Why should you create social media post performance reports in the first place? After all, you create and manage your posts, so you can clearly see which ones are doing better than others, right? While that may be true on some basic level, a report allows you to dive deeper.

You can figure out which strategies work better, or even the tiny differences between post schedules, for example, that result in winning or losing posts. Research has shown that managing data effectively and deriving actionable insights from it resulted in organizations creating more engaging and user-focused content.

A template might be the first solution that comes to your mind, regardless of whether you develop one yourself or “borrow” it from another source. And while templates seem to do the job quickly, they are far from refined.

Instead of focusing only on templates, but still retaining the one-size-fits-most approach, follow the five steps laid out below. When done correctly, they will ensure consistency across reports while also keeping each one unique and fit for purpose.

Step 1: Define (and know) your audience. 

Defining your audience is a crucial first step as it alters not just the content of your report but also sets the tone and decides the level of detail to go to. You need to ask yourself the Who, Why, and How questions: who is reading the report, why do they need these insights, and how are they going to benefit from them?

Knowing your audience also allows you to better decide on what metrics or KPIs to include in your report. While service-offering clients may require monetization values to be included in your report, a YouTube channel may be more concerned with the number of views each video upload garnered.

A rule of thumb that can prove beneficial to remember while creating and submitting reports is that the higher your recipient is in the management hierarchy, the more concise and crisp your report should be.

Step 2: Define your goals.

Next, outline the purposes of your report. Here, you need to ask the why question, which leads you to the answers to the what and how questions.

Do you want the media management team to work on a specific area of a campaign? Does the CEO want to gauge how much of the business goals are being met? Or does your report serve to compare this quarter with the last to see incremental progress?

Depending on the purpose, you can then formulate your reporting strategy. It could result in:

  • One-time reports – usually for shorter campaigns or standalone posts.
  • Regular reports – usually serve for comparative analysis, both within your organization for time comparisons and among the competition for benchmarking.
  • Research reports – usually to analyze how certain topics fare against others or to evaluate market trends.

As is the most effective practice, make sure you set S.M.A.R.T. goals. Your goals should be specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and timed. Only then can your report and the actions it translates into can be fruitful.

Step 3: Decide what metrics to include.

Having introduced different metrics, we can now talk about the crux of the matter and what to actually include in your report. Social media is a multifunctional and multipurpose environment. Accordingly, the purpose for which the posts are created will and should dictate the metrics and KPIs you include in your report.

For example, a non-profit organization may be making use of their social media presence to spread awareness and drive change in the community. For them, the metrics of highest significance would probably be visibility and engagement.

On the other hand, a chef looking for self-promotion may require insights about reach and conversions. If they want to see how competitive they are amongst the hordes, they may even require the share of voice metrics to be included in the report they receive.

Some of the metrics most commonly used – and the most insightful – are:

  • Leads: visitors who can become customers.
  • Conversions: the leads that do become customers.
  • Impressions or Reach: the number of people who viewed your content.
  • Engagement: the extent of relevance/ clickability of your content.
    • This includes clicks, likes, comments, and shares.
  • Share of voice: your comparative presence against your competitors.

And while deciding on which metrics to include, you should also be conscious about what NOT to include. Just because you have something to present, does not mean you should, as it is much better to be concise than to ramble on needlessly.

Step 4: Define the reporting time frame.

Your reporting frequency depends on a number of factors, ranging from the amount of time it takes to gather considerable data to the needs of the campaign or the recipient. The most important thing here is to combine all these factors into the time frame that is optimal. Bear in mind, however, that different combinations of requirements will require differently timed reports.

The most common time frames used for reporting are

  • Weekly (7 days)
  • Monthly (28 days)
  • Quarterly (90 days)
  • Campaign-centered (variable)

Daily reports may also sometimes be required to keep a close check on shorter campaigns, while yearly or biyearly reports may be produced to see the year-on-year progress of a longer campaign or the company in general.

If you are aiming to derive comparative analysis from your insights, make sure that the time frame for the ‘before’ and ‘after’ is consistent. It would not make sense for you to compare data extracted for a Monday-Friday period with that for a Wednesday-Sunday period, even though the duration of both periods is the same.

Step 5: Design the report.

Finally, bring the learnings from the first four steps together and begin drafting your report. 

Your audience sets the tone for your report and should be your go-to for where to begin. Keep your audience in mind and take it forward to define your goals. Tailor your report according to your audience to include the metrics that are of potential interest. Finally, define the time frame that you will extract data from according to the needs of your report.

Then, make sure the design of your report is simple, crisp, clear, and easy to understand. It should be informative enough that the stakeholders can derive decisive conclusions, but not be so overwhelming that the numbers seem boring or tiresome. Add compelling visuals and tables to illustrate your data, keeping verbose statements to a minimum.

In the end, finish with key takeaways, an executive summary, or a call to action for the stakeholders. In this manner, your report will seem more refined and translate into actionable results.