Chandler Bruns, Social Media Project Manager, Rooster Strategic Solutions

If you feel like you’re spending more time on social media than any other marketing tactic – and you’re not sure that your time and efforts are being justified by results – you’re not alone. This is the number-one question I hear from our clients: How can I know for sure that social media is working?

Here are the three steps that will help make your program more effective and help justify the time and money you’re spending.

1. Perform a Social Media audit. At the top of New Year’s resolutions every year are promises to lose more weight and save more money … and many of them fail because people don’t take the time to track what they’re eating or what they’re spending. It’s the same with social media; before you can improve performance you have to examine what you’re already doing and what’s working (and not working).

This is actually easier than it sounds. Set up a spreadsheet and document the following:

  • Owners. You likely have a corporate (company) account on various channels, such as Facebook or Twitter; you may have more than one. Are there also individuals in your company who are posting on your behalf? Are some departments using separate social media channels? Create tabs for each of these, as it’s important to view your social media program holistically.
  • Channels. You’re probably using Facebook, Twitter, and may be using Snapchat and Instagram. But don’t forget about YouTube and LinkedIn. Make a list of all the platforms where you’re active as a company and note the type of content you have on each. It’s also helpful to include a description of the demographics and psychographics of each. Demographics include such criteria as age, geography, and sex; for instance, Snapchat is more prominent among younger users, while Facebook skews to female audiences. Psychographics focus on how users tend to consume information; for instance, Twitter is typically more news/information focused than Facebook, which is more relational, while LinkedIn draws users who are looking for jobs or seeking to expand their professional reach.
  • Cadence. How often are you presently posting on each channel? (Again, make sure to include all owners in this analysis).
  • Keywords. Make a list of any specific words, phrases, or product names that you’re bidding on with platforms or search engine companies (paid), as well as key words that you’re using consistently on your website or in traditional media (organic).
  • Performance. I put this at the end of the audit, but it’s probably the most important piece of the puzzle. Take a look at the last 30, 60, or 90 days and make an inventory of your messaging (by platform, and by owner). Document the engagement of each: the number of likes, shares, and clicks. Pay special attention to the posts that generate the highest engagement numbers and look for patterns that suggest why they might be outperforming the others.

2. Set realistic goals. One of the most common mistakes I hear from clients when I ask about their social media goals is a focus on cadence: i.e., we want to be on Facebook daily, or I want to add a new “how-to-video” to YouTube at least once per week. Your social media goals should be a subset of your overall marketing goals.

It’s important to separate “What should I be doing?” from the more important question, “What am I hoping to achieve?” Are you comfortable if users simply read the posts, or do you want them to click, engage, or purchase? As is the case with those pesky New Years’ Resolutions, writing down your goals will significantly increase the likelihood that you’ll achieve them.

For starters, here are some of the most-popular social media goals among companies today:

  • Share company news, including new hires, new products or services, or new features
  • Respond to customer inquiries
  • Engage in real-time discussions with customers
  • Improve sales or ROI
  • Learn customer insights to affect future product and service offerings

If you have more than one objective, rank them in order of importance.

3. Establish metrics and processes to gauge success. One of the blessings (and curses) of social media is the nearly limitless number of ways you can measure results. It can be a bit overwhelming; some of the channels offer analytics tools, but in other cases you may need to use third-party tools or create your own. Please remember, the goal is not simply to measure for the sake of measuring, but to establish baselines that you can use to improve performance.

If you’re not sure where to start, there are two types of metrics that should rise to the top.

  • Engagement metrics. Now that your social media audit is complete, you know what your engagement has been to date, so you might want to set a goal of increasing a channel’s performance by a certain percentage over the baseline during a particular sales event or time of year, or with a particular audience subset. If you’re using social ads, you can measure cost-per-click and CPM. When you analyze the results, pay special attention to who is sharing, how often they’re engaging with your content, and how many followers they have. This can help you tailor future content, and may also help you identify key influencers whom you can reach out to separately.
  • Traffic metrics. Pat Reese, Chief Media Strategist for Rooster Strategic Services, recently wrote an article on the most important KPI’s for marketing tactics. One of the most important was Social Media Conversions, which measures the number of times a social post leads to a web visit. Pay special attention to who is visiting and which pages/content they consume when they get there.

No matter which metrics you land on, it’s important to set up a process for measuring and analyzing in advance of a social media campaign, whether it’s a “sales spurt” or an ongoing initiative. Most social analytics tools work in real-time, so you can set up tracking ahead of time. This is obviously a more effective process than scrambling at the end of a campaign and trying to locate days-old or weeks-old messages and their engagement.

If you have more questions about any of these steps, or if you’re already performing these but want to take your social media program to the next level, I’d love to start a discussion.