By Barbara Meyers Ford, President, Meyers Consulting Services
Making the most of social media
One of the first things to learn in developing a solid social media strategy is what to measure. Creating content without tracking its impact to know what you did right (or wrong) serves no useful purpose. One of the SM experts, Jayson DeMers, couples goals with measurement metrics as seen in this simple table.
|Generate Traffic||Unique visitors from social websites where you ran your campaigns|
|Create a Following||Subscribers/followers to your social channels|
|Generate Interaction||Quantity and type of commentary|
|Generate Revenue||Precise dollar value of every lead a social post generates|
Have someone on staff become well acquainted with Google Analytics Social Reports such as the Data Hub Activity (detailing the most recent URLs people shared along with how and where they shared) and Trackbacks (reports the sites that are linking to your content and in which context). This sort of social media intelligence about your community will increase your ability to recreate your most engaging content and build relationships with frequent-linking individuals.
Another aspect of monitoring is to compare your social media engagement with your competitors. This serves to gain more insight into your community’s social media activities as a whole and help gauge whether you need to maintain or increase your own level of activity.
If knowing the metrics to track traffic is one of your first steps, one of your next activities is to determine the type of content that will drive more traffic. Neil Patel, cited by both the Wall Street Journal and Forbes as a top influencer on the web, advises you try new stuff for blog postings and suggests infographics, memes, videos, guides, book reviews, opinion posts, product reviews, the how-to, lists, link pages, ebooks, case studies, podcasts, interviews, as well as original data from your own research about an important issue or topic (Patel suggests that you “package your research as an infographic. You can get double the mileage from research by writing about and posting an infographic about it.”).
So, you have your metric tracking set, some new ideas for content, what’s next? Frequency of updates. As society publishers, one of the first decisions you have made is how often to publish. Your postings to social media channels should have regular frequencies as well. Many studies have been done about the optimal times one should tweet, post on Facebook, and post to multiple social sites as well as the society’s blog or website.
It’s important to be consistent so that your visitors, subscribers, and followers can anticipate your updates (just as they would a journal).
Auto posting tools are often used to ensure consistent engagement with your audience, but engaging in real conversations brings better results and increases the value of your content. Three major tools are: HootSuite, TweetDeck, and Buffer. Personally I use Buffer because most of my social media posts are on LinkedIn. But I have used it sparingly as I try to post once a day if I’ve found content worth sharing so auto posting isn’t as great a concern for me as it might be for a publishing operation with greater audience expectations. Many social media gurus hold to the following update frequencies (you need to test which works best with your community):
- Twitter: 5-10 times/day say some; others believe that 3 tweets is the magic number.
- Facebook: 1-4 times/day; for some, 5-10 posts per week is optimal.
- LinkedIn: once/day; that is, one post per weekday (let’s all take the weekend off).
- Helpful hint: Followerwonk is a tool to tell when your community is online so you can plan accordingly.
- Helpful hint #2: Half of the US population lives in the Eastern time zone and a full 80% are located in the Eastern and Central zones combined, thus publishing posts in sync with these should prove successful.
Most social media research studies find that the best time to tweet and post are during the (extended) workday hours between 8 AM and 8 PM (thus capturing US colleagues West of the Mississippi River) and most experts suggest that you post to multiple social sites along with your own blog and website. Most important: Strike a balance between informative and annoying. How will you know if you done that? Your community will let you know if you don’t.
Along with the quality of your content, you need to develop your “social media voice.” As publishers we often refer to the “author’s voice” so here with this new form of communication you, as author, need to develop a conversational tone that will engage your readers, subscribers, and followers within your community. Success will depend on how well you listen to the way they voice their opinions—in their language, on their terms—in order to communicate with personality and authenticity that creates a comfort zone with a conversational tone.
Another important aspect to increasing your social media success is to stay on top of which social networks are your community’s and segments of your community’s favorites. Some may use only one or two rather than several; what may be the most active now may not be the most active 6 months in the future. If there are distinct demographic divides (age, interests, etc.) you may need to tailor content not just to the audience but to the social media channel (tweets versus posts).
There may come a time when maintaining quality and quantity of your social media content becomes too much for staff to handle. After all you want your community to continue and increase reading and sharing your content, and you need to respond to their comments as well as to ask questions to keep them engaged. Often this is best achieved by a combination of internal and external people to sustain a successful social campaign. Don’t let limited internal resources stymie your interactions. Outsource social media as necessary to cover all your bases.
Along with creating successful engagement comes the importance of brand consistency across multiple social media platforms. This is achieved with a unifying design and graphics that rest on uniform and harmonious colors, fonts, icon styles, and logos. The easiest way to check if you are providing a consistent brand experience is to view your various pages side by side. Do they achieve the unified image you want to portray, or are there changes to be made?
As more members of your community become increasingly active on mobile devices, you will need to make your blog and website more mobile-friendly with usability your top priority. Here are some helpful tips:
- Carefully plan your layout and make landing pages simple and clear;
- Make sure your pages are browser- and device-independent;
- Have social media icons prominently displayed in the same location;
- Make things easy: use mobile redirects plus a link to your full site.
Next up: Management Tips and Examples
Barbara Meyers Ford is the President of Meyers Consulting Services.