Using Data to Drive Social Media Decision-Making

April 19, 2016


What value can we really place on a Like? Does a heart-eyes emoji mean more than an LOL? And what kinds of online and offline action should we be inspiring to prove the business value in a brand’s social media investment?

Whether you’re working in-house, at an agency or at a social technology platform, these are just a small sample of the many questions social media practitioners are faced with every day – and the challenges that we are constantly looking to solve.

To discuss how data impacts our decision-making across all aspects of social media, communications and marketing, we teamed up with our friends at Spredfast for a panel discussion featuring two leading organizations in the space. Featuring Zain Habboo, Director of Multimedia Strategy at UN Foundation (a FleishmanHillard client), Kate Coughlin, Senior Social Media Manager at National Geographic Society, Ray Rahmati, DC Market Director at Spredfast and moderated by our own Gwen Foutz, SVP and Partner, Americas Social Lead, we looked to break down the data that matters and how to use it in a way that is truly meaningful on social media.


Here are the 5 key takeaways that resonated most with my experience and our work at FH.

  1. Data Needs Humans as Much as Humans Need Data

Going with your gut is easy – and often tempting – when making decisions about social media. No matter how comfortable we feel about our audience, however, keeping specific data points in mind are essential to developing strategy, setting KPIs and reaching the right people at the right time on the right platforms.

On the flip side, we know that data alone will never tell a truly complete story, and that adding a qualitative lens, and yes, occasionally a little intuition can prove invaluable. When evaluating Pharrell’s suitability to lead UN Foundation’s International Day of Happiness, for example, an executive decision to reject certain data points and instead capitalize on his worldwide reach and popularity resulted in the most successful campaign in organization history.

  1. Make it Meaningful

Have you ever felt that the likelihood of your client or executive team opening your recap report is so slim, you could simply send a deck full of your favorite cat pictures and call it a day? As a true story along these lines received the biggest laugh of the panel, it is clear that you are not alone.

So, how do we overcome this challenge? Most importantly, think about the audience of your report and tailor your narrative. Like the content you develop from your data, the way you report back on your success and learnings should reflect what matters to them, how they consume content and how they will judge success.

  1. Invest in your Architecture

Whether a complex organization with dozens of sub-brands and hundreds of marketers or a startup of 50, companies driving the best results in social media all overwhelmingly share one characteristic: cohesive social media architecture.

Depending on how social operates in your organization, this architecture may look very different depending on how many audiences you are trying to reach, the volume of content you’re producing and the range of business functions involved. But, whether you assign specific content beats to each team member like National Geographic or operate via a centralized hub, developing and effectively communicating your model internally are essential.

  1. The Struggle is Real

For most, the dedicated time and resources needed to make sense of the wealth of data at our disposal often feels overwhelming if not impossible.

Despite these time and resource obstacles, however, practitioners can and should arm themselves with the skills needed to make better decisions. Using monitoring and management tools like Spredfast, consistently evaluating performance and process, and staying true to your “social why” are all key to keep in mind across social media teams of all sizes.

  1. Celebrate (with cake)

Like the industry we work in, social media teams are always looking for bigger, better results. Though the opportunity to work in a new, experimental and ever-evolving industry is a major draw for many, it is important that we pause to celebrate the milestones we reach along the way.

For UN Foundation’s digital team, this means a homemade cake and invitation to the whole organization to celebrate when major milestones are reached for channels or campaigns. More than a delicious work break that I hope we adopt at FH, the tradition is also a fun way to boost employee investment in their programs’ success, and signals to executives and senior leadership that major achievements in social are worth their attention.


Jenna Carter is a digital strategist with a focus on content creation and social media. She provides expertise on community management, internal and external thought-leadership pieces, and supports new business initiatives. In addition, Carter has helped with the development of social products and branding, and creating and editing content used in multiple regions for clients across diverse industries.