Social media is an important component of any successful digital marketing strategy. However, with the services themselves consistently changing metrics on the back-end (like Facebook and YouTube) – how does an online marketer measure success in 2012? April Wilson, a featured blogger and CEO of Digital Analytics 101, is here to help understand how to measure, monitor, and optimize your social media marketing efforts.
First, know your limits.
I am constantly looking for new ways to cut down on the time I spend monitoring my social media. I run a start-up company and we are completely crunched for time, money, and resources. However, I play in the digital marketing space, so my online footprint should mirror that. I can’t say I’m a digital company and NOT have a Twitter or Facebook presence. Most importantly, that presence shouldn’t SUCK.
This narrows down my criteria for a tool set:
- I need as much information and functionality in one place as I can get. Having just one login and one interface to manage ALL my social channels is a baseline criteria.
- Whatever I use, it better be easy to figure it out intuitively. I budget my time at no more than one hour a day to manage social media.
- Finally, it has to be free or so cheap that I don’t give that line item on my credit card statement the hairy eyeball.
Second, I have yet to find ONE tool that does everything I want.
I know that my reality is going to be that I need to use multiple tools to do multiple functions, so the tools I use have to complement each other without too much overlapping.
This is not to say that there ISN’T a larger enterprise social media solution out there that will do what all three of my tools do. I just haven’t found it yet.
Because there isn’t just one tool out there that does everything, I use three different tools with three different objectives:
1) Content curation: I believe it is my job as a subject-matter expert to share research, tools, trends, and articles with my followers.
2) Social Media Management: I measure, respond, and grow each of my social streams all in one interface with one dashboard. I don’t have time to log into 4 different accounts to get my work done.
3) Monitoring: It’s important to understand who’s talking about your brand, and where they’re discussing you. Also, it’s important to know what your overall share is of the chatter for your industry, product, or service.
Step 1: Content generation.
My first priority is delivering interesting or valuable content to my followers. If I’m lucky enough to get them to follow me, then I want to make sure that I’m shooting them articles, news stories, blog posts, infographics, and op-ed pieces on whatever topic is relevant to that brand and their followers. As such, I subscribe to several industry newsletters and have a slew of Google Alerts emailed to me every day. I need to stay current on everything in my field, and so do my fans.
But I don’t want to overload them with tweets or Facebook posts. That’s a total rookie mistake – one that I am sad to say that I made once upon a time. It’s better to pace yourself and make every communication count.
Buffer is the tool to help you NOT be that annoying post-er.
I love Buffer for content curation and scheduling. It’s a beautiful thing. I mean it. The way that it works is that as you create or find content that is interesting, you click a little button (via a browser add-on) to add that content to your “buffer.” Your buffer is like a metered repository of content.
You then schedule posts to publish based on the BEST times for you. When you first set it up, it will default to 4 posts per day, scattered throughout the day, so that you aren’t over-posting and making your followers freak out. Over time, you can ask Buffer to adjust your posting schedule to optimize for the best times for YOUR audience. This enables you to publish content at the times when YOUR followers are most likely to a) see it and b) engage with it.
You can play around with the tool for free, linking 1 Twitter and 1 Facebook account. I feel in love in the first 24 hours and upgraded that same week. I pay for the “Pro” account which lets me buffer up to 50 articles at any given time across 5 social media accounts… and it’s only $10 a month which is well worth the value of the software.
(Click on image to see full size screenshot)
Step 2: Relationship Building
Now that I have interesting things to say to my fans and followers – and I’m communicating at a pace that doesn’t freak them out – it’s time to take the relationship to the next level. There are several things I want to be able to do at this stage in the game:
- Make sure I’m following back all of my new followers
- Thanking people for RT’s and follows
- Answering questions or leaving comments on stuff they put on my Facebook page
- Sharing content that THEY post that is relevant to my “tribe”
- Understanding the impact of social media on driving traffic back to my website
- Seeing all my metrics in one place, in aggregate, and by social channel
- Finally, monitoring chatter about key topics that interest me so I can find new fans and followers to follow and learn from – and hopefully add to my “tribe”
SproutSocial is my go-to social media management program for all of my brands.
They have a free 30-day trial – and I was hooked. I currently pay $49 a month for the service, mostly because I think it’s important to link my Google Analytics to my social streams. There’s a really nice review of the tool on Aaron Lee’s blog that goes through some of the features, and many of the things he didn’t like have been fixed in the latest release.
It meets all of the criteria on my list, and I spend about 30 minutes each morning drinking my coffee, and sorting through what’s going on with each of my brands. I communicate, measure, and monitor topics I care about for each brand, all in one happy place that has a simple user interface and kick-butt functionality.
Last, but not least, Step 3: Keep an eye on the competition
When I’m working for a client – even if I’m NOT managing their social media — I want to see what percentage of the conversation they’re actually getting. OR, conversely, if it’s normal for there to even BE buzz about their industry or product.
All of these are really nice tools, but I’m not an enterprise anymore. I’m cheap. For my purposes, Social Mention works just awesome – for free.
I can search for branded and non-branded keywords and phrases. I can filter. I can download the data and manipulate it myself. While it may not be perfect, NONE of the monitoring tools are perfect. I don’t let it bother me if, for example, my monitoring tool doesn’t pick up Twitter chatter so well – because when I’m doing an competitive analysis, it’s the same problem for any brand I’m searching. If SocialMention doesn’t pick up EVERYTHING for Lexus, it’s also not picking it up for BMW or Mercedes, so I’m not going to sweat over it.
In sum, my core social media measurement toolkit is:
- Content curation and scheduling: Buffer App
- Social CRM: SproutSocial
- Competitive research: socialmention
I’d love to get your feedback if you’re a current user of these products… and I’m always looking for new products and services to try if you’re in love with your own solution.