Meaningless Social Media Data Analysis

by frankieleon

let’s compare apples and oranges by frankieleon

Social media data analysis is deservedly a hot topic. It’s important to know if you’re reaching people, who you’re reaching, how to reach them, and if you manage to lead them to making your business thrive. I saw an article recently that shows that users spend significantly more time on Facebook than the other social media sites listed. This is the sort of thing that gets people very excited. Investors, business owners, marketers, everybody starts jumping to conclusions.

Social Media Data Analysis

We’re all looking for a way to see where to share content and interact with users, and if it’s effective. Social media data analysis is gathering data, analyzing it, presenting it, and drawing conclusions.

It's Complicated by John Spade

It’s Complicated by John Spade

You don’t necessarily need to do all of that yourself – you can use Google Analytics, or analytics from social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. When you’re using multiple sources and different content and different audiences it all gets complicated fast.

Ask Questions

I’m a big fan of looking at the premise of something before following the path it lays out. So before we make changes to what we do and how we do it with this information, let’s see if there’s anything wrong with it, and what we can conclude.


  1. Those networks have little to do with each other. Twitter and YouTube? Pinterest and Snapchat? This is massive over simplification. They are all called social media, so apparently some people think they’re all equal and for the same purposes. Do you use them all the same way?
  2. This assumes one network will win them all, or you can only devote your attention to one. That’s a false assumption. Look at chart #4 on this page “Users aren’t One Ring To Rule Them Allnecessarily exclusive.”  First off, this chart assumes there is more than just the classification “social media.” So clearly, there are also messaging platforms, not just a generic social media bucket. And even among users of Snapchat, they’re not exclusive to that messaging platform. Imagine if instead of just Social Media, we classified things as messaging platforms, video, social bookmarking, blogging, micro blogging, etc. Now realize that many social media platforms are more than just one of those things. You can post video to Instagram, and Facebook. You can message on Facebook and Instagram. You can see how oversimplification and assumptions can be dangerous.
  3. Who are all of these users? Maybe your target customers are not evenly spread and you Wiknic Boston group of six people June 23 2012should find where they go. There are hundreds of way to segment an audience – age, education, profession, location, money, etc. If a third of your research group is in high school, the results may not be as meaningful if your product or service is mainly sold to 35 year olds. Don’t go in with too many preconceived notions about exactly who you think you should be reaching, but always be suspicious of data and conclusions, particularly when they come with a nice bow on top.
  4. People spend 30.3 minutes on Facebook and 8.5 minutes on Snapchat. But I have almost 2,500 friends on Facebook and just under 200 on Snapchat. Where am I more likely to see you? The videos on Facebook tend to be fairly impersonal, and more highly produced. The videos on Snapchat are often more personal, or at least targeted to a smaller group.
  5. Terminology. I’m not a big fan of the term “social media,” though using something else would
    Confusing terminology.

    Confusing terminology.

    be like calling cars horseless carriages. I’ve been building social networks since the Internet started getting popular. Social networks are about people connecting. The term ‘social media’ is a little too much of a nod to broadcast media for me, and seems to be more of a marketing term. By itself, that’s not too much of a big deal, but the “Mobile User Engagement with Social Media” title of the first chart mentioned also uses the word engagement. We’re getting really confused now. In this context, engagement means a person engaging with a platform. Another use of the term engagement is to describe a user interacting with another user, or a piece of content. It’s an important use. We’re also not clear just how active a monthly active user is. Or for that matter, if that’s important, and if it is, whether it’s better to reach people online all the time, or not as often.

The graph shown on Business Insider asks a lot more questions than it answers. I wouldn’t use it to make any decisions about the direction of your social media efforts.


developer, writer, speaker

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