There are a lot of social media platforms available to reach your audience and potentially find new users: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn obviously being some of the big ones. Just like any online medium for reaching people, the data it generates offers you opportunities to understand them.
Social media can give you a lot of quantitative data in the form of followers, likes, reactions, retweets, etc. A lot of companies will have one or more people watching these numbers to determine success and reaction to different content, campaigns, and ideas.
It can also provide a place to gather more qualitative feedback from individuals in the shape of comments, praise, and complaints. But in both cases it’s easy to get lost in the noise of it all.
Just as there are lots of social media platforms there are also many tools for measuring impact. If you’re putting social content out daily it’s worth signing up to one of these in order to track your social performance (see tools below).
In terms of how you measure success on social media it's a good idea to keep focussed on what you want to learn from it. Is it a channel for your users to give feedback and for you to provide support? In which case the sentiment of comments you receive and speed of replies might be the most important thing to monitor. Is it a marketing channel to promote your content? In which case clicks would be most important. Maybe you see it as a medium for awareness, so reaching the most people becomes your key goal. Understanding this will help you be clear on what you track.
However as a designer all the marketing metrics don’t do much to help you understand your audience. In terms of gathering evidence it’s more useful as a source of unfiltered user opinion and qualitative feedback. Are people complaining about features or bugs on your website? Are people reacting (positively or negatively) to the titles of articles you post? Are people praising or telling of frustrations with a service? This is all useful information to take into account when evaluating changes and updates.
It can also be a good starting place to research related real-world problems people might be having, as you can be sure people will moan about them. For example if you’re looking to improve airport parking, then a search for that term along with words like ‘annoyed’ or ‘stressed’ will throw up problems – make note of the repeated ones.
Be careful not to track vanity metrics—defined as numbers that don’t help you improve your product. If you're trying to promote an article then meaningful action would be clicks though to read it. No matter how many you get, there’s no much use in lots of likes and retweets if no one actually sees the content.
Social media is full of noise and it's easy to think things are going well just because there is a lot of activity. You can also convince yourself that having loads of followers is a big success but they are far from the same thing as active uses or customers. It’s a better idea to tie this with your website analytics and see how many of those followers are going on to visit your site.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that what people say on social media is not necessarily the same as what they actually do. Take feedback on here with a pinch of salt. It’s such an easy, low friction way to communicate that people can say things just to fill their timelines. In addition the default on social media is for people to move to the extremes (like saying they’re super happy or very angry) and you tend to get much more negative emotions than you would from people on a phone call. If a user is complaining, try to move them to a more nuanced channel for feedback.
There are a lot of options for tracking social performance and I’ve dabbled with a couple of them. Buffer (for decent analytics it starts at $99/mo) helps you learn what time of day your posts work and shows quant reaction data for each one. Hootsuite (from £19.99/mo) allows you to manage a dashboard of different social feeds and see analytics and reports on performance.
For finding comments you can always just use the search tools on social sites, which vary in quality. If you use Facebook and Twitter ads you can also access a bunch of demographic data on users who engage.
To just check social accounts for feedback and comments can be a quick 30 minute or so task.
Note: the examples in this guide are for website design, but most of the content is also applicable for native apps and software.