analysis isn’t so much about keeping up with the Joneses as it is seeing what the Jones are doing right and wrong and then leveraging that info for your own gain. You’re not keeping up. You’re looking to lead. Analyzing how the competition approaches your shared audience and responds to posts could be the intel you’ve been waiting for.

Contracting a social media analyst means you have someone dedicated to tracking and understanding social media trends. Is short-form video still generating big-time impact? Is TikTok destroying YouTube or is YT making a comeback?

Some trends, like augmented reality, may not be worth your time. But the only way to know is to have an expert like an analyst who can go beyond trend lists and see what’s actually gaining traction.

4. Measuring ROI

A mere 15 percent of marketers say they’re currently mining social data to help gauge ROI. The other 85 percent must be just guessing how their campaigns are doing or relying solely on static data not connected to social communities. It’s an inefficient and possibly even misleading approach.

A social media data analyst can use objective data to leapfrog over gut feelings and wishful thinking to accurately measure how much return on investment truly exists. This info can help you maximize your budget and curb pointless spending.

5. Identifying influencers

Analysts can use data generated by and because of influencers to inform campaigns, but they can also use social data to identify who’s really an influencer and who just wants to be one.

The best way to separate the professionals from the hopefuls is to look at their engagement rate. Reports showing how many likes, comments, or shares a potential partner gets on their posts will tell you whether they have an engaged following or just plain old followers — the latter of whom could be bots or bought.

  • Look at the last 20 or 30 posts to gather recent data that’s still fairly comprehensive
  • Compare their engagement to their number of followers — an extremely low engagement ratio indicates the possibility of fake followers or could suggest that the influencer is posting content their followers aren’t interested in
  • Views or likes aren’t nearly as important as comments and shares
  • Skim through comments to see whether the content feels authentic or if it’s generic and could be bot-generated

6. Crisis management

When a rogue tweet or product recall threatens a brand’s reputation, companies turn to crisis management teams to minimize negativity and create campaigns that can counteract waves of poor publicity. Social media analysts understand social media’s role in reputation management and can contribute to proactive decision-making by:

  • Referring to already established baselines to better identify present-day anomalies
  • Reviewing the social narrative surrounding the core issue
  • Closely monitoring sentiment analysis throughout (and beyond) the crisis
  • Identifying which demographic is generating the most damaging posts or commentary
  • Sourcing influencers that can help distribute crisis-fighting messaging

7. Reporting

Social media reports are beneficial to your current clients, but they can also help when creating saleable social media management packages. Reports are completely customizable, meaning you can choose what you’re tracking, what timeframe you’re looking at, and how all those data points are compared.

Use all that info to fuel your decisions for campaigns already in play. Then, work them into a case study to show to prospective clients who want to see how your strategies work in a real-life scenario. They won’t be able to argue with metrics proving that your engaged user percentage shot up by 14 percent or that impressions were up threefold.

Techniques used by social media analysts

The figurative tool belts worn by talented social media analysts are full of techniques, tools, and tactics that help bring in the data necessary for formulating goals and strategies that lead to long-term success.

Content analysis

On first glance, social media posts are a simple yet colorful collage of graphics, pithy posts, and emotional texts. But look deeper, and social content is strikingly complex. Content analysis breaks down posts to understand not just the words used but also underlying concepts and themes.

The analytical process can be quite technical. For example, a program might search for the number of times a specific word or phrase is mentioned. Or an analyst might pore over content to look for patterns or to try and understand the psychological state of the user. It all comes together to form a big picture of what’s being posted and how it might affect the client.

Competitor analysis

You can learn a lot from your competitors. The mistakes they make, the wins they rack, and everything in between — it’s all free information to help fuel your own decision-making process. Sometimes the analysis is comparative, meaning you’re seeing how you stack up, but other times you’re just seeing how the other half lives, so to speak.

When conducting competitor analysis, you might look at:

  • Who your competitors truly are
  • What their key differentiator is
  • Which channels they use most
  • What days and times they post
  • What type of content they incorporate into their strategy
  • How they interact with consumers
  • How engagement has changed over time, for instance comparing comments on posts from a year ago to comments made on posts today
  • Whether the competition is covering consumer needs you have yet to address

Community management

The community you create on social media may mirror your IRL (“in real life”) audience, or it could be its own little universe — the latter is more often true for businesses that operate entirely online. Managing this community requires a significant time investment, but it also requires someone who can view, organize, and triage messages to decide what needs attention and who should be addressing certain conversations.

Your online community extends beyond customers and followers, too, to include influencers and other businesses that may be supportive of or complementary to your own. If you own an athletic wear company, keeping tabs on yoga influencers and the account of a top field and track star could generate tons of useful info ranging from insight into trends to data regarding gaps in the market.

Social media advertising

The only way to know if a social media advertising campaign is successful is to look at and analyze data that proves success. The exact metrics depend on the goal of the campaign. You might look for a certain percentage jump in sales, or perhaps you’re running an A/B test and want to see which approach garnered the most amplification.

Social media analysts will choose and then review key performance indicators that tell a story about how a campaign is operating. You can remove a metric that becomes irrelevant and introduce new ones as your goals evolve.

Influencer marketing

What if you spent hours, or weeks, or even months talking to someone who will never buy your product or service? Advertising to the wrong demographic is expensive and pointless, but analysts can use influencer marketing data to get to know their target audience, including:

  • Where they live
  • How old they are
  • How much money they spend on related products each year
  • Which channels they use
  • What type of content they respond to/engage with most
  • What they’re asking for (in terms of content or products/services) that they’re not getting
  • What they like and don’t like about the competition

How social marketing can help social media analysts

Social marketing seeks to leverage well-known marketing concepts to influence consumer behavior. The goal isn’t just to make money, but also to make the world a better place. Think of it as an “everybody wins” mindset. Consumers get what they need, so they live better lives, they make more money, and can therefore come back and invest more in the star brand.

The existing cycle that is social marketing and the social media marketing tools used to construct and run campaigns can help social media analysts by delivering a steady stream of data that covers every aspect of how consumers act and think. While analysts can use this info however they want, ideally, they’d be funneling their efforts back into social marketing endeavors by supporting a partnership with a non-profit organization or driving society toward some kind of shared good.

Frequently asked questions

What kind of education is required to become a social media analyst?

Most social media analysts have a degree in marketing, communications, or a related media specialty, or equivalent work experience. Continuing education is also important — taking online courses and seeking certifications in relevant specialties like SEO best practices, content creation, and consumer behavior can be quite valuable.

What are the most important metrics to track on social media?

A data analyst on social media duty will likely track the metrics that are best poised to deliver a holistic and comprehensive look at the health of a specific campaign, ad, or post. Some of the most critical KPIs include total impressions, reach, engagement (e.g., likes, comments, shares), account mentions, share of voice, and ROI.

About the Author

Lawrence Dy is the SEO Strategy Manager at Vendasta. His career spans from starting as a Jr. Copywriter in the automotive industry to becoming a Senior Editorial Content Manager in various digital marketing niches. Outside of work, Lawrence moonlights as a music producer/beatmaker and spends time with friends and family.

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