Every day, your customers spend time scrolling, clicking, talking and creating on social media. The near-nonstop use of social translates to endless amounts of social media intelligence for marketers to use.

The data and insights available through social media can—and should—drive an entire business forward. But social data is only powerful if you can harness, analyze and apply it, which is why more businesses are increasingly hiring social media analysts.

Whether you have an in-house social team, offer social media management at your agency or outsource social, a social media analyst is a valuable player to have on your team.

What is a social media analyst?

A social media analyst is someone who continually assesses your brand’s owned data, campaign and content performance and social listening data, and translates it all into actionable business recommendations.

The fundamentals of their role include:

  • Comfort with social media analytics tools to report on critical KPIs
  • Problem-solving to support overall social performance and achieve goals
  • Understanding social platforms and how each of them uniquely impacts audience behavior and content performance
  • Recognizing how social data can grow every aspect of their business and helping others see social differently

Often businesses will lump social media data analysis into other social media and community manager roles. By adding an analyst to your social media team and giving them most of the data-related responsibilities, people in those other roles can get back the bandwidth they need to do what they do best—engaging audiences, creating innovative content, providing customer care and more.

It is true that every social media marketer should have a basic understanding of key performance indicators (KPIs), reporting and goal tracking, but not all of us are numbers people. Social media analysts are. Data is what they do best.

Those are the basics of any social media analyst’s job description, but the analysts who really go above and beyond help drive business growth in these six ways.

1. They bring data to back up decisions

There are so many moving parts in every social strategy, and you want to have confidence that your strategy will work. A social media analyst can ensure the numbers are there to back up your decisions.

Analysts track how your content, engagement and publishing strategies are doing. But they don’t just wait for results and then report back: they actively track data as it happens. In doing so, they’ve always got a finger on the pulse and insights to contribute to content, digital, social and other marketing strategies. Ultimately, they can help others do their jobs better.

Let’s say a content creator wanted to understand which types of artwork and images they should start, stop or continue creating. The social data analyst would bring forward owned data that validates or challenges assumptions about what works. They don’t just say, “people like GIFs.” They test variables, find patterns in your performance data, highlight specific examples and contribute their historical knowledge on the reception of content to the table. Then, they follow up on their recommendations and keep a close eye on the data, so if things don’t go as predicted, they’re ready to adjust, refine and make new recommendations.

2. They bring the team together

Analysts also actively bring people together to share their insights, not waiting for others to come to them. They invite strategists, creatives, community managers, paid media specialists and other stakeholders to the table. And in these meetings, it’s a social media analyst’s role to share data in a way everyone can understand. They don’t just share numbers, they tell a story, share visualizations and cater to all learning styles.

For instance, if an analyst were to say, “In February, our top engagement types on Twitter were likes, up by 9.5% month-over-month, and link clicks, up by 15% month-over-month. Replies however were down to 137 for the month.” That might not mean much to a visual learner or a person who isn’t as familiar with your benchmarks. Fortunately, tools like Sprout Social have automated data visualizations, so analysts can show how engagements break down, rather than just tell.

3. They don’t just share what’s happening, they analyze why

 It’s not enough to share raw numbers or qualitative data and say, “it is what it is.” The best social analysts also investigate the why.

Let’s say your content has hit a plateau and social engagement is down month-over-month. Analysts put on their detective cap and go to work. Using a social media analytics tool like Sprout Social, they look back at historical performance, take note of any anomalies and look into specific variables that might be impacting engagement metrics.

They might take specific actions such as looking at sentiment toward your brand and how it’s changed over time. If it’s dwindled or dropped drastically, analysts can dig deeper to review negative messages and find more detailed information that might tell you why your content is underperforming.

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

4. They can predict outcomes

So much of social media marketing is about planning content calendars and looking forward. But how can you confidently plan for the next three to six months when things are constantly changing? The answer is social data.

With social data, analysts can turn hunches into real and actionable ideas. They take note of recurring patterns, analyze relevant listening data, evaluate the content types that consistently engage your audience and track the way content performance varies across channels over time.

With this information, you can create more targeted content for your audience, apply collective insights to larger marketing campaigns and even surface invaluable product feedback.

5. They don’t just focus on their own brand

To understand your own brand health, you need to benchmark your social performance and presence against top competitors in your industry.

Competitive analysis is a critical skill for analysts. It helps them give you deeper insight into what strategies work in your industry, how products and services are differentiated, where there are gaps in your content and how you need to adjust to stand out from the competition.

Analysts can manually review competitors on social use competitor reports and listening tools in Sprout to simplify the process.

Analysts will also scour industry trend reports, data reports from social channels and internal customer data to backup your social data. Then, on top of that, they leverage social listening data to add an extra layer of cultural context—a benefit that social media uniquely provides.

Once analysts have the data, they should share their findings far and wide, so teams across their org can leverage that competitive analysis to create new or improved products, campaigns or creative assets.

6. They help you manage a crisis

 Social media analysis is not just useful for retrospective reporting but can also drive proactive decision-making—which is essential during a crisis.

For example, analysts at Indiana University (IU) used Sprout’s Premium Analytics to manage an unfolding crisis. When a Twitter account with half a million followers unearthed some insensitive Tweets from a tenured IU professor, the social team set up a Listening Topic to track data like the volume and reach of conversations happening around the issue.

Their social team was able to then provide insight into the progression of the crisis, the social narrative, inflection points and what caused them. With this data, the team came to leadership with recommendations about what actions to take. And their leaders listened.

Within almost 24 hours of when the issue really escalated, IU’s provost released a statement, staked out IU’s position condemning the professor’s Tweets and mitigated the crisis, thanks to the analysis and intelligence on the social team.

Build an all-star team that sees social data differently

Deeper data analysis can break social out of the marketing silo and impact every area of your business. So, if you’re able to add a social analyst to your social team, seize the opportunity. But if you’re still working as a social team of one, embrace the skills and habits of an analyst to become a more well-rounded, influential marketer. And if you need more powerful tools to get the job done, Sprout Social has you covered.

Want to learn more about getting the most out of your social data? Download this guide on 40 of the best ways to use social media data you might have overlooked.