Virtually all business leaders believe social media data and insights have a profound impact on top business priorities, according to The 2023 State of Social Media report. From building brand reputation to understanding customers and improving competitive positioning, social data is the missing piece you need to solve your leadership team’s most pressing challenges.

A data visualization that reads: Impact of social media data and insights on business priorities. The visualization lists building brand and reputation loyalty, improving competitive positioning, gaining a better understanding of our customers, predicting future trends and moving business forward with reduced budget as business priorities more than three quarters of leaders agree are positively impacted by social media data collection and analysis.

But raw data points without context don’t tell the full story. To prove how social fulfills business objectives, it’s essential to dig deeper.

In this guide, we break down the benefits of social media data collection, how to mine for meaningful data and tools you can use to automate your data collection workflows. No matter your internal audience or business focus, a data-driven approach to social media delivers transformative insights.

What is social media data?

Social media data is information collected from social media networks that demonstrates how users share, view or engage with your content or profiles, and the content or profiles of your competitors. Raw social data includes:

  • Shares
  • Likes
  • Mentions
  • Impressions
  • Hashtag usage
  • URL clicks
  • Keyword analysis
  • Follower count
  • Comments
  • Message volume
  • Message response rate and time

For a full list of social media metrics sorted by funnel stage, download our social media metrics map.

Download the social media metrics map

Social media data also includes the insights you glean from social listening when analyzing conversations and trends related to your brand. These include conversations relevant to your company, competitors and industry at large, and often hold the answers to questions the C-suite asks (example: how are people talking about our brand online?).

A green graphic that reads, What is social media data? Information collected from across social media networks that demonstrates how users share, view or engage with your content or profiles, and the content or profiles of your competitors. It also includes insights gleaned from social listening.

How does analyzing social media data work?

Collecting raw social media data and measuring it against your goals and objectives is the process of social media data analysis. This is a vital step that reveals what is and isn’t working—both for you and your competitors.

While raw social media data can be powerful, what’s most influential is the value you provide when you make sense of the data and analyze the metrics in compelling ways. For example, many CFOs aren’t well-versed in the business impact of increased impressions or engagements. But when you share social data in the context of org-wide impacts and combine it with other data sources, you help future-proof your company and propel your business forward.

Through Sprout Social’s integration with Salesforce and Tableau, you can present social data alongside metrics from other digital channels. This customizable dashboard gives you visualizations of social, ad and email performance data without requiring time-consuming work.

A screenshot of a Tableau dashboard populated with Sprout Social data and other marketing data.

What are the benefits of social media data collection?

Social media data collection has far-reaching benefits that extend to every area of your organization. According to The 2023 State of Social Media report, most business leaders agree that social media data and insights play a pivotal role across companies—including PR, trendspotting, competitor analysis, proactive crisis management and communication functions.

A bar graph in the shape of a circle with the header: Business leaders agree that social media data and insights... The data lists PR strategies, identifying industry news, competitor analysis, proactive crisis management and primary communication tool as benefits of using social media data and insights.

When social data is presented in an influential way, here are some specific ways it can improve your brand’s performance, prove the ROI of social to stakeholders and provide value to other teams.

Track metrics and KPIs

By regularly collecting social metrics, you can assess your performance to test if your strategy successfully meets your KPIs. This empowers you to make adjustments to your content and workflows on a regular basis—whether it’s quarterly, monthly or even weekly—and share reports with stakeholders to keep them informed of your progress.

Benchmark performance

Collecting social media data enables you to benchmark your content and customer care performance. With these metrics, you can compare your performance to your past data, industry averages and competitors to make sure your brand stays on track.

Understand your audience better

Insights from social provide a direct line to your target audience that will help you rise above your competition and ensure the long-term health of your business. Not only will you learn what is going well regarding your social performance, you will also better understand what your customers need from your brand and products. Essential intel you can pass along to your brand and R&D teams.

Find your best time to post

​​Though there are general best times to post on social media, you should consult social data to find your unique best practices. Through analysis, you can discover when your target audience is active and most likely to engage, and adjust your posting schedule accordingly.

Because this can be a heavy lift, try automating it to unburden your bandwidth. Sprout’s ViralPost® feature calculates your best times for you—so you always publish at optimal times without stretching your team too thin.

Screenshot of Sprout's Publishing Calendar in list view, with the compose flyout box and the mouse curser over the ViralPost Optimal Send Times feature.

Improve ROI

Social data is a primary source of business intelligence that can help move your business forward. By regularly collecting social data, you can calculate and share your social media ROI—proving how essential it is to invest in social even if you face a tight budget or looming economic uncertainty. By demonstrating the value social provides your company, you set yourself up to gain critical leadership buy-in for additional tools and resources in the future.

Help reach organization-wide goals

Social data is a source of truth that will help your company refine product development, strengthen your employer brand and recruit top talent, and directly drive revenue—essential steps toward growing your bottom line. Used correctly, social insights make it easy to prove organization-wide value and facilitate cross-collaboration.

Need help presenting your social data in a captivating way? Read our Senior Social Media Manager’s tips for telling impactful data stories.

3 social media data collection methods

Let’s get into the details. Here are actionable ways to collect meaningful social media data that actually delivers the metrics you need.

1. Ask specific questions

Your social media data collection is only as good as the questions you ask. Simple questions like “how many followers do we have?” might be relatively easy to answer, but they don’t usually provide attention-grabbing insights or get to the root of what you can learn about your customers.

To ask the right questions, the social team needs a seat at the table.

As Jamie Gilpin, Sprout’s CMO, explained at a recent LinkedIn Roundtable event, “If you don’t know your organization’s most important business priorities or objectives, how can you deliver results that matter to leaders?”

If you aren’t already briefed on your company’s goals, now is the time to meet with leaders and develop a regular discourse. Or, if you don’t have direct access to your leadership team, seek support from other stakeholders who can help you uncover the information you need. Find out what keeps your CMO up at night. Learn what challenges the revenue org is facing. Discover the insights R&D wishes they had.

Through this exploration, you will uncover the right questions to ask and jumpstart high-impact data mining.

2. Find your core social media KPIs and metrics

Based on the insights you learned in step #1, you need to define core KPIs that ladder-up to your organization’s goals and keep a pulse on your social performance. These metrics will be the foundation of how you define success for your business on social. By evaluating these metrics consistently, you get the intel you need to offer thoughtful and deep understanding of your audience and the future of your business.

For example, some common KPIs for brands include audience reach, customer engagement, response times and social listening volume. You will notice these metrics aren’t always easily accessible in native social platforms.

By using a platform like Sprout Social, you can fully leverage all the data available on social and swiftly prepare presentation-ready reports. Some of our platform’s analytics highlights include:

  • Cross-Network Performance Reports: Aggregate data across networks from your profiles and posts. From these various reports, you can access an overview of key metrics like impressions, engagements, video views, clicks, audience growth and message volume. You can also export granular data points to dig into day-to-day performance and compare your performance across different date ranges.
A screenshot of Sprout's Cross Network Profile Performance report. It displays impressions, engagements, post link clicks and audience growth by network.
  • Inbox Activity Report: Sprout’s Smart Inbox unifies your social channels into a single view so you can quickly monitor incoming messages, cultivate conversations and respond to your audience. The report gives a comprehensive overview of your team’s social care efforts. It shows trends in message volume and identifies how quickly and frequently your teams respond to messages.
A screenshot of Sprout's Inbox Activity Report. In the report, you can see a summary of all key performance metrics for received messages and inbox actions and a change over time in inbox volume.
  • Listening Topic Insights Summary: AI-driven technology does the hard work for you by combing through billions of data points to find trends related to your brand. The report pulls total volume, engagements, impressions, unique authors and sentiment of specific topics and keywords—whether it’s your branded hashtags or the name of your new product.
A screenshot of Sprout's Performance Summary tool which demonstrates key metrics (like volume, engagements and impressions) related to a Topic.

3. Track conversations around your brand

Social is like a 24/7 focus group. Your audience is always sharing things they’re excited about, their challenges and their favorite products. They even share unfiltered thoughts about you and your competitors. But trying to sift through the noise to find these valuable insights can be frustrating.

Social listening can help you zero-in on this earned data and give stakeholders the answers they’re looking for. Set up a social listening query to start tracking what discussions are trending in your industry, what your audience cares about and to figure out the “why” behind you and your competitors’ performances.

Sprout’s listening solution uncovers critical insights in seconds, including:

  • Listening Topic Conversation Insights: The Conversation tab of the Listening topic mentioned above provides details about the top keywords, hashtags, mentions and emoticons popular with your audience. The Smart Categories feature automatically groups trending people, places and things being discussed together, and shares performance metrics for each subject group.
A screenshot of the Sprout Word Cloud that shows popular keywords mentioned around a topic using Sprout's social listening tool.
  • Competitive Analysis Listening tool: Compare your competitors’ fundamental metrics side-by-side with your own—including audience growth, engagement, share of voice, sentiment, impressions and post volume for each network.
A screenshot of Sprout Social's Competitive Analysis dashboard that demonstrates how three competitors compare in share of voice, impressions, engagements and sentiment.

6 social media data collection tools

Here’s a recap of the data benefits Sprout Social offers, and a look at some of the most popular native social media data collection tools.

Sprout Social

Sprout Social empowers you to give metrics meaning. Quickly gather, explore and share detailed data from one platform. With Sprout, you have the tools you need to demonstrate impact and influence decision making, and more time to focus on ways to reach your KPIs, fortify your strategy and prove ROI.

The Sprout Social dashboard, which gives you an at-a-glance view of today's publishing calendar, to do items, recent post performance and engagement trends by day.
  • Analytics: Sprout’s built-in and Premium Analytics enable you to speed up and automate data collection and reporting so you can illustrate the full value of social to stakeholders, colleagues and clients alike. Hone in on performance at the post level or zoom out to focus on your holistic impact, and easily share recurring and customizable reports everyone can understand.
  • Listening solution: Harness the power of global conversations with Sprout’s powerful enterprise-ready social listening solution, built on intuitive workflows and proprietary AI-driven technology. Go beyond easily accessible raw metrics, and incorporate insights from Reddit communities, Twitter DMs, LinkedIn mentions and TikTok comments into your social data.
  • Business intelligence integrations: Through Sprout’s integration with Tableau, customize your social data in an omnichannel view to pull business insights and performance metrics from a single source of truth. These dashboards contextualize social data and provide teams a more complete view of all data, making it easier for social data to influence business decisions.

Meta Business Suite analytics

Meta Business Suite consolidates the results of your organic and paid social media efforts across Facebook and Instagram in one place. You can also access the data in each of the individual apps.

With these insights, you can see metrics, trends and visual reports that can help you understand which Facebook Page and Instagram strategies work well and where to make improvements. Gain insights about your account, platform and post level, such as:

  • The performance of your Facebook Page and Instagram business profile, like trends in reach.
  • Your ad account’s cross-platform spend.
  • Organic and boosted post content engagement, including likes and comments.
  • Demographic and geographic summaries of people who like your Page and follow your Instagram business profile.
A screenshot of Meta Business Suite. In the image, you can see a pop-up giving you instructions for how to export insights data. You can select data type, date range and file format.

TikTok analytics

TikTok analytics help you track the performance of your videos. The platform offers video metrics, such as views, likes, comments and shares, as well as information about your profile and followers.

This data enables you to refine your content topics, identify your best posting times and find relevant trends and creators to partner with.

A screenshot of the Analytics tab in TikTok. In the image you can see the Overview which provides engagement data including video and profile views, likes, comments and shares.

Twitter analytics

Twitter analytics collect and analyze audience actions on your posts or profile, such as clicks, follows, likes and expands. This data helps you track performance and improve your strategy. It’s critical for understanding who’s interacting with your Tweets and how your account is performing overall.

A screenshot of a Tweet Activity dashboard on Twitter. The metrics demonstrate number of Tweets, impressions, profile visits, mentions and follower count. The dashboard also features Top Tweets, mentions, followers and a monthly performance summary.

LinkedIn Analytics

LinkedIn analytics is a collection of metrics that helps you measure the effectiveness of your posts, updates and strategy on the platform. From the Analytics drop-down in the platform, you can track a variety of analytics, including:

  • Visitor analytics: Page views, unique visitors, demographics
  • Follower analytics: Followers, follower trends, organic followers, sponsored followers, demographics
  • Engagement analytics: Impressions, views, reactions, comments, shares, CTR, follows, engagement rate
A screenshot of the LinkedIn for Business Analytics dropdown menu. You can select metrics including visitors, followers, leads, content and competitors.

Google Analytics

While it’s not strictly a social media data collection tool, Google Analytics can track the conversion-generating rate of social content, which ultimately helps prove ROI.

You can set up specific reports to see how much traffic comes to your website from each social network, or use UTM parameters to track specific social media campaigns. From your dashboard, you’ll be able to keep track of metrics such as impressions, clicks, conversions, CTR, revenue per click and more.

A screenshot of traffic acquisition metrics displayed in Google Analytics. A line graph displays users by organic social, direct, organic search and unassigned sources over time. The same data is displayed in a bar graph.

Start collecting social media data today

Social data has massive potential for informing business decisions. Yet, much of it goes untapped. Social networks have inconsistent reporting styles that make it difficult to manually mine data effectively, and surfacing data when you aren’t tagged or mentioned is like navigating a labyrinth.

If organizations want to capitalize on all that social offers, they must refine data collection processes and tools. Using a sophisticated platform like Sprout Social to collect and analyze data empowers organizations to access real-time social insights quickly—giving companies a holistic view of their customers and a competitive advantage.

For more on commonly overlooked ways to use social data, download our guide to the 40 best ways to use social data.