By Margaret Looney
Now that readers are more likely to find your stories by clicking a link from social media than by visiting your homepage, journalists should find out as much as they can about who is visiting via Facebook and Twitter.
By tracking metrics with Facebook Insights and TweetReach, you can start to make inferences and draw conclusions that can actually enhance your content and social media strategy.
Susan Mernit, editor of Oakland Local and a Knight Circuit Rider, explained how journalists can use these tools to measure their social media impact in a Knight Digital Media Center webinar. IJNet tuned in and found these takeaways:
Geared toward Facebook Pages rather than personal accounts, Facebook Insights is automatically added to any Page with at least 30 followers and is visible to anyone with administrative privileges. You can export data from the past six months into a spreadsheet to use in presentations to your editor, funders or advertisers. You can also compare it with results from Google Analytics to spot trend lines. (For more about using Google Analytics, see these tips.)
Compared to Google Analytics, which doesn’t give detailed information on unique visitors, “Facebook is great at telling you about actual people in an aggregate,” Mernit said. Knowing the gender, age and location of your audience makes it possible for you to target content more effectively.
Because Facebook is heavily skewed toward females and people over 40, some say the data isn’t always representative of your website’s overall audience. Still, “if you’re trying to tell a story, leave a narrative, make some inferences, this is very useful data to have,” Mernit said. “What this will tell you 100 percent accurately is who is coming to your page on Facebook.”
Facebooks Insights is a good tool for gauging level of interest and engagement. It gives you instant feedback on how many people looked at, clicked on or shared a piece of content, what’s going viral, how many comments there are and the demographics of your audience. You can use this information to recruit new advertisers, fine-tune your content, define audiences and drive traffic to your site.
Mernit is also a proponent of Facebook Ads. “[Facebook] makes it much easier [than Google Ads] for someone who’s not a [marketing] professional to target who you want to reach.” She suggests using Facebook Ads, preferably with a time limit, for campaigns or for a call to action.
Mernit uses Bit.ly to track links and Hootsuite to post and schedule tweets. For metrics, though, she prefers TweetReach. It helps you understand not only who retweets your content, but what kind of impact the tweet has, and it puts that information in an easy-to-grasp format, she said.
TweetReach shows you the most retweeted tweets and the top retweeters. “I get a really easy snapshot, more than I get in a native Twitter client, of who’s really pushing out my content in the past seven days.” The tool sorts data into charts and graphs you can use in presentations to your editor or funder to demonstrate the effectiveness of your social media outreach.
You can also view how many individual accounts you’ve reached in the past week (the equivalent of unique visitors), along with the total number of impressions (equivalent to pageviews), giving you an idea of how far your content traveled via retweets.
TweetReach also breaks down the top traffic contributors to your stream, providing an obvious selling point for a new partnership, especially with people Mernit calls “Twitter whales,” those who tweet your story just once or twice but to a tremendous following. Examining the kind of content someone with high influence is willing to retweet gives you an instant idea of what works for your audience.
All of these metrics are available for free, but there is a premium version if you want to look at more than seven days of results or get more in-depth data.
IJNet Editorial Assistant Margaret Looney writes stories and blog posts on the latest media trends, reporting tools and journalism resources.
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