Using Social Media Data and Analysis to Create a Story

We talk a lot about social media reporting - and we know we’re not the only ones - but when you pull a social media report, all you’re really doing is collecting a bunch of numbers and organizing them into one place.

Doing this can be useful of course, but without taking the time to analyze the numbers at all or offer up what the numbers mean using any kind of storytelling really isn’t going to do you, or your company, much good. Showing reports and dashboards can be overwhelming if there’s no story to go along with it.

Social Media Data and Analysis
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In order for you to figure out what’s happening with the numbers, you’ve got to do a little data storytelling. Stories based on data can be useful tools for stakeholders and customers, because they can help you make better decisions.

Now, we know that this isn’t an easy task. Data storytelling takes practice and we’ve put together some things for you to keep in mind when you’re looking at your next set of numbers:

Best Practices for Data Storytelling 


1] Start with the big picture


Anytime you’re dealing with data, it’s good to start with the high-level data and then drill down, so follow this same method when you’re building your story.

2] Show context


It’s a great practice to keep track of everything when you record your data, such as when you relaunched the website or if the site was down one day, so this way you can offer some factual context and explanation where possible.

3] Highlight the important drivers


What are the factors that affect the numbers in your story? Is it social media? Is it a really great blog post? Are there outside factors that are threatening the numbers? All of this information, and anything directly related to the story you’re trying to tell should be included.

4] Let the data tell the story 


This is probably the most important tip of all. Don’t create a story and then use data to support or deny what you’re saying. Always let the data lead the way.
Whatever you do, do NOT:

  • Manipulate the data or change the scale
  • Cherry pick the data
  • Lie 

Never, we repeat, never do any of the aforementioned! Present honest data and show the entire picture, even if it’s not a favorable one.

Don’t pick and choose the numbers that support your case. And no matter what, never change the numbers or lie about the data. It’s just not going to go well if any of this happens. Keep things honest. Reminder: Always let the data lead.

When you’re looking at all of your numbers and are trying to figure out the story, start with figuring out what question you are trying to answer with this data set.

Is the question, “Why did we experience a significant drop in website traffic on a certain date?” or is it, “What caused a spike in downloadable white papers last month?” Start with this question and then show the data to reach your answer.

Using Social Media Data and Analysis

Data stories explore and explain how and why numbers change over time, usually through three things.

  1. Visualization
  2. Narrative 
  3. Context
Creating some visuals based on the data may help you create your story. These can be charts, graphs, spreadsheets - anything that’s going to add a visual element and make the data sets easier to see and understand. From there, you’ll start to build your narrative using the data and adding any relevant context surrounding it.

Remember that your social media analysis doesn’t have to be complex. If you’re answering a simple question such as, “Why did our website have zero traffic for a 48-hour period?” and you have clearly marked that the server crashed on that day, bam, there’s your story.

Just remember to be real, open, and honest. Make decisions after the data is presented, not before.

One other method you can use to create a data-driven story is the “How we got here” method, which simply walks through the data in chronological order. This method calls for simple analysis and doesn’t leave anything out.

Your first data story may not be glamorous, but offering up some insight is going to help you and your stakeholders better understand what the data is telling you, and from there, you’ll be able to make, informed decisions when it comes to your social media marketing strategy. 

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