The 10-Minute Digital Librarian #5: Use social media analytics to understand your reach

Our last post explored some of the first steps you can take in deciding how you want to use social media of different types in order to communicate about your work most effectively.

It mentioned, briefly, the value of playing around with the analytical tools available on different platforms. This post looks a little further at this point, given how useful it can be in helping you work out how you are doing, and get insights into what works or not.

Most social media platforms, if you look, provide an option to look at performance or analytics. This can be obvious from the front page, or be available as an option under your profile.

These will provide data – by post, by time-period, or both – on the following:

  • Number of followers (i.e. the number of people who have indicated their interest in you, and so who are more likely to see your content in their own feeds)
  • Number of people reached (i.e. the number of different people who have seen your post) – this can depend of the timing of your post, as well as on what social media algorithms choose to prioritise.
  • Number of impressions (i.e. the total number of times your post has been seen – this can include people seeing it more than once). Again, timing and social media algorithms can play a role here.
  • Number of engagements (clicks, shares, likes etc). This depends very much on how engaging your content is – does it make people want to look further?

This data can be used to create further indicators, such as the share of views of a post that led to an engagement.

Think about your objectives when you look at how you can use these. If you are simply trying to raise awareness of your collections as part of a wider communications drive, reach and impressions are powerful.

If you want people to come to your site (which of course is good – you don’t social media to be a substitute for your own content!), then clicks matter most, including as a share of views.

And of course, in the long run, a higher number of followers will tend to lead to higher scores on all indicators.

You can also use this data in the short run in order to assess the performance of individual posts. What topics interest people? What do people like to share? Perhaps most importantly, what brings people to your site?

An obvious comparison is between your own posts – do images matter, subjects, style, length? Some platforms do allow you to compare with other accounts – for example library accounts. If you see some which are performing particularly well, take a look at see what you can learn.

Beyond pure social media analytics, you can use other tools to assess the impact of your social media work. Website analytics (which we of course recommend using in a way that respects privacy) can give insights into how many people came to your site from different social media.

And of course, you can also ask participants in events and similar about how they found out about them, and include social media as one of the options.

This is a rich area, and fortunately, there are some great resources already out there. The materials from the webinar organised by WebJunction and TechSoup are very helpful, as is the page put together by ALA, and the recording of this Tech-Talk webinar.

Outside of library-focused resources, there are plenty of others, for example about Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics, LinkedIn Analytics, or Instagram Insights.

Let us know the most useful things you have learned from using social media analytics to support your communication!

Good luck!


If you are interested in library marketing more broadly, you should take a look at the work of IFLA’s Management and Marketing Section, which provides a platform to share expertise and experience.

Discover our series of 10-Minute Digital Librarian posts as it grows.

2 thoughts on “The 10-Minute Digital Librarian #5: Use social media analytics to understand your reach

  1. Shane McEvoy

    We encourage business owners to use analytics where possible and it’s surprising to see just how many businesses don’t even use Google Analytics which as you’ve mentioned goes hand in had with social media analytics.

    Google’s Search Central, formally known as Webmaster Tools is another set of indispensable analytics worth a look.

  2. Dr Tanveer

    Very good topic for further research as you can evaluate your outreach using social media tools.

Comments are closed.