ryan sweeney interview

Mastering Social Media Analytics: An Interview with Ryan Sweeney of Ignite Social Media

Ryan Sweeney is the Director of Analytics at Ignite Social Media and has been in the industry of social analytics since “before the major networks released official analytics platforms.” That means he’s more than equipped to lead a workshop at this year’s Social Media Strategies Summit in San Francisco titled “Insights with Impact: Maximize the Value of Your Social Media Analytics.” In this workshop, Ryan will teach attendees how to pair business objectives and specific customer journeys to create an actionable measurement plan.

Ryan was kind enough to answer some questions we had about analytics and his session at the summit, as well as his thoughts on the industry in general.

Delving into analytics can be a little intimidating for marketers who tend to favor more creative situations. What are some tips you have for social media marketers who want to add analytics to their daily routine and resume?

There are a lot of available social media data points these days so it’s easy to get overwhelmed when you’re just dipping your toe into the world of social media analytics. My tip would be to start small by identifying one key question that you want to answer with social data and pick one metric that is best tied to the question. Look at that metric over time, form hypotheses about why that metric goes up or down, and, finally, test your hypotheses! Lather, rinse, repeat.

Can you walk us through a day in the life in your role at Ignite Social Media? Are there many other departments or stakeholders within the company that you collaborate with regularly?

Collaboration is a key part of life at Ignite Social Media. Analytics are useless if the findings are not communicated and implemented. My team works very closely with all of the teams within Ignite every step of the way.
  • We work with the strategy team to identify the KPIs that are most relevant to the client.
  • We work with the community management and content creation teams to identify what types of content, topics, and creative are resonating with the audience and driving the most-efficient business results.
  • The analytics team also works hand-in-hand with the paid media team, monitoring campaign performance and collaborating on optimizations based on efficiency and objective.
  • We also regularly collaborate with the account management team when communicating the story of a client’s social media presence.
  • Outside of the agency, as ISM is a social-only agency, we also collaborate with other agencies in the digital, search, and email marketing space; working with them to ensure social media fits within the holistic marketing strategy for a brand.

What is the first step you take to determine what KPIs and goals to measure both in general and for specific campaigns?

At the end of the day, we’re driving business results. The first step is understanding social media’s role within a brand’s customer journey. No one brand has the same exact customer journey and social media marketing can play a variety of roles within that journey. Our job is to determine where social media marketing efforts are best utilized within that customer journey and identify the metrics that best align with those objectives.

In the description of your workshop, it states “the best focus group lives in the world of social media.” Can you explain what that means a little further?

Social media channels are a place where your customers come because they want to receive something from or provide something to your brand. They are likely showing up because they are existing customers who like your product, they are not customers yet but are looking for more information, or they’re customers who have had a good or bad experience with your product and are looking to tell you about it. You would be doing your brand a disservice to ignore the opinions of those groups listed above. Should you make immediate business decisions based on one or two posts? No, of course not, but they can be a great jumping off point for further investigation.

How have you seen social media best practices evolve through your career, and where do you see the marketing industry in the new decade?

When I first started, in 2010, social media marketing was all about fan and follower growth. As the platforms evolved, that focus shifted towards engagement, especially as the algorithms changed, serving content to users who engaged with brand content more often. Then, best practices started shifting closer to driving actual business results. Every network has a pixel that now makes it easier to retarget and build audiences based on similar users.
Drawing the line from social media marketing to conversion is not as much of a mystery as it was a decade ago. Interestingly enough, I’m starting to see hints that the aspects of the industry are heading back towards a more social/community role with the increasing popularity of Facebook groups. I’m very curious to see what happens to the social space once virtual reality takes off; it could potentially be the next wild west.

What are the biggest challenges you face in your role?

The biggest challenge is also what keeps things interesting. Social media channels are constantly changing. Adding offerings. Taking them away. Changing feed algorithms entirely. These changes can help or hinder our established strategies so we’re constantly evaluating the impact and implications that said changes will have on our work going forward.

What’s something you wish you knew when you started in this industry?

Math … (kidding!!!!). Honestly, I’m not sure there is anything industry specific I could have learned in advance given how the space is constantly shifting. We’re always learning new things as they roll out. I guess I wish I knew what was next. But then again, that’s part of the fun of it all.

Catch Ryan Sweeney at the Social Media Strategies Summit in San Francisco from Feb. 4-6, 2020.
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