Social media data tracking for authors in 4 easy steps

Laura LaingToday’s guest blogger is my friend Laura Laing, a freelance writer and the author of Math for Writers: Tell a Better Story, Get Published, Make More Money. Visit her website to check out her full virtual book tour roster and sign up for a free, live teleseminar just for writers who need math.

Social media data tracking for authors in 4 easy steps

By Laura Laing

Sometimes social media can feel like a shot in the dark. Is anyone listening? Are status updates and tweets helping with book sales? Tracking your promotional statistics and book sales can help you uncover a brilliant social media plan—by determining what’s working and what’s not.

And spreadsheets are the perfect medium. Here’s how you can harness the power of spreadsheets to wrangle your social media book promotion plan.

Step 1: Choose your stats

You can use this process to track any statistics, but since we’re looking the relationship between social media efforts and book sales, here’s a good list:

  • Facebook: likes and shares
  • Twitter: retweets and favorites
  • Google+: +1s and shares

You’ll also want to track your book’s sales.

Step 2: Build your spreadsheet

In case you’ve never used a spreadsheet before, let me start with a simple explanation. Spreadsheets are very much like tables with rows and columns. But there’s one big difference: In a spreadsheet, you can include formulas that will automatically calculate a value you need.

First, let’s look at the columns and rows. Rows run horizontally, while columns run vertically. All of the rows must be related to one another, while all of the columns have their own relationship.

In this scenario, you’re tracking social media stats and book sales by date. In the spreadsheet below, I’ve assigned dates to the rows and the media stats and book sales to the columns. (If you wanted, you could switch it.)

spreadsheet 1

Step 3: Track your data

Each of the little boxes in the spreadsheet is called a cell. It’s important to notice that each cell belongs to one row and one column. So, if you check your Facebook likes for status updates written the week of March 1, the number 15 goes in the cell that corresponds with the “Facebook status updates” column and the “March 1” row.

spreadsheet 2

You should also track book sales each week, in a separate column. (I’ve skipped a column so that I can easily see which are social media stats and which are book sales.)

If you’re more advanced with spreadsheets, you can also add formulas that will automatically calculate when you add new data. In this way, you can include running totals in your spreadsheet, like this:

spreadsheet 3

For more information about including formulas in a spreadsheet, read my article, “Spreadsheets 101: How to Use Formulas.”

Step 4: Analyze your results

Now that you’ve got all of your data, what does it mean? First, you can begin to notice trends. Based on this data, it seems that Google+ is where you’d want to put your best efforts. (That’s where you’re getting your most interaction.) In addition, when a Facebook status update is performing well, it does well on Twitter and Google+. And there is clearly a correlation between social media interaction and book sales.

You can dig even deeper with these stats. First, look at the tweets and status updates that did not perform as well as others. What could you do to up their success? Also, consider how your other promotional and marketing efforts might have affected social media interactivity—and therefore book sales. For example, if you spoke at a live event on January 22 and sold 10 books there, your spike in book sales that week had nothing to do with social media.

In fact, this data is merely a window into a much richer understanding of how well your publicity and marketing efforts are doing—but it’s a terrific place to start. And as you continue tracking these stats, you will discover other statistics that can help you hone in on your best promotional endeavors ever!

What are you tracking or monitoring so that you can measure the effectiveness of your book marketing?

Get more helpful free book marketing information in the “Build Book Buzz” e-mail newsletter.

Sandra Beckwith is an award-winning former publicist who now teaches authors how to market their books. Three groups have recognized her site as an outstanding resource for authors, so you know her advice is author-tested.

Download Sandra’s free “Top 5 Free Book Promotion Resources” and you’ll also receive the free weekly “Build Book Buzz” newsletter loaded with book marketing tips and advice.

20 Responses to Social media data tracking for authors in 4 easy steps
  1. Laura Laing
    March 18, 2014 | 12:03 pm

    Thanks so much for having me on the first stop of my virtual book tour, Sandy! If anyone has questions, I’m more than happy to answer them.

    • Sandra Beckwith
      March 18, 2014 | 1:47 pm

      I love this article, Laura! Thanks so much!


  2. Connie Dunn
    March 18, 2014 | 9:31 pm

    What a GREAT article! I love your first sentence. It actually hits home to me. You have great ideas.


    • Sandra Beckwith
      March 18, 2014 | 11:27 pm

      I’m with you, Connie. Laura rocks!


    • Laura Laing
      March 26, 2014 | 11:16 am

      Thanks, Connie!

  3. Cat Michaels
    March 19, 2014 | 12:36 pm

    Love the spreadsheet template and the way you boiled down the task…very helpful. Makes it easier to dive into mathiness.

    • Sandra Beckwith
      March 19, 2014 | 12:52 pm

      I love the word “mathiness,” Cat! It describes it perfectly.


    • Laura Laing
      March 26, 2014 | 11:17 am

      Thanks, Cat. Math is supposed to make life easier, but sometimes we have to make the math easier first!

  4. Katy Mann
    March 20, 2014 | 1:59 am

    I love the EXCEL approach. I track a lot of things on EXCEL, and this gives me a different approach.

    Thanks for the article.

    • Sandra Beckwith
      March 20, 2014 | 2:05 am

      I’m glad it was helpful, Katy. Laura did a great job of de-mystifying the process.


  5. Elke Feuer
    March 25, 2014 | 1:49 pm

    Great article, Laura! I personally use Hootsuite to track the performance of my social media. It’s not free, but it does save me a lot of time and makes it easy to get reports in addition to the ones they send me weekly.

    • Sandra Beckwith
      March 25, 2014 | 3:34 pm

      Elke, that’s so interesting. I can’t get Hootsuite to play nice with my Facebook and LinkedIn accounts so until I find time to figure that problem out, I use it only for Twitter. I won’t upgrade to the paid version until I’m set with the free one.



    • Laura Laing
      March 26, 2014 | 11:18 am

      I’m just getting to know Hootsuite, Elke, and I haven’t sprung for the paid version. There are lots and lots of ways to get the stats. Sometimes, even with these services, it can be helpful to crunch the numbers further — using a spreadsheet or just a pencil and paper.

  6. Sara F. Hathaway
    March 30, 2014 | 7:56 pm

    Spreadsheets made simple! I love it! I am a spreadsheet junky. They always make things so easy to see and understand. Great piece of information, Laura, very well put together.

    • Laura Laing
      April 2, 2014 | 12:43 pm

      I’m a spreadsheet junkie, too, Sara. When writing each of my books, I set up spreadsheets to track my daily (and sometimes hourly!) progress, using a formula that automatically tabulated the number of words I had written. It was a great motivator — and distractor. 🙂

  7. Kayleen
    March 30, 2014 | 11:45 pm

    This is probably obvious but where do I find stats for Twitter/FB?

    • Laura Laing
      April 2, 2014 | 12:41 pm

      It’s not so obvious, Kayleen.

      For Twitter, you can find total followers and the number of lists you appear on from your profile page. But you’ll have to dig a little to get retweets and so forth. As Elke mentions above, Hootsuite offers these analytics, if you sign up (and pay for) its Pro program. There may be other free programs, but you’ll have to track those down.

      Hootsuite also offers analytics on other social media sites, including Facebook. But if you have a Facebook fan page, you can get many of those numbers without a third party. Click “see insights” and you can get tons of really useful data about how your page is performing.

      Unfortunately, Facebook doesn’t offer these kinds of analytics for personal profiles, which is one reason it’s a good idea to set up a page.

      Hope that helps! If anyone else has ideas for gathering this information, please chime in!

      • Sandra Beckwith
        April 2, 2014 | 4:13 pm

        Also, Kayleen, for Twitter, you can go to your Twitter page to get the information on how many times each tweet has been re-tweeted or favorited. Click “expand” under a tweet and you’ll get that info. If it doesn’t have it, that means there was no activity.

        On your Facebook personal page, you can count the number of likes, comments, and shares of your content. When you do this, you’ll start to see patterns — perhaps updates with images get more likes than updates with links to more info.

        It’s manual and tedious, but it’s do-able.


  8. Cas Blomberg
    June 24, 2014 | 8:26 am

    I currently do this, but I also track my own individual efforts. So my spreadsheet has columns where I track my blog posts and the direct correlation to book sales, my comments on other blogs and the direct correlation to new followers, the number of tweets I post a day and the reciprocal activity from others. So for example, on the days where I have a blog post, I can see an increase of 30% activity from all sources (I publicize everything, so each social media platform is interwoven with the blog).

    I’ve been keeping the spreadsheet for a couple of weeks now. I love seeing the results and can highly recommend it.

    • Sandra Beckwith
      June 24, 2014 | 1:49 pm

      This is great info, Cas — thanks! What patterns are you seeing?


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