By Steph Jones

The art of social media reporting

November 8th, 2022
6 min read

As a digital marketer, you’ll be well aware of the importance of conveying the value of your work to clients or your seniors. Putting in the hard work and generating great results should be what you spend your time doing, but communicating all this in your monthly reports is equally, if not more, important.

It is tricky to capture all the elements of a successful social media or digital PR campaign. As the remit of digital PR becomes so vast, it’s almost impossible to report everything seamlessly using one or even two or three different reporting tools. How do you share those wins that aren’t data-driven? What about more subjective achievements? What if you’ve put in the hard work but the results are yet to materialise?

In this blog, we’re going to explore the art of social media reporting. We’ll take a look at some key areas of analysis and some of the reporting options available.

Why effective reporting is key

It almost goes without saying, but if you’re delivering great work but you cannot demonstrate it, you’re going to lose your job or your client. This is especially true if your boss or client doesn’t really understand how social media or digital PR works. 

And let’s face it – that’s why they employ you, right?

There are literally hundreds of ways one can report on their social media activity and metrics, but most businesses either spend way too long on putting great reports together or their reports aren’t very good.

So what gives? Why are so many business losing clients when there are a bazillion analytics and reporting tools out there?

This is why:

Social media reporting 

If you’re like hundreds of the social media and PR pros out there, you probably use a combination of sources to measure your social media metrics and try to somehow combine this with any meaningful online press coverage you’ve generated and maybe include useful backlinks you’ve gained. But putting this all together in something that your client wants to see and can actually make sense of is another matter.

In many regards, analytics tools and software should not be seen as reporting tools and software at all. Primarily, analytics data should be used to help inform your strategy moving forward and they should only really form the foundation of your reports.

As the experts, our job is to provide the interpretation of that data.

Qualitative interpretation vs quantitative data

Data is everywhere. Social platforms, themselves, provide the vast majority of data anyone could want about the statistical performance of a social campaign.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that 100,000 impressions are better than 20,000, and it doesn’t take a statistician to work out if a graph is going upward or downward and, in general, upwards is good.

As a social media manager, data is key. All those expensive analytics tools have a place when it comes to determining the effect of certain activities and tactics. This can be used to great effect. However, data is only part of the picture when it comes to social media.

Social media is about both the macro and the micro. And reporting is often about the interpretation of all this information, not just the raw data.

Input vs output reporting

Depending on to whom you report, you may well be judged on the amount of work you’re doing as well as the outcomes that work yields. Even though your KPIs are likely to be results-driven, there will still be cases where measuring your input and actions is important to convey your value.

Here are some examples:

  1. Setting up and optimising accounts

  2. Market or competitor research

  3. Initial outreach to targets

  4. Responses to #journorequests

  5. Volume of social posts published

All of these cases could generate nothing in the way of tangible return but they’re all important activities and are likely to yield benefits in the future.

Most analytics tools will show how many tweets are sent, for example, but you’ll require other ways of showing your activities in other areas.

A really simple example of this would be screenshotting your Workflow Max or Teamwork dashboards, showing all the actions you’ve undertaken. This can be even more applicable to PR or SEO professionals whose work may take several months take effect.

Action and input reporting is one of the reasons social media and PR pros use Word, PowerPoint or even email alongside data analytics to articulate their value. Often, social media management companies are hired to deliver a service; not necessarily to generate sales leads.

How do you report all this?

Unsurprisingly, most marketers turn to a place where they can compile data, images, and interpretation from multiple sources. Look no further than Microsoft PowerPoint, right? Understandably, PowerPoint or Keynote (even Microsoft Word) becomes the weapon of choice.

Being able to customise reports, drag and drop screenshots and add text comments is a great way to create documents that clients can understand. The power of the screenshot enables one to show data from a range of analytics tools as well as qualitative wins like tweets from big-name accounts or coverage in a heavyweight broadsheet online. 

You may find yourself quoting some top-line stats in an email and attaching a clunky PDF with cobbled together bits of copy and screenshots. We’ve been there. And it’s exactly when you’d wished you’d paid more attention in graphic design either as school or in that seminar you went to 18 months ago. Anyway…

You resort to this kind of hand-made report for three reasons:

  1. You can capture everything you’ve done, not just followers and impressions, but meaningful conversations you’ve had with prospects on Twitter or LinkedIn and the article you landed on Mashable.

  2. You can put together the pieces of information you know that particular client wants. Every client is different and what matters to client A might be completely different to client B. One might need a ten-page dossier with running commentary, whilst one just needs a few upward trending graphs.

  3. It’s free. No contract, no hidden fees – just your time.

Any that’s all well and good, and maybe the vast majority of clients are pretty happy with this. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it right?

But, actually, there are a lot of downsides to this process.

  1. You have to take note of everything that happens during the month so you’re able to put the most important things in the final report. If you’re mega-organised, you’ll set up a folder for screenshots for each month, for each client, and pop each valuable screenshot here. Of course, you only want to capture the important stuff so you don’t have to spend hours deciding which bits are the most important but, on the other hand, you don’t want to miss anything or you’ll spend hours trawling through the content to find it again!

  2. It takes time to put everything together in a document. How should it be ordered? Where do you put the copy? What and how much copy should you use? Does it look like a professional has put this together or does it look cobbled together at the last minute?

  3. Are your clients happy with what they’re seeing? How many of them would actually tell you, “your reports look awful and they really let you and your company down”? Are you leaving yourself open to a competitor swooping in with a beautifully designed proposal and sample reports? So much of what we do and buy into is the look and feel of a document or company.

This is one of the biggest issues:

Every client is different, as we’ve said. They’re different in how much they understand social media. They have different goals and will define success by different metrics. That’s why a cookie-cutter reporting software lets you down. Besides, your clients aren’t looking for a load of facts and figures – that’s the easy bit. They’re looking to your expertise for the interpretation of this information. What does it mean? What are we doing well and how can we improve 

Steph Jones.
Steph Jones

Head of Social

A hands-on Head of Social, with extensive experience across Charity, Retail and eCommerce, both agency side and client side, with brands such as WWF, Virgin Pure and Purity Brewing. Steph considers all facets of the customer journey through social and paid media, as well as creating engaging content in line with the business goals to capture attention and convert audiences.