Guest post by Greg Meyer, customer service champion for Rival IQ
Many companies look at social media as a tool for conversations only. Why try to measure it when the results of an individual Tweet favorite or Facebook share might be hard to analyze in the context of your business? Reframing the question of measuring social media activity helps. First, ask: “what’s the overall goal?” for this activity and then measure with an eye toward reinforcing the overall goal.
tl;dr: there are some brands who tweet a lot – and many of them also produce results. Measuring the end goal will help you to understand if more results came from a particular social media channel.
as bank robber Willie Sutton apocryphally answered when asked why he robbed banks, “Because that’s where the money is.”
Here are a few ideas that will help you to measure your social media activity and better understand where you should be investing your time and energy. I used Rival IQ to make a landscape of social media experts – a group of companies that should be an excellent example to model the use of social media to drive business and not just conversation. If you’d like to use this list for yourself in a Rival IQ account, try it out here.
Start with what you know, and expand from there
So, how do you find out whether your social media activity is working? You might consider taking an approach you know is working already and try it out on social media to see if the results are similar.
For example, if you knew that a particular piece of blog content converted to leads/signups/paid customers, you might try:
- setting up specific short URLs for distribution on different services
- use Rival IQ to measure the frequency and engagement rate on a service
- use the Channel Overview (or on Twitter, use the Top Mentions Report) to confirm whether the URLs that were posted frequently or which got high engagement also resulted in better than average improvement on the other metric you’re tracking on the bottom line.
Social media is not a panacea. It’s a channel to use to build audience (who is the potential audience that might listen to what I have to say), activity (in which channel should I post to reach that audience), and engagement (when I posted, did anyone have anything to say about it and did they notice?).
If you don’t know how to start, measure what you’re doing
If you’re not sure what content you’re already producing that is making a difference in your business, start by taking a look at your activity and whether it’s gaining you any engagement today. A common question you might ask is: how much is too much when posting on Twitter? You’ll probably want to look both at the Engagement Total, or the total number of engagement actions in a channel (for Twitter this would be retweets and favorites), and also the Engagement Rate, or the same engagement actions divided by a multiple of 1,000 followers – using this rate normalizes the number a bit and makes it easier to compare the engagement response for both larger and smaller audiences on a social channel.
Here’s an example I built using a graph that shows the Average Engagement Total per Tweet graphed with a secondary metric of the Average Tweets per day for the ten companies in our example landscape. The point of doing this was to determine whether there are diminishing returns in a noisy Twitter account that posts very frequently. This is what it looked like over the period of one week:
(Try this graph yourself.)
Take a look at the same landscape using instead the Engagement Rate metric:
(Try this graph out yourself.)
What’s the Takeaway for Tweeting A Lot?
Using this graph gave me visible and actionable information about the use of social media in this landscape – specifically about the use of Twitter. I believe the graph demonstrates that for the past 7 days, tweeting more than 40 times day had diminishing returns, and that the social media types in this small sample generally get higher engagement at a rate of about 10 tweets per day.
Even if you think you are Tweeting a lot by tweeting once an hour during the work day, you probably have room to run. Adding more Tweets to your day simply increases the odds that some of your Tweets will be seen by your audience.
My Brand Doesn’t Tweet that Much. What should I do?
You might look at a group of Twitter accounts belonging to so-called Social Media Experts and think: “my brand doesn’t do this. I’m not sure this applies to me.” You should be paying attention, even though you don’t have that much content or engage that much on Twitter. It pays to share the same content – you might prepare several versions of single tweet – and use that variety to hook the people who are on Twitter by sharing the same content in different ways on Twitter.
Industry brands that follow “Best Practices on Twitter”, which is simply an observation of “brands that seem to do a good job by staying on brand, engaging with their customers, and getting a good response to the things they post” do an even better job of this practice. I switched Rival IQ landscapes and used a “Best Practices for Twitter” group of companies to see if the activity and engagement remained the same for brands with a large audience.
Even though these brands aren’t tweeting as much for the most part as the social media experts, many of them tweeted up to 20 times a day while still maintaining a high rate of engagement. In fact, the engagement rate for this best brand practitioners in this group averages 20-30x the engagement rate achieved by the social media experts. Having a large audience alone is not the secret to social media success – it’s creating great content and maintaining a strong emotional connection with your audience.
Here’s what the graph looked like for this group of companies who are doing a great job on Twitter:
What should an individual account do to increase their activity and engagement?
What does this mean for an individual account, especially if you’re not part of a big brand? Put another way, how does the average person on Twitter increase the effectiveness of their activity and build engagement for their desired audience in their desired channel?
Let’s take a look at Anthony Iannarino (https://twitter.com/iannarino), one of the social media experts in our first list. To answer the question for Tony and whether he’s getting good engagement, the principles are the same as those for a big brand.
Here’s what brands should focus on to increase their engagement:
1) Optimizing the engagement rate or total per day. Whether you are tweeting just a few times a day or very frequently, use an analytics tool to measure your results. When you see the accumulated results over a 30 day or longer period, it’s time to analyze the data. Look at each day, view the content for that day, and notice if there are patterns, e.g. as in this graph:
The high points in each graph are the places where you’ll want to start taking a closer look. They represent successes in engaging more than the other target companies in that landscape on a particular day, and also give you the tools to look at larger weekly or monthly trends.
2) Once you find a peak in engagement, look at the content that drove that success
The graph above has links to review the content for the day that had a high engagement total. Whether your analysis is based on setting up content links and measuring on which day and with which treatment they drove the best engagement total or engagement rate, or simply looking at the content produced and finding the peaks of engagement, finding the content matters.
Then, review what you see. Tweets do best when they include short, well-written content and use either a strategic hashtag or reference a timely content link (or both). The specifics for other channels and for your audience will vary, so if you start from a baseline and then seek to improve you’ll find the right mix for your brand.
What does “is my social media working” really mean?
Answering the question of “does it work” is a custom answer for each brand. Getting the right data to answer the question starts with some exploratory questions, e.g.
- what metric are you trying to move?
- are you able to tie a move in that metric to activity in a particular social network?
- if so, does engaging more often or less often negatively affect the metric?
- if there is a positive impact or neutral, consider adding this practice to a regular analysis or connecting this analysis to another, broader campaign of content production.
Greg Meyer is the Customer Champion for Rival IQ – when he’s not talking to customers, he’s likely to be sharing thoughts on Twitter at @grmeyer.