I spent a lot of time in my father's and my late Pop Pop's woodshops as a kid. They used to say "Measure Twice, Cut Once." Another way to say that is if you plan an effort carefully, you won't waste costly resources and time. I think that's a good lesson that also applies to work that I do in helping companies large and small evaluate their social media efforts, and develop a social media strategy.
So this post, which considers three different yardsticks that we can use to measure the effectiveness of our social media efforts, is written in their honor. Happy Father's Day Dad!
Evaluate Your Social Media Accounts Against Known Best Practices
Evaluate your social media accounts against known best practices: There are certain well-defined best practices that can help you understand if your accounts are set up to succeed or fail.
These include making sure that your Facebook posts are not too long, tagging partner organizations in your tweets, using hashtags appropriately on Instagram, understanding what types of content (such as DIY projects and recipes) tend to do well on Pinterest, and figuring out how to leverage both your employee's personal accounts and your company's page on LinkedIn.
A social media strategist can perform an social media audit, an independent evaluation of your social media accounts. Or, take a look at what your competitors and peer organizations are doing and see whether their content sparks any fresh ideas.
Evaluate Your Social Media Efforts Against Benchmarks
Evaluate your social media program against benchmarks: There are several types of benchmarks you might consider when evaluating a social media program.
Internal Benchmarks: Establishing a Median Across Your Accounts
If you have a very complex social media program, creating internal benchmarks can be very helpful. Let's say you have multiple Facebook pages for different divisions of your business. Throw all of your accounts into a spreadsheet and figure out what the median result is for statistics like account growth and engagement rates.
If you have a median, social media account managers who exceed the benchmark can potentially mentor team members whose skills could improve. Looking at which accounts fall below the median helps you to prioritize which accounts need the most attention.
Industry Benchmarks: Compare Against the Metrics that are Typical for Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn
The second type of benchmark is known industry benchmarks. This applies to engagement, for example. There are known average engagement rates for Facebook (in our experience, for boosted posts, 10-15%), LinkedIn (in our experience, often less than 1%...people aren't necessarily on LinkedIn to hit a "like" button), and Twitter (in our experience, often 1-2%).
Knowing those benchmarks will help you set reasonable goals and understand what you can feasibly hope to achieve.
Competitive Benchmarks: Measure Against Organizations that are Similar to You
With a little effort (and a spreadsheet) you can track a competitor’s audience growth over time. Why is this important? Well, you want to make sure to compare apples to apples.
A flagship account for an international nonprofit should be compared to other flagship accounts for international nonprofits, not against the performance of an account with a more niche following, such as accounts targeted to reporters, scientists, policymakers, human relations professionals, and so on.
Evaluate Your Content Balance
Evaluate your social media program for content balance, tone, and relevance: Your social media program is not going to be effective if every post that you do is focused on sales.
Rather, you need to create a balance of content that informs, inspires, and drives clear calls to action. You also need to consider what types of content might be most useful and interesting to your target audience.
Similarly, you want to make sure that the tone of your accounts is aligned with your target audiences, and is consistent across all of your social media accounts.
A social media audit can help any business or organization rally their team around a cohesive vision that fits seamlessly into broader marketing and business goals.
But to be successful after an audit is completed, you need to develop a roadmap to success. It’s important to prioritize what issues you’re going to tackle, and to develop a specific timeline for implementing those changes.
Creating a Roadmap to Success
Here are four questions you can ask yourself when making a roadmap.
4. How can you train staff to support them in achieving your company's vision?
Training your staff is a common follow-up step to implementing audit recommendations. Identify any internal and external experts that can help improve competency in core areas.
Whether you are bringing in an outside consultant to address the issues that were uncovered by an audit or you’re engaging in peer-to-peer learning such as a brown bag lunch-and-learn series, it’s important to identify who will do the training and to put dates on the group's calendar for training sessions.
5. How can you train your staff to address any issues uncovered during the audit?
If your social media audit has uncovered any issues that can be solved through training, get that scheduled too! If you have more than one person on your team consider assigning team members who are stronger on certain skills as a mentor to team members who show (through your social media metrics) or who self-identify as needing a little help.
6. When will we reevaluate your program?
Getting a social media audit should not be a one-and-done activity. It’s important to set dates to re-evaluate your program, staff progress, and to check your progress against your timeline for implementing the recommendations from your audit. These deadlines will keep you accountable and ensure the success of your social media audit.
Read More in Our Social Media Audit Series
Roadblocks in Setting Social Media Marketing Goals
For large organizations with complex teams who might be dispersed around the country or the globe, there are often significant roadblocks to estimating and capturing social media data in traditional ways. This can make it difficult to set social media marketing goals. This is also a common workflow problem for groups of nonprofits who are partnering together on an awareness or fundraising campaign.
Some of the common obstacles I've observed in my social media audit practice include:
1. Using Different Tools
This can be a problem for both groups of organizations working toward a common goal, and for geographically dispersed teams, or teams across several departments.
Some orgs and departments will not prioritize professional social media management tools in their budgets, or won't allow social media managers to select the tools they'd like to be using.
2. Different Philosophies
When you are working with diverse teams or organizations you may not have a shared understanding of the metrics that matter.
3. Differences in Knowledege
On very large teams, it's common for some people to have advanced skills, and others to have a more rudimentary understanding of social media management and metrics.
4. Access to Ad Spend
Teams who have adequate spend to support their efforts will have an easier time reaching goals than teams who don't.
Let's Consider a Radically Different Approach
There are a range of tactics for addressing differences in philosophies and knowledge, such as peer-to-peer mentoring or educational brown bag lunches. When teams are using different tools or have different levels of knowledge, templated reports can help you collect information in a standardized way.
But let’s consider for a moment, what would happen if we threw our social media goals out the window and took a radically different approach to setting goals for shared campaigns.
Working Together Toward a Common Goal
We All Share the Same Finish Line
A joint campaign, executed by several teams, departments, or partner organizations, might have common key messages or even a library or shared social media content.
What would happen if, instead of trying to collect metrics and reports from a number of different people, groups, or organizations, who all have different reporting workflows, that we gave each person a simple target based on the size of their audience and empowered them to meet that target on their own timeline, using the content and schedule that they felt would best fit their program?
If we think about a campaign as a road race that happens over a month, a quarter or a year, it might be helpful to establish a starting line that is tied to the size of the partner's account.
(For a longer campaign, you might want to multiply that number by the number of months in the campaign.)
Example of Simplified Social Media Goals
For the individual social media manager, the task is then to get to the finish line by doing whatever they need to do to reach that goal.
For some groups, it might only take one or two posts, within a library of shared content, to hit their individual target. For others, they may need to post a number of times over a longer period of time in order to hit their goals. And that’s okay. Reaching the finish line is what matters.
As long as you enforce where the finish line is (our expectation is that we all need to reach this point) your role becomes less taskmaster and more coach and cheerleader. Individual managers or groups will be empowered to complete the race in a way that makes sense to them.
Gathering Success Metrics
Here's the best part of this approach: it vastly simplifies the problem of collecting metrics to create a campaign report.
Instead of tracking people down at the end of the campaign, and gathering disparate spreadsheets and reports, doing a lot of manual tabulation and analysis across accounts, you can instead ask this team two simple questions:
The answer to the first question gives you the metric to report your success as a group.
The second question will tell you if you need to adjust your goals in the future.
The third question gives you open-ended qualitative data on how things went.
What approach to you take to setting social media goals? Learn about other solutions to common social media workflow issues in our earlier blog post.
There's a simple, powerful action you can take in the next five minutes to strengthen your social media brand.
This tip, which comes out of our social media audit work, is quick and easy to implement but will make a big impact.
Cornerstones of social branding
The cornerstones of social branding are consistency and repetition. You want to state the same key messages about your company, product, or service over and over again over a long period of time.
Are your social media bios consistent?
One quick action you can take to improve your social media branding is to look at your social media bios, or your “About” copy, on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc.
Are you describing your company the same way every time? If not, take the best, most concise statement and use it as your bio across channels.
Example of consistent social branding: Starbucks
In each of the five examples below, you will see that Starbucks uses an identical bio on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest. "Inspiring and nuturing the human spirit--one person, one cup, one neighborhood at a time."
Are your social bios searchable?
Bios are searchable, so if you are providing professional services, for example, you might want to mention what you do in your bio to make it easier for people to find you.
If the messaging is consistent, it's okay to tweak your bio slightly to fit the channel. In the example above, you can note that Starbucks' Instagram bio includes an emoji of a coffee cup.
Your Twitter bios may include some tagged accounts and hashtags. Executives, public information officers, and social media managers might want to tag their company accounts in their bios.
The Starbucks Partners Twitter account links back to the main Starbucks Twitter account and includes a branded hashtag for employee engagement.
Four Reasons We Love Sprout Social
Our Favorite Sprout Social Resources
What does our partnership mean for our clients? Well it means that we're going to get to share a lot of awesome resources with you. If you've been working with us for a while you probably already have these bookmarked:
We'll also be among the first to learn, and tell you, about the products new features in our ongoing work to provide you with superior social media management services. We look forward to what the future brings.
This video from entrepreneur Marie Forleo has some really excellent advice on shifting the focus of your website copy away from yourself, to focus on your customers' needs and wants.
You can head over to Marie Forleo's blog to read her full post.
Our Approach to Content Strategy
When we start working with a client on content strategy, we advocate taking a similar approach. We often start with the following types of exercises:
Outcomes of Foundational Content Strategy
Once you have a set of talking points or key messages you can use them in a number of different ways: you can use them verbally, when you are giving interviews or an elevator pitch about your business.
You can use them in headlines and other prominent places on your website. As Marie Forleo suggests, this work can also influence the labels you use in your website navigation. You can also use them when you're describing your business in a press release, and so much more.
Case Study: ONVI
When we started working with ONVI on the creation of a marketing system to promote their innovative Prophix toothbrush, we started with these exact exercises.
A year later, we found that the results of these simple exercises were still helping us write focused, consistent copy for everything from packaging design, to a booth at the Consumer Electronics Show.
Putting Your Customers First
Whether you decide to tweak your copy on your own, or work with a consultant like us on your content strategy, putting your customers first and tying their needs and wants back to your products and services is the best strategy for increasing sales or other conversions, while also fostering trust with your customers.
Today, in our social media audit series, we’re sharing a quick tip that you can tackle in five minutes, to improve the effectiveness of your social media content.
Are you asking people to do anything?
We all know that strong calls to action, such as "buy now" or "sign up today" are critical for getting people to do the things that we'd like to see them do as a result of seeing our social media posts. But it's important to check your posts to make sure that you're actually remembering to include them.
Here's what you should do in the next five minutes: Take a look at your five most recent social media posts and see how many of them include a specific "ask" to do something, whether that's read an article, sign up for your newsletter, or purchase tickets to an event.
If the answer is "no", here are some follow up actions you can take to improve your posts.
Use Short, Clear Calls to Action
Short, clear calls to action are the best way to pop the question. These include phrases such as: book now, sign up, buy tickets today. Terms like “now” in calls to action improve success because urgency drives people to take action. Turn “I’ll take action at some point” into “I need to take action RIGHT NOW.”
Make it Easy for People to Take Action
If you want to increase email newsletter sign ups, for example, send people to a dedicated sign up landing page. Don't make people hunt for the form in the bottom of your website.
Create Reusable Calls to Action Focused Social Media Posts
For calls to action that support your main goals, such as "sign up for our newsletter" don’t waste time writing Facebook posts or tweets related to these core calls to action messages over and over again. Instead, build a spreadsheet or Word document with reusable content in it, so that you deploy those posts again over time.
There's a quick and easy thing you can do to improve your content metrics, such as bounce rates and time on site. That's to filter SPAM out of your Google Analytics reports.
If you're looking at your Google Analytics Acquisition report and you see a bunch of suspicious looking referral sources, that include phrases like "free traffic", Russian characters (as in the lifehacker example below), or which end in .xyz, then it's important to filter SPAM out of your Google Analytics account.
This is what SPAM referral sources look like:
Why should you filter SPAM out of Google Analytics?
Expert digital marketers are able to look your Google Analytics Acquisition report to assess strengths and opportunities of your marketing program. It helps us assess:
If your referral traffic is artificially inflated because it has a bunch of SPAM in it, it won't give us an accurate picture of what's going on.
Other consequences of not filtering out SPAM include:
Creating a SPAM Filter
Setting up a Google SPAM filter should take ten minutes of time or less.
Step One: Open Your Acquisition > All Traffic > Referrals Report
This is what you need to do to get a list of the SPAM URLs in your report. Look for URLs in your referral report that end in "xyz", which contain Russian characters, or include the word "free" in them.
This Moz article on stopping SPAM bots lists some common SPAM referrers in it.
Step Two: In a New Tab in your Web Broswer, Open Your Admin Panel and Go to Views > Filters
Make sure you're looking at the "View" column, and clicking on "Filters". It's a little confusing because there is also an "All Filters" label under the "Account" column.
Step Three: On the Filters Screen, Click the "Add Filter" Button
If you don't see this button, you're not going crazy. You just don't have the right permissions to add a filter to your account. Talk to the owner of your Google Analytics account about granting you permissions to add filters to your account.
Step Four: Set up the SPAM Filer
The graphic below shows what your SPAM filter should look like. Make sure to click on the "Custom" tab. In the "Filter Pattern" filed you can include multiple URLs separate by a pipe ( | ). When typing in the URLs into the filter, leave off the "http://"
Google Analytics only allows you to enter so many characters into the "Filter Pattern" field, so after entering about ten URLs, you may need to set up a second SPAM filter.
Finally, Check Your Referral Report Once a Month
Finally, it's important to check your Referral report for SPAM on a monthly or quarterly basis, to make sure that the SPAM referral sources are not creeping back into your reports.
By SARAH BEST
One of the keys to comparing ad costs is understanding the difference in how different advertising platforms define clicks, which many people mistakenly understand as a click to your website.
Cost Per Click vs. Cost Per Link Click
There are two main ways that digital advertising platforms define a Cost Per Click, also known as a CPC for short.
5-Minute Ad Tip
When you are comparing a CPC across platforms, make sure that you know which of these two metrics you are looking at.
By SARAH BEST
Whether your business has a handful of accounts, or you're running a complex global social media program with hundreds of accounts and dozens of social media managers, a social media audit can be a valuable way of making sure that your work is strategic and effective.
Learn more about what a social media audit is.
Importance of a Social Media Audit
Here are a few common reasons why businesses make the decision to conduct a social media audit:
You want an independent, expert evaluation of your program
Whether you’re a busy social media manager, or a marketing director trying to make sense of whether your social media program is working as hard as it should, gaining an outside perspective can be really helpful. Audits help us understand objectively how your social media program is performing. It can also identify marketing and growth opportunities you might not currently be taking advantage of.
Something big is on the horizon
Whether you have a large annual event coming up, a new product that you’re launching, or an important fundraising campaign on the horizon, these are all good junctures for making sure that your accounts are in top shape.
You want to make informed decisions
Are you on the right channels? Are you posting frequently enough? Do you have too many staff working on social media or not enough? Having some data, interviewing your staff, and getting expert advice on how your program should be performing, can help you make better decisions.
You want to advocate for resources
Conducting a social media audit can help you build a case for what you need, whether it’s a professional social media management tool, or a new marketing coordinator, but it can also help you find places where you can gain some efficiencies.