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Analytics 101 for sport organizations


Pie chart showing new vs returning visitors

Social media analytics is a complex and often overwhelming field. The web is filled with thousands of articles, blog posts and webinars about the latest, cutting-edge best practices. Big companies employ teams of analysts or use expensive software to get the edge over their competitors. How can a sports communicator cut through the noise to find useful data?

Just because you can’t afford to hire a Senior Analyst of Digital Analytics doesn’t mean that you can’t take advantage of analytics best practices. We’ve assembled seven quick and easy ways to get started using analytics, plus a few more advanced techniques to take your game to the next level.


In Module 24 you will find:

1. Ask relevant questions 2. Don't be fooled by "Vanity Metrics" 3. Use in-platform analytics 4. Use free analytics products 5. Try A/B testing 6. Try Google Analytics 7. Get someone else to do it for you


1. Ask relevant questions

To avoid spending hours wading through reams of analytics data, start off by forming a few simple questions that relate to your goals. If you’ve created a social media action plan, it should be easy to come up with targeted questions.

Here are some examples:

  • My goal is to promote my upcoming tournament. What social media content sent the most traffic to the tournament page on my website?
  • My goal is to spread the word about a new program. What content got the most shares on social media? What social media platform spread my message the furthest? What platform drove the most traffic to the program page on my website?
  • My goal is to sell tickets to a fundraiser. What social media site sent the most traffic to my fundraiser page? Of that, what site caused the greatest number of people to buy tickets?

2. Don’t be fooled by “Vanity Metrics”

Full length mirrorThere’s a lot of debate over which social media stats just make you feel good and which actually provide a return on investment. In some cases, analytics numbers are artificially inflated by fake accounts and so are unreliable. (Unsavoury social media marketers can even buy fake video views, likes or page views from clickfarms). In other cases, the data looks impressive but doesn’t help you achieve your goals online. Your social media goals will tell you which metrics are valuable.

In general:

  • Likes, views and follows can be artificially inflated, but comments and shares are more reliable.
  • The number of people who engaged with your content can be misleading, but the engagement rate (views divided by likes/comments/shares) is more reliable.
  • Focus on quality, not quantity. If your goal is to sell tickets to a tournament, content that sends 10 people to your website but 9 buy tickets is more valuable than content that sends 1000 people to your website, but only 1 buys a ticket.
  • Distinguish between what metrics are useful for sponsors or other stakeholders, and which are useful for making decisions about your social media strategy. For example, I might put together a sponsorship package that shows my number of followers and the engagement my posts receive, but I might only focus on shares when adjusting my Facebook strategy.

3. Use in-platform analytics

This year alone, platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest have taken significant strides in improving their own analytics. Facebook Insights is the most advanced, but Twitter and Pinterest both offer simple, free analytics data. Because these platforms are constantly changing their analytics, it’s difficult to offer concrete advice within the space of this module. Luckily, each site offers simple how-do guides to get you started.

4. Use free analytics products

The Hootsuite owlIf you’re not satisfied with the simple analytics provided by the social media sites themselves, try some of the many free analytics products on the market. These include:

  • Tweroid: a free tool that will tell you the best time to tweet.
  • ViralWoot: An analytics tool for Pinterest.
  • Hootsuite: A post scheduler and monitoring service that also provides analytics data.
  • Buffer: Helps schedule your posts across multiple platforms at optimal times and also provides you with analytics.
  • SocialMention: Provides you with analytics on search keywords.
  • Iconosquare: An analytics tool for Instagram.

5. Try A/B testing

A/B testing is a great way to figure out exactly what content resonates with your audience. To A/B test a concept, keep all variables constant and change only one factor. For example, if I wanted to test which of two images was most popular, I would release them both on a Tuesday at the same time with the same caption and see which one performed best. When it comes to doing A/B testing on your website, you can also use a service like Optimizely.

While most sport organizations don’t have enough social media followers to do in-depth A/B testing, simple A/B testing will allow you to answer:

  • What captions resonate with my audience?
  • What images resonate with my audience?
  • What time of day is the best time to post?
  • What ad copy/image drives the most traffic to my website?
  • What keywords are most popular?
  • What calls to action drive the most traffic to my website?

6. Try Google Analytics

If your webmasters have installed Google Analytics on your website, you’ve got a wealth of data at your fingertips. Even if you’re a Google Analytics beginner, you can still:

See how much of your website’s traffic came from social media: Go to Acquisition, then Overview.

Traffic overview in hootsuiteSee which social media platforms drove the most traffic to your website: Go to Acquisition, then Social, then Overview. In this case, Facebook is the most successful by far. This information could tell me that I need to pay more attention to Twitter, or maybe that Twitter isn’t giving me the return on investment that I desire and so I should focus my efforts on another platform, like Instagram.

Social Network overview in Hootsuite  

See what pages people landed on when they visited your website via social media: Click on Social then Landing Pages. This field can help you figure out what content is most popular on social media. Here, you can see that our article announcing the national team squad was the most popular by far. 

Landing pages overview in Hootsuite  

See how people moved through your website when they came from social media: Click on Social then User Flow to see a handy chart of how users came through your website, including when they dropped off. For example, I can see from this chart that the people who found our article about the national team announcement via Facebook then went on to look at our other news items, or at our national team page. Unfortunately, a lot of them didn’t look at anything more on our website. That’s a sign that I should include more links to other sections of our website within the article to entice people to explore our site further.

Traffic flow chart in HootsuiteScreen Shot 2015-03-16 at 12.00.48 PM.png

Want to learn more about Google Analytics? Google offers a free course, including industry-recognized certification, through its Analytics Academy.

Want to take your analytics game to the next level? Here are a few more advanced techniques in Google Analytics:

  1. Set some Google Analytics goals: Using the goals function in Google Analytics is the best way to get useful data. A goal allows you to track an action that someone might take on your website, such as registering for a program, donating on your donations page, downloading a sign-up form, or signing up for your newsletter. You can choose from goal templates, or you can make your own.  This Goals how-to page on Google Analytics’ site will walk you through the process.
  2. Add UTM Parameters: A UTM parameter is a tag added to the end of a URL that sends analytics data back to Google analytics when someone clicks on it. This is an easy way to track how individual URLs, (and the pieces of content they’re tied to), perform. For example, Google Analytics will tell you how many people reached your donations page every day via Facebook. Using UTM parameters, you can figure out exactly what post or Facebook ad sent them there. To set up your own UTM parameters, use Google’s simple URL builder.
  3. Find Some Analytics Solutions: You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to have analytics success. Google’s solutions gallery offers a wide range of templates that other users or their staff have created. You can even install custom social media dashboards in Google Analytics to give you a wide range of social media data.


7. Get someone else to do it for you

Let’s face it: many sports communicators will never have the time to dig deep into analytics. Why not let the professionals do it for you?  The free service QuillEngage will turn your analytics data into a report in paragraph form that’s easy to understand. For just $10 a month for the basic plan, CrowdBooster will provide you with sophisticated analytics data reports.


Have a question about analytics? Have an analytics tip to share? Get in the conversation by tweeting at @ViasportBC or @arley_mcneney or by emailing



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Social Media Toolkit

The social media toolkit for sport communicators is intended to help B.C. sport organizations, clubs and other sport-related organizations navigate the confusing and rapidly evolving word of social media.