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June 2018 Update: We’ve reworked our list of free social media analytics tools for 2018 – check it out below!

As business becomes increasingly global, it becomes increasingly competitive. You can thank the Internet for that – or perhaps curse it if you’re struggling to keep up.

The ability to uncover, apply and measure social insights has never been more important – nor has finding the right tools for the job. With the right social media analytics tools, even the smallest of businesses can compete for share of voice against the mightiest of global brands.

But which tools are “right?” And what do you do if your budget isn’t comparable to the global goliaths out there?

Luckily, there are analytics platforms for every budget, every goal, every level of expertise. To make things easier for brands new to social analytics, we have compiled a comprehensive list of social media analytics tools that meet you where you are.

We’ve also included tools to grow into – when your early analytics help you succeed enough to invest a little more and take your business further.

Before you review the list, we wanted to take a moment to define social media analytics if you’re a little green. (Experts, feel free to skip directly to the tools section.)

WHAT IS SOCIAL MEDIA ANALYTICS?

At NetBase, we define social media analytics as gathering data from social channels and other online content to guide business decisions. It takes many forms, but is always about gaining actionable social insights to guide your business strategy.

Though social media analytics can get rather complex, at its core are three stages:

1. Identify primary business goals.

Whether it’s growing traffic, increasing downloads, or building positive brand perception, setting clear business objectives gives your analytics purpose.

2. Determine social key performance indicators (KPIs).

What metrics indicate success or failure? They will differ according to your goals, but may include:

  • Engagement – specifically, a comparison of owned, earned, and paid media
  • Sentiment – how audiences feel about your brand, your products, and your category
  • Conversion – how social strategies impact sales and revenue

And any other KPIs that align with your business objectives.

3. Measure & Analyze Social Data.

Once you know what matters and why, it’s time to analyze the actual data. By applying one of the tools below, you can assess the state of your business and make informed adjustments as needed.

SECTIONS IN THIS ARTICLE

Without further ado, we present our list of social media analytics tools. Please jump to your preferred section with the links below or start scrolling through the entire list.

Section 1 – 5 Built-in Social Media Analytics Dashboards
Section 2 – 15 Free Social Media Analytics Tools
Section 3 – 4 Paid Social Media Analytics Tools

5 Built-in Social Media Analytics Dashboards

First are the analytics built into some of the top social networks themselves. If your social presence is limited to these, the free analytics tools they provide are an excellent starting point toward understanding your audience.

1. Facebook Insights

There’s a lot on offer here, including a look at organic versus paid reach and engagement – with an updated to the way organic reach is measured so you can “more accurately compare paid and organic posts for your Page.” Look back as far as 28 days, and export data to compare over time. You an even do some competitive intelligence using Pages to Watch, which lets you see which posts are succeeding for your competitors. After all, if it’s working for them…

2. Twitter Analytics

Twitter’s built-in analytics tell you a lot about which tweets are succeeding and to what degree – even if they don’t tell you why. The audience tab displays a breakdown by gender, and also by interests. It also lets you compare against a comparison audience – like “all of Twitter.” The events tab clues you into which current events – like Comic Con and Shark Week – have everyone abuzz. Popular recurring hashtags are also highlighted, arming you with the means to be on trend with your posts. Missing is the ability to target individual audience segments with messaging just for them. But you at least have an idea of where to aim to please the majority of your audience.

3. Pinterest Analytics

You need a business account to use Pinterest’s analytics, but you can convert a personal account for free to see what users love about your Pinterest profile and what visitors like to save from your company’s website. Audience metrics let you see what your followers are into, and who else they follow – so you have a better idea what to pin. And knowing what your audience wants is half the battle.

4. Instagram Insights

Start by converting your profile to a free business profile – if you haven’t already. Once you do, access Insights by clicking the icon resembling a bar graph at the top left – between the “person” icon and the three dots that bring you to the Options menu. From there you can view impressions, reach and profile views for the past week, as well as demographic info about your followers, and the average days of the week and times of day they’re active on Instagram. You can also view insights for your Stories and any active promotions. Missing is the ability to analyze images for sentiment, logos, location, etc.

5. YouTube Analytics 

As important as images are videos – one of the most engaging types of social content out there. Understanding what works and what doesn’t is crucial, so it’s great that YouTube now offers analytics inside its Creator Studio. These offer watch time and revenue reports, as well as information on audience retention, demographics, devices, and even real-time analytics about people watching right now. Pro tip: Use Average Watch Time data as a guide for front-loading key information in your videos.


Beyond the Built-ins

Built-in analytics are great, but not every social platform offers them – note the absence of Tumblr, for example. What happens if that’s the channel where your audience is most active?

And what happens if your brand is active on several social channels? Then built-in analytics make even less sense to use. It takes too much time and effort to manually compare data from multiple channels to understand what’s happening with your brand across the web.

Luckily there are also free tools that span multiple platforms, or offer deeper insights – or both.

15 Free Social Media Analytics Tools

1. Boardreader 

Boardreader uses search bar simplicity to put you in touch with reviews and forum posts – which are an oft-forgotten part of social data. See consumer posts within the past day, or as far back as a year. Advanced search features let you filter results to get a better sense of things. The “Trendy” graphs let you compare conversation volume against other brands – though you won’t know what is actually being said, or whether it’s good or bad.

2. Buffer 

Scheduling posts is Buffer’s primary function, but that’s hardly its only merit. The free version allows for scheduling of posts to one account each on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and Instagram – up to 10 posts in your queue at a time, per network. Though that means you need to schedule more frequently, you do get the benefit of seeing which posts in the past 30 days were most – and least – popular, got the most clicks, comments, retweets, etc. To monitor more accounts or see more complex analytics, upgraded plans start at $10/month.

3. Followerwonk

If your need for social data is limited to Twitter, you can connect a single profile with Followerwonk and get insights on social authority rankings, followers, their locations, and when they’re active. You can search Twitter profiles, as well as search bios for keywords – with limitations. You get more if you subscribe, but if you need somewhere to start, this is bare bones and simple. Subscriptions start at $23/month, billed annually.

4. Friends+Me

 

Friends+Me is a scheduling platform designed around taking your Google+ posts further. Specifically, you can share to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Tumblr. For free you can manage 2 queues with 5 posts each, and integrate with Zapier for additional workflow automation. If Google+ is your primary social network, this tool will expand your presence from that hub. Add team members and queues starting at $7.50/month when billed annually.

5. Google Alerts

For basic alerts delivered to your inbox while you’re shopping for more in-depth analytics solutions, Google Alerts is still a great option. You’ll know whenever your brand – or your competitors – are mentioned online based on the alerts you set. Along with letting you know when you’re making headlines – especially important if it’s in a bad way – Google Alerts is also perfect for discovering topical content to share with your audience.

6. Hootsuite

Hootsuite’s free plan gives you 3 social profiles, 30 scheduled messages, and basic analytics – like follower growth and content that appeals. More than 150 free and paid apps – including NetBase – let you add power, or integrate with things you already use, making it feel less limited. If you’re just establishing your social presence, it’s not a bad place to start. More robust plans start at $19/month.

7. HowSociable

Enter your brand name into the search field and have instant access to your brand’s “magnitude.” What’s that? “An indication of the level of activity around a brand during a given week. The range is from 0 to 10.” In addition, see your brand magnitude across 12 social networks, including LinkedIn, Google+, Tumblr, YouTube and Reddit. It’s about the easiest way to see which of the 12 your brand is succeeding best on – and where you need to rethink your strategy. Doesn’t tell you what you’re doing wrong, though – or how to fix it. Go Pro for $9 per three months and up.

8. Likealyzer

Likealyzer is the perfect competitor analysis tool for those whose social strategy is built around Facebook. It recommends pages to watch, as well as actions to take to improve your own status. It couldn’t be easier because Likealyzer does all the work.

9. Social Oomph

Schedule posts, monitor mentions and retweets, and browse posts via “interest channels” on Twitter using Social Oomph. If you want to connect more social accounts, or have digests sent via email, upgrade starting at $6.97/month.

12. SumAll

SumAll lets you connect a number of social accounts like Facebook, Twitter and 1more. You can automate actions like sending thank you tweets to all who’ve retweeted your content, or automatically engage with your audience on social channels. View a quick comparison of all Facebook pages and how they’re performing against other SumAll users, and receive email digests of the accounts you choose in daily or weekly form.

13. Twitonomy

Twitonomy is another great platform for analyzing Twitter insights. In addition to searching via users, lists, and keywords, you can analyze any Twitter profile for competitive intelligence, visualize your mentions on a map, tracks your followers and more. For access to premium features, sign up for a single month for $20, or subscribe for $19 monthly.

14. TweetReach

For a quick snapshot of your Twitter account, specified hashtags, or keywords, TweetReach is about as simple as it gets. Enter your terms in a search box like Google, and voila! You’ll have an instant look at your estimated accounts reached, “exposure” based on impressions, top contributors, and most retweeted tweets. A nice plus – you can search any account, which is great for competitive intelligence. Data returned is limited to 100 tweets, however. Upgrade for more tweets and accounts starting at $23/month.

15. Zoho Social

Monitor posts, messages, connections, and mentions across Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and Instagram with Zoho Social. Connect each channel to multiple brands, for those managing multiple clients. Invite team members and collaborate all in the same place. It’s bare bones, but easy to navigate. Upgrade starting at $100/month.

Free can get you a lot – but most, if not all, the above platforms offer even more when you upgrade to a paid plan. Even then, however, they don’t all have the cutting edge advantages of comprehensive tools meant to grow with the industry. The kind that allow you to incorporate data you collect from non-social sources – CRM and the like. Those are the tools you want to invest in as soon as you’re able.

If you have the budget for something with a little more “oomph,” the following tools have either free trial periods, or one-on-one demos available – so you can try before you buy.

1. NetBase

With a focus on consumer sentiment – the driving force behind all social posting – NetBase is a cut above many social media intelligence offerings. This industry-recognized platform uses Natural Language Processing (NLP) to decipher multiple languages, as well as online “slanguage” and emojis. Real-time monitoring – layered with image analytics and VoC analytics – alerts brands to reputational threats, while keeping brand health at a maximum.

Price: We have several options to suit your needs and budget – ask us!

2. Likeable Hub

Likable Hub’s focus is limited to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn – but if those are your main social channels, there’s a lot on offer here. Find and share content, generate referrals and leads, manage brand reputation, amplify reach, and measure growth with one platform. You can even create your own website.

Price: Starts at $299/month.

3. Sprout Social

Analyze audience engagement and growth on Facebook, identify content on Twitter, understand hashtag trends on Instagram, and understand insights on LinkedIn Company Pages with Sprout Social. Post and monitor content, and view streamlined reports to keep you in the know.

Price: Starts at $99 per user/month.

4. Tailwind

This Pinterest- and Instagram-focused app makes scheduling Pins, repins, Instagrams and regrams a snap, while providing critical data on repins/regrams, likes, comments, traffic and revenue on scheduled Pins. Analyze trending topics and branded content insights to deliver what your audience most desires, or monitor competitors to find out what’s working for them. You can see trending topics in context, and measure brand and industry share of voice across Pinterest/Instagram.

Price: Starts at $9.99/month when billed annually.

Finding Your Fit

This list is hardly comprehensive, but it’s proof enough there are numerous options for tracking consumer attitudes, opinions, sentiment and behaviors online. You have to do all that and more to stay ahead of savvy competitors – so having the right tools is a must.

Which platform is the right one? That’s up to you. There’s something to be said for the idea that you get what you pay for – but sometimes you get a lot more. And sometimes you can get by – at least for a time – with something completely free.

Each of the platforms listed here offers a portion of what’s needed to gain a dimensional picture of your audience – but few of them “have it all.” In those cases, what you save in cost might be lost in efforts to cobble together insights from multiple sources. The time saved on such efforts makes the extra expense of a program that does it all well worth it.

But if you’re not there yet, applying some type of social media analytics tools is a step in the right direction for all forward-thinking brands – and any of the above would be a good place to start.

Ready for a social listening platform that has it all? Reach out to schedule a demo today!

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