Social media analytics is often overlooked in the newsroom with more focus placed on the website of the publication, says Shifaan Ryklief, social media manager at IOL. Ryklief says that news publications or newsrooms are equipped with social media teams that regularly monitor social media analytics, however, there isn’t a “strategic communication or plan of action from the data to see where the team is lacking and where it needs to buckle down and push harder”.

Social media analytics is a tool that can be used by media publications to measure audience growth and engagement. Paul Nnakwe, a data analyst and a social media research associate, says that “journalists can take advantage of social media data analytics to create new forms of content, improve user engagement, track information spread, measure sentiment regarding an action or policy, and conduct investigative reporting”.

Nnakwe, says journalists can analyse social media data, and through analysis can find patterns and stories that interest their audience and elicits engagement. He describes social media analytics as both a science and an art. “On the one hand, journalists will have to use systematic methods involving identification, extraction and analysis using various tools and techniques. This requires them to acquire technical skills, however, there are low-code tools and curation platforms that can help bridge that gap.”

“On the other hand, social media analytics, as an art, requires journalists to have domain knowledge and apply creativity while interpreting and communicating the results of the analysis,” says Nnakwe.

As both a journalist and content creator, Ryklief, has a profound understanding of social media analytics and the importance of using different metrics to better engage with audiences.

How can journalists build an engaged community using social media?

Ryklief offers different tips on how to do so. Firstly, he says journalists “should be creating content outside of their work hours. “In my personal capacity, this is where I trial and test new ideas, concepts, different video formats and I get to see the reactions of how people perceive the content.”

Secondly, “Don’t be in a rush and push out as much content a day as you can. For example, with TikTok, there is no wrong way to go here so put out many video formats at different times of the day, vary the video lengths, hop onto trends and do not worry about views, let the algorithm and platform do its thing”.

Ryklief explains: “After some time, it will be clear which content resonates best with the audience and the analytics will inform the journalists of the video length and the best times of the day to post. Most importantly, always add value to the viewer’s life. Ask yourself before posting, how will this piece of content help the viewer? And then leave a call to action at the end asking them to leave a comment or what their thoughts are on the topic”.

A business cannot be run without a social media presence. “Social media has given everyone the opportunity to directly interact with their customers whereas this was previously done by traditional media,” says Ryklief.

“Social media analytics provide an immense contribution to journalists as it helps them measure and anticipate trends, assess network impact and achieve other newsroom objectives. However, one must be careful when analysing and making conclusions from social media data as there is a risk of information manipulation. This is usually employed by bad faith actors ranging from government to marketers in order to skew conversations online, manufacture fake reviews and spread disinformation,” says Nnakwe.

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