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.