For some social media managers, reporting comes with the job. For others, leadership may have a more hands-off approach, expecting the social team to “just put this on social.”

But making social media work is work, and measuring whether it’s happening requires at least a little analysis. Performing this analysis, and sharing it with managers, colleagues and leadership via a social media reporting system helps gauge the success of social marketing efforts and demonstrate that success to stakeholders.

Social media managers have much to gain from reporting, even in organizations where it isn’t expected. In fact, establishing a social media reporting cadence can help you overcome some of your biggest challenges.

A social media reporting system closes the gap

According to The Sprout Social Index XV, social marketers by a long shot wish they could influence sales teams more than any other. Fifty-nine percent want to influence sales, double the number who want to influence either HR or lead generation teams.

2019 Sprout Social Index chart showing which teams social marketers wish they could influence more

In addition to craving more influence, social marketers also struggle to secure the budget and resources they need. Sprout’s research reveals that 33% of social media practitioners and 31% of social media leaders have this issue.

2019 Sprout Social Index showing social marketers' top challenges by role by practitioners vs leaders

To resolve these shortages of influence, budget and resources, social media managers need data on their side. They also need to know how to present that data in a digestible way for others. Translating likes and shares into desired outcomes is the difference between an organization knowing they have a social media presence, and knowing that presence produces measurable results.

That translation requires a social media reporting system. A solid system is comprised of:

  • Which people/groups you’ll report to
  • What goals or areas each of those groups needs information on
  • The social metrics you’ll report on
  • The tools you’ll use
  • What your reporting cadence will be

Your social media reporting cadence is your frequency; do you want to report weekly? Monthly? Quarterly? Perhaps different audiences—yourself, the team, management, leadership—benefit from different cadences. How often will you do a deep dive into reports? How often will you “spot check” for major swings? When do key metrics need to shift? We’ll suggest some tools to help figure all this out further down.

Social media managers have a unique understanding of how social marketing works. With a social media reporting system, you can foster understanding among other teams and stakeholders.

Social media reporting: extra work, but extra worth it

Is it worth taking on regular reporting if no one’s asking for it?

We think so. At minimum, a social media reporting cadence reveals what’s working and what isn’t on an ongoing basis so that you can make informed decisions. An uninformed social media strategy, after all, is a shot in the dark. Regular reporting sheds light on where your energy is best spent.

For example, the moment you see that a particular type of content performs better than others, you can begin leveraging that information and tailoring future content to maximize results. Then, you can track those results to make sure the pivot is paying off.

Additionally, a social media reporting system can help secure buy-in from decision-makers. Think hiring a video intern or increasing the budget for boosting posts would be a game-changer? You’ll need to convince leadership, and that’s best done with data.

Earning influence with data

For many social media managers, sharing data with sales is already a part of the job. In fact, sixty-five percent reported sharing data with sales in the Sprout Social Index.

Despite this, social marketers still crave more influence with sales teams. To close the gap, we need thoughtful data storytelling focused on audiences’ desired outcomes.

Not every stakeholder has the insight you have for interpreting social data. Churning out a spreadsheet every month or quarter and expecting others to decipher it isn’t likely to go far. Your reporting will need to go a little deeper, telling a story with the data to foster understanding and providing clarity around next steps that both your team and the reader can take. You’ll also want to use reports to document your wins and accomplishments along the way.

An interpretive social media reporting system will have a much greater impact than providing numbers without context, and increase your odds of garnering the influence and budget you need. Down the line, this reporting and documentation will also come in handy for conversations about things like career advancement.

Sharing data with team members, managers and leadership

Let’s explore an example of what social media reporting might look like.

While you may understand the value of engagement metrics, sales team members are more familiar with tracking things like win rates and deal size. You can meet these team members where they’re at by focusing on the places where social and sales collide. Ultimately, your common goal is serving your customers. Social data overwhelmingly tells you what is important to your audience. Your sales team needs to know that in order to make their offerings, outreach and conversations as valuable as possible.

For example, perhaps highlighting an advanced service on social platforms resulted in a measurable uptick in social messages from enterprise-level leads requesting more information. Once you have team members’ attention with a number that speaks to their goals, it’s easier to delve more deeply into how your specific  social strategy fuels these successes and why intentional collaboration is important. It also begins to reveal the person “behind the curtain,” you, pulling the levers and turning the knobs that produce these results.

This same approach can be applied to managers and your organization’s leadership. Consider your internal audience’s perspective, and what your social strategy does for them. Highlighting your accomplishments and contribution to the organization’s success earns the influence so many social marketers seek. In turn, it becomes easier to ask for more of what you need or to suggest big changes, like a new direction for content.

At the end of the day, your organization’s leadership has the final say on big decisions. A social media reporting system creates a cadence for conversations with managers and leaders alike about valuable information.

Social media reporting systems don’t have to be complicated

If the idea of creating a social media reporting system seems overwhelming, fear not. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Some of the ways we share social media reports at Sprout include:

  • Weekly updates in Slack: Every week, one of our content and communications team members curates a Slack post featuring our progress to goal for the month as well as timely insights from our social, content, PR and internal communications teams.
  • Results updates in Slack project channels: We create Slack channels for big projects, like our Always On series, so that marketing and creative team members can collaborate. We’ll share data more in an ad hoc way here; for example, one week after we launch a project, we’ll share initial social results and feedback.
  • Monthly reports: Our entire team updates our dashboard monthly and shares overall insights to our VP of content and communications.
  • Quarterly data pulls with insights to the full marketing and creative team: Typically these include performance reports from social on big marketing team efforts, like our Sprout Sessions Digital event, as well as social listening insights and analysis about our brand, industry and content.
  • Roadshows: We’ve used roadshows to share a new, larger initiative and the results with different departments. For example, Olivia and I hosted a social listening roadshow last year where we presented social listening data tailored for our product, sales, marketing and general team audiences.

Here’s an example of one of our project results updates in Slack. Olivia is a Social Media Specialist here and shared this in our Always On project channel so the video, design, copy and marketing team members who worked on this project could see the initial reception. As you can see, sharing data doesn’t always have to be formal! Think about your audience and what they need to know before determining whether a quick Slack message or a formal social media presentation is the best way to catch their attention.

Slack message sharing the first week of social results for a video campaign

Put social reporting into practice

To learn more about the types of reporting and insights you can share, and formats you can use to present them, check out Sprout’s toolkit, Reach a Higher State of Marketing with Data. In it, you’ll find interactive worksheets for social media audits and competitive analysis, and even a cheat sheet for the best times to post on social.

With the right tools and a little time, reporting on social media can become like second nature. As data informs and improves upon social marketing decisions, social media managers can gain the influence and resources needed to double down on strategies and grow professionally, setting the stage for everyone’s future success.