The Metrics You Should Include in an Executive Social Listening Report?

Trying to up your social reporting game for senior executives or the c-suite? Then you need to read this article!

Our community member Pavel Jakovlev, Social Listening and Digital Advocacy Lead at Nord Stream 2 AG talks us through his experience of social listening reporting and helps you to question where you are now and what you should be focusing on.  Take it away Pavel…

My Thoughts on Social Listening

This is my first attempt at piecing together my thoughts on a subject that I have been working on for the past six years.

But first, a small disclaimer: by no means what I write here is the ultimate truth. As most social data analysts know, everything needs to be tested. My opinion and experience, though backed by observations, are simply that: opinion and experience. Statistics tell us that confidence increases once you expand your sample size. I believe that the same is true for opinions and experiences. Feel free to utilize my approach, test it, agree with it or debunk it and then, let’s discuss.

Figuring Out the Social Listening Challenge First Hand

If you count my experience in social media years, my work began a long time ago. When it comes to social listening, I never had a proper education or knew exactly what I was doing. Luckily, nobody did at the time.

Back then, my colleague and I were playing around with a social listening tool to see if we could figure out what metrics mattered the most. To our surprise, we managed to land several (small at the time) projects for large multi-nationals.

We were trying to convey the message of urgency. We wanted our clients to act immediately, so we deliberately created dramatic narratives in our reports.

The objective was to showcase how far behind our clients were in the digital sphere. We showed everything and anything to convey the gloomy message of how outdata’ed their companies were.

Although this worked initially – the urgency (and fancy graphs) pushed the executives to hire us, our activity was not sustainable.

What I personally learned from this experience was that there is no one most important metric that should be included in the report. Especially if you have to expand on what this metric means.

Some people may argue that ‘channel tracking’ or ‘number of mentions’ would absolutely have to appear in the executive report. I would disagree for an array of reasons and argue that change in metrics is what matters most.

The Curse of Knowledge and the Layman

In my experience, execs don’t have the time to understand what’s going on in the social/digital world. They don’t have the time to wrap their mind around different metrics and graphs.

I remember receiving feedback on my ‘weekly’ email report which clearly stated: “too many graphs”. Unless the exec you are presenting the report to is the Head (VP) of Data, fancy graphs and metrics don’t matter.

Fig 1. Example of a convoluted dashboard

Metrics matter to us, the social data analysts and, therefore, it is up to us to explain to the folks from the c-suite what is going on and why it matters to them. In my view, the complexity of the social media report is negatively correlated to the interest in this report by the non-social data types.

I believe that it is social data experts’ job to conceptualize the metrics, set up the monitoring, track, analyze and above all, interpret the developments.

Social listening experts are best suited to infer why the certain change has occurred and elaborate on it.

Report Success Setting

Let’s talk time-horizon. That doesn’t matter either. Whether you are combining a quick FYI alert, a weekly roundup email, a monthly report or a six-month performance analysis, I would argue that the same principles apply.

To reiterate my point, it is the change in activity of your key metrics that’s important, whilst the time-horizon is subjective.

It’s important for social data analysts to unremittingly go back to the change analysis and interrogate it with a simple question that consists of two words: ‘so what?’.

Here are a few examples of the ‘so what’ questions you may find useful:

  • So, what if the brand mentions saw an increase of 73% last month?
  • So, what if the positive sentiment has been slowly rising?
  • So, what if the influencers have been talking about your brand?

Social analysts should further scrutinize the drivers behind this change. In addition, it’s imperative to understand what could be done to either further capitalize on an activity or counter/offset it.

Fig 2. Simple change metrics (30-day time-horizon)

In essence, the change reporting could take the following shape:

The occurrence of event A resulted in change B across our key parameters. Therefore, it is logical to assume that an outcome C is expected. To counter it, however, we propose activities D, E, F and G.

Naturally, you can back this up with fancy graphs to make it more believable but I’d stick to creating a simple report that conveys the change message clearly. A short report, backed by data analysis that goes beyond key metrics and proposes proactive solutions to address the change is worth much more than a deck, filled with fancy graphs, key metrics, and no context.

This, however, is not a one-way street, but a conversation. Views expressed above are my own and are based on my experience only. By no means is the approach I proposed the correct one. I love take-downs and expect nothing less than a factual rebuke.

Pavel Jakovlev
I am a Digital Marketing & Communications Strategist, specializing in data-driven decision making. I write about (all things)tech and strategy. More content by

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