If you can’t answer that question, then you could be heading for disaster. Measurement is an important part of any good strategy and without it, social activities could prove to be costly and highly ineffective. Failing to regularly review your performance also means that, if you’re moving in the wrong direction, you probably won’t know until it’s too late.
Over the years, social media measurement has generated a great deal of discussion, both good and bad. Many businesses are still unsure where to start, and although there’s not a ‘one size fits all’ solution, there are plenty of ways to begin measuring and monitoring your efforts.
Get started with these six steps:
1. Remember what it is you want to achieve and why
Before you do anything else, review your business strategy. What are you trying to achieve and how can social media activities assist? At this point in time, don’t worry about tactics, just focus on your current strategy’s major business goals.
2. Create social media objectives with business objectives in mind
With your business strategy firmly in mind, think about the ways in which social can help. Take your existing objectives and ‘translate’ them for social. For example, if reducing the cost associated with after sales service calls is a major goal, your translated objective may be based around focusing on increasing after sales satisfaction (i.e. supplying product ‘how to’ information/alternative use ideas/care information etc) across specific networks.
If you’re having trouble understanding where social media can help, think about it as departmental support for public relations, human resources, sales, customer service and research and development.
3. Review your social strategy
Before you start thinking about tactics, you’ll need to review your current social strategy. The purpose of this step is to help you understand if you’re in the right place, saying the right things to the right audience. If you’re not, tactics won’t be able to save you!
Carefully consider the following five factors:
a) Existing strategy
– What are you currently doing and why?
b) Targeted persona/s
– Who are they?
– Where are they?
– When and where would they be most receptive to your communications?
– What are they demanding / needing to get from your brand?
– How they are consuming your content?
c) Social features
– Do certain social networks have features that will complement your objectives? For example, look at targeting options, paid promotions, the ability to include tabs / apps and so forth.
– What are they doing?
– How are they doing what they’re doing?
– Where are they active?
– Do they share the same audience as you?
Now, I’m definitely not suggesting here that you copy your competitors, but it’s wise to know as much as you can about their strategy and how they’re performing. Why? So you can prepare benchmarks (we’ll talk about that more a little later on), understand and potentially learn from some of their mistakes and find ways that you can be unique; differentiate your social activities and add value for your existing and potential customers.
– Is your content marketing strategy suitable for your social media efforts or do you require additional content?
– Do you have enough content or the right type of content to allow you to work successfully on specific networks?
– Is there someone available to monitor and manage your social networks for the amount of time that should reasonably be required for you to achieve your objectives?
Once you’ve considered all of the above, you can choose to either move to the next step, review areas of your existing strategy or, for those that have no social presence, begin creating a strategy.
Tip: No matter what you discover when investigating the above factors, don’t get sidetracked – remember the objectives you listed in step 1 and 2.
4. Select social tactics
Now it’s time to think about what you’re going to do to help you achieve the objectives you listed in step 2. Tactics are simply the social activities that generate results; they can include anything from social competitions and advertising to the use of discussions on LinkedIn. Refer back to step 3 and review your selected network’s available features and the types of results these can generate. For example, if increasing after sales satisfaction is a social objective then some tactics may be based around creating and promoting Facebook tabs that feature answers to commonly asked questions.
Tip: Be as specific as possible when listing tactics as it will make it easier for you to understand and determine measures.
5. Choose measures for your social tactics
How you measure your results depends on the tactics you have in place. Think about the types of results that your tactics will generate and this should naturally lead you to an appropriate form of measurement. In step 4, we looked at creating informational tabs for Facebook. For this, one measurement could be visits to tab – easily tracked via click throughs and tab analytics. To understand the overall impact of your social activities, you would also need to compare the increase in related social measures to, for example, a reduction in the number of after service calls.
If you don’t have the resources required to purchase expensive social media performance measurement and management tools, don’t worry. There are plenty of free options that will provide you with quality data. A few recommended tools include:
• Google Analytics – An excellent tool that will help you track traffic to site generated by social efforts, conversions that occur via visitors from social networks and more. To get the most out of this programme, be sure to clarify what should be categorised as a conversion and set up goals.
• Social network analytics – Almost every network has its own analytics. The majority are also free to use, however some may require additional sign ins or basic developer work (i.e. Pinterest). Use these tools as much as possible as they allow you to really understand what’s happening on your account.
• Hootsuite – Basic reports covering interest and click-throughs are easily generated on the free version, with more in depth analysis available for a fee / free for some paid packages. HootSuite is also a fantastic tool for monitoring specific keywords, hashtags and campaigns.
• Bit.ly – Sign up for this free URL shortener and you’ll not only be able to track how well your social media links perform but you can also view basic information about the audience that has been accessing each link.
• Backtweets – Promoting a specific URL and focusing on Twitter? Simply enter the URL in backtweets and it will display all public accounts that have tweeted the link.
These free options, when combined with Google Analytics, will provide you with a great deal of information. Social performance tools can present an overview of what’s happening on each of your pages, while Google Analytics completes the ‘story’, showing you what happens once fans / followers have clicked through to your website.
Tip: Above all else, when measuring, be consistent – don’t change measures unless you really have to. Comparability is key when it comes to reviewing performance.
6. Benchmark, compare, analyse and review
When reviewing performance across specific time periods, it’s good to have internal benchmarks as well as industry specific or competitor benchmarks in place. These are important because they give you a base on which to review your current performance and set KPIs. They also allow you to spot trends that occur monthly or annually.
Internal benchmarks are the easiest and most cost effective to set up and maintain. Before you begin implementing your new tactics, take base readings of each measure you’re recording (even if it’s 0). Now you have something to compare your first lot of results to. Just remember to keep to your reporting schedule for consistency (i.e the first Monday of every week).
If you’re unable to purchase or find industry statistics, all is not lost. Review your competitors’ activities and look for simple measures that you can easily obtain. You won’t be able to access your competitors’ analytics programmes, but all social networks have various metrics that are publicly viewable; i.e. ‘talking about this’, followers, Google+ ripples and so forth. Once again, when finding metrics to track and compare your social performance against, keep your social strategy and tactics in mind.
To be truly successful on your selected social networks, performance measurement and benchmarking should lead you to further data analysis, strategy revision and where required, change. When it comes to analysis, look for trends (good and bad) and do some investigating – always ask ‘why?’. Search for potential cause and effect changes between related social and business performance measures and don’t be afraid of bad results – use them to your advantage by reviewing your strategy and making changes while you can still easily influence end of quarter and annual results.