Creating an insightful analytics report and some free tools to help you do it

One of the first things I teach my students is that a social strategy is only as good as their ability to demonstrate meaningful results. We are no longer in the wild west of social media marketing where CMOs were willing to spend big on experiments. Teams are required to demonstrate results to justify their spend.

I’d like to say that this is a great news for social strategists but unfortunately it tends not to be. Many CMOs still see the world in terms of old-school marketing tactics where reach and impressions are what matter. They want quantitative results and have no time for the essential qualitative component that social strategists provide. Consequently the complexities of Influencer marketing, for example, often ends up being measured by the blunt instruments of clicks, retweets, follower count and Klout scores. A social strategist knows that approached in this way the promised results of influencer marketing will be severely diluted. Influencer marketing must be coupled with social network analysis.

However, given the power of the purse at play, many directors choose to run with this and consequently turn to analytics dashboards for their insights. This is why analytics companies are over-saturating the market and making a killing. Analytics companies tend not to work with social strategists, instead they work with software engineers and sales. The more fancy they can make their dashboards and complicated they can make their numbers seem the more they can say that they deliver real results. But all too often they are just smoke and mirrors. Numbers can be made to mean anything you want and analytics are no different. That’s why an accompanying qualitative analysis and overarching narrative are so essential to any real social strategy.

A useful analytics report cross references multiple tools based their their strengths and weaknesses and draws insights based on those findings. No analytics dashboard can be a one-stop-shop. There’s just too much data and ways to slice data. Rather each one offers a particular view of the greater picture of what’s at play. A social strategist puts all of the pieces together in a unique way to fit the specific ROI goals of the brand. The insights drawn are then applied to the next strategy iteration. This is how analytics reports should work.

You should never draw from just one tool. Think of it as a journalist relying on a single source for an investigative report. Or a medical study basing significant findings off of a single instance of an experiment. Data must be sliced in various ways in order to draw real insights. This is then what can be synthesized and presented to the CMO with accompanying insights and you can do so knowing that should she or he challenge the numbers you can stand behind them.

Figuring out your analytics spend:

Unfortunately the way that the current social media economy works is via the Firehose. The big 4 charge lots of money for access to their historic data. Consequently spending money with a company that has access to that data is important. But make sure that they give you access to the data as well in downloadable formats so that it can be verified and analyzed by hand to draw additional insights. To figure out which tool to use take time to think through the types of questions you will want to ask your data and which platforms you need access to. Analytics companies will try to sell you the most expensive dashboard but there’s a very good chance that you only need access to their firehose because you can use other tools to add texture.

This is because I’ve found that the big dashboard-centric platforms often offer less analysis than some of the free ones. I’m not entirely sure why this is. My hunch is that it’s because the free tools tend to be put together by people who are looking for specific data points and are based on the desire for answers rather than turning a profit. But that’s a fairly cynical view. There are certainly some excellent tools out there that can provide unique analysis such as LittleBird. Although once again do not view this as a one-stop shop for influencer identification.

To this end, I’ve compiled a list of 23 free tools (trials don’t count) that I recommend for data analysis and research. All of them offer different view points and can be very useful particularly for those of us who have limited (or no) budget. I advise using these in conjunction with any paid tool. You may not end up actually using their visualizations in your final report BUT they will provide a different and useful perspective as you crunch the numbers.

Tagboard Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Vine, Google+, Flickr
Research: Monitor hashtags across many platforms, engagement, and visualize
Free (Limited Functionality)

Cyfe Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest
Analytics: Lets you create a custom dashboard filled with stats from dozens of marketing tools.
Free

Hashtagify Twitter, Instagram
Research: hashtag use on Twitter and Instagram.
Free

UnionMetrics Free Checkup Twitter, Instagram
Analytics: Instagram and Twitter account check-up
Free (Report only)

Social Rank Twitter, Instagram
Analytics: An analysis of followers for Instagram and Twitter as well as an overview of posts
Free (Limited Functionality)

Stats-for Twitter & Instagram Twitter, Instagram
Analytics: Overview of basic Twitter and Instagram Stats. App (iPhone)
Free

Discover.ly Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn
Research: Cross-reference social sites as you browse. Chrome Extension
Free (Daily Limits)

Followerwonk  Twitter
Analytics: Analyze twitter account relationships-followers and bios
Free (Daily Limits)

Riffle Twitter
Research: Get social analytics for other sites through Twitter. Chrome Extension
Free

Filta Twitter
Research: Search Twitter bios for keywords
Free

DoesFollow Twitter
Research: Simple tool to check twitter user relationships
Free

Mentionmapp Twitter
Research: hashtags and the top 5 associated users with them
Free

Tweet Topic Explorer  Twitter
Research: hashtags used by a specific user
Free

Social Bearing Twitter
Research: Twitter analytics tools including individual profile analysis
Free

Twitonomy Twitter
Research: Twitter profile analysis including recent tweets
Free

TwitterCounter Twitter
Analytics: Detailed analysis for a specific twitter handle including a graph measuring Tweets to following
Free (Limited Functionality)

Twitter Analytics Twitter
Analytics: Native platform providing unique insights including the actual number of impressions and link clicks
Free

Klear  Twitter
Research: One stop analysis of a Twitter profile to understand community influence and content
Free (Limited Functionality)

Viral Woot Pinterest
Analytics: Monitor Pinterest account, analyze, schedule pins
Free (Limited Functionality)

Pinterest Analytics Pinterest
Analytics: Native Pinterest analytics available for business accounts- no payment is required to do so.
Free

Command  Instagram
Analytics: An advanced Instagram analytics and tracking tool that empowers you to see very insightful stats on unlimited accounts. App (iPhone)
Free

Social Bakers Free Instagram Tool Instagram
Analytics: Limited tool provided by Social Bakers to analyze a personal Instagram account
Free

Facebook Insights Facebook
Analytics: Native Facebook Page Analytics available for page administrators
Free

Let me know what you think and also if there are any I’ve missed! 

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