The social media content calendar is the crux of every social media marketer’s strategy. When done well, content brings your audience closer to your brand, demonstrates your brand’s personality and most importantly, supports your goals.

But what really drives your KPIs?

What is it that your audience feels when they come across your content that then converts to a like, a share or a link click? Why do they feel that?

And how can you continue developing fresh content that replicates success?

You can find the answers to those questions in your social media data. According to the Sprout Social Index™ 2023, 60% of marketers plan to connect the value of social to their business goals by quantifying social media engagement and 51% to inform product development for increased revenue.

Reporting on social data is not just about understanding whether you reached your goals and learning what worked or didn’t. On a deeper level, data analysis and reporting are about spinning insights into creative social media content that resonates with your audience more deeply and gives you a competitive advantage.

Keep reading to learn how to create content for social media marketing and supercharge your strategy using data as your inspiration.

1. Determining what worked and what didn’t is all relative

Content should always be aligned to a specific goal. If you’re creating content just because an idea seems fun, that could work out, but what’s your objective? At what stage of the marketing funnel does that content fall?

Ground your content strategy with intention and measurable objectives. Without those, it’s going to be awfully hard to know what data to look for that will show you if that content “worked.”

Create more effective social media content by first making sure you know which KPIs are the right ones. That way when you report back on content performance, you can hone in on the essential data, understand what happened and investigate why.

If you need a little help with content ideas or deciding on your KPIs for each stage of the funnel, check out our social media metrics map!

2. Identify top-performing posts by goal

The starting point for your content inspiration should be your top-performing content and as we’ve already pointed out, success is all relative to your goals. With analytics tools like Sprout Social, you can view performance data post-by-post, sort by KPIs and efficiently determine which content to create more of.

Let’s say you’re launching a new and improved product or service. Look back at your last product launch and past product content performance on social. Here’s how you might break down your evaluation of that content:

Goal: Drive conversion

Social KPIs: Link clicks and click-through rate

Analysis of top-performing content:

  • Evaluate the factors that contributed to your audience engaging and driving those KPIs.
  • Did you use snappy CTAs or were they more direct?
  • What accompanying creative assets did you use and how might they have influenced your audience’s actions?
  • Did you try something new with your content format or stick with a tried-and-true method?

If you can at least hypothesize the answers and establish patterns, you can apply your insights, build a flexible content framework and replicate your success.

3. Analyze your low-performing posts

It’s easy to focus on success, but it’s equally important to know which kinds of content might repel your audience. Continuing to spin your wheels on content that has little-to-no value for your audience is a lose-lose situation. In fact, 45% of consumers will unfollow a brand due to irrelevant content.

Sprout social index data: why consumers unfollow brands on social

If you want to be best in class, examine what is not working and diagnose why. Was a CTA missing? Is the content feel off-brand or irrelevant? Has your audience seen the content before? Was the platform the right place for this content type?

If you have a single post in a month that doesn’t perform to your standard, that doesn’t mean you should immediately throw that content out altogether. Instead, look for patterns over time, just as you would for successful posts.

Concerned about content performance plateaus? Use this checklist to jumpstart your content strategy and bounce back.

In a social media management tool like Sprout, you can retroactively add tags to your posts. This can help you keep track of the posts and content types that continue to underperform. Then, you can analyze that tag data to find commonalities that point to low performance and determine which content to discontinue.

4. Always look at engagement and sentiment

Engagement metrics aren’t always an indication that you met a goal, but they do indicate quite a bit about your audience and how to create social media content for them. Consumers revere brands that know how to engage their audience as best in class on social, according to the Sprout Social Index™. But going a layer deeper,  sentiment, feelings and emotions are what drive a person’s reaction to your content.

Social is a really important tool for our organization and Sprout has helped us gain a much better understanding of who our audience is and what they are looking for from us. Being able to publish content in a way that is responsive to when and why our audience is engaging with the content has improved our engagement metrics.
Darcy Young
Director of Social Media, Teach for America

On some platforms, like Facebook and LinkedIn, people can choose different reactions beyond the traditional “like,” which can give you a better idea of how and why the post resonated. Sometimes, people will even tell you what they like, so always check the comment section.


Engagement rates speak to the relevance of your content and track how actively involved with your content your audience is. If you have a smaller audience, relevance is especially important in building brand awareness and affinity.

5. Get inspiration from Google Analytics data

Sixty percent of social marketers regularly track social media traffic to their website. Link clicks are a good indication that your content is driving traffic, but Google Analytics can help you dig deeper and inspire new social content.

With GA, you can see a breakdown of each web page’s pageviews, traffic referrals, conversions, page value and more. If there are high-value pages that you haven’t shared on social, use what you know about your audience and the kind of content they engage with to develop social posts around that page.

Collaborate with your other marketing colleagues outside of social to determine which web pages, blog content, webinars and other published marketing content to promote. Then, when you’re ready to publish your content, add UTM tracking to every URL you share. That way, you can track results in GA, report back to other stakeholders and refine your content as necessary.

6. Tap into brand-relevant conversations

Instead of solely using best practices or performance to formulate your ideas, use social listening data as well. Social listening can help you find relevant trends, themes and topics that are resonating with your target audience right now and ripe for content inspiration.

Sprout’s Listening and Reporting features have enabled us to dig into our content and topics in much greater detail than before, which helps us identify key hashtags, influencers, trends, and metrics in a comprehensive way.
Aida Ruilova
Director of Brand Research, Analytics & Insights, Teach for America

In Sprout’s Listening tool, users can use Topic Templates to create and continually monitor conversations and perceptions about your brand, products, industry and more even. Once you’ve set up your Topics, filters and keywords can help you get into more granular details that will help you create engaging social media content.

Sprout Social Brand Health Query Builder

Let’s say you’ve set up a Topic around brand health and you notice that positive sentiment on Twitter has increased over the past few months. You can add a positive sentiment filter to hone in on the messages driving that up-tick and investigate what exactly it is that’s tickling people’s fancy. Then, use the insights you gather from those conversations to build content that continues to dial up the positivity.

sentiment analysis through social media is a great example of improving ux for marketers

Or, maybe you notice that there are recurring questions and misconceptions about the kinds of products or services you offer. That might indicate that you need to develop more educational content to fill your audience’s knowledge gaps.

The ability to explore individual topics like brand health, coronavirus, school fall plans and have Sprout provide key data in an easily digestible format (that’s also easy to share internally) has helped us present data more regularly and efficiently.
Aida Ruilova
Director of Brand Research, Analytics & Insights, Teach for America

7. Look at competitor data

To stand out from your competition, first you have to understand them and know how you stack up. Listening can help here as well.

Set up a competitive analysis topic in your listening tool to find major keywords, content themes and hashtags in conversations about your competitors. With the option to filter by competitor, content type and sentiment in Sprout, you can determine what content resonates among your shared audiences, find customer pain points that future content can solve and discover new opportunities to differentiate your content and brand.

Stay connected and stay agile

Your audience’s tastes are not fixed, and neither is your audience. You can always count on them to change. But if you stay connected to your audience and continue to follow social data, you can continually find ways to create more inspired and successful content.

There’s more you can do with your data. Download this guide to learn about 40 different ways to use social media data that you might have overlooked.