Though marketers expect to double their social media spending in the next five years, only 15% of them can demonstrate the impact of social media through quantitative measures (http://www.forbes.com/sites/christinemoorman/2014/09/03/tweet-this-social-media-important-to-company-performance-but-difficult-to-prove/). Essentially, this is the marketing equivalent of going to Vegas, putting all your coins in the slot machine, and crossing your fingers.
Fortunately, marketers can ensure a better return by continually monitoring their brand’s social presence by using reliable quantitative measures.
While retweets and favorites can gauge the amount of people interacting with a company page, many questions remain. How many of our followers read our posts regularly? Do our posts incentivize people to buy our products?
And what constitutes a successful post, anyway? 5 retweets? 50? 100? 5 retweets could signal exploding popularity for the small company with 50 social followers, but radio silence for the corporate giant boasting 1,000,000 followers. Additionally, though follower sizes indicate the number of people receiving the company’s posts in their timelines, marketers don’t know how many of those followers actually read individual posts. This is especially relevant on Twitter, where a post can be buried under a new series of new tweets within minutes. Thus, marketers need additional context to pinpoint exactly how well they are engaging their audiences.
Fortunately, social platforms are meeting the demand for more powerful analytical tools. Through Twitter Analytics, for instance, marketers can analyze the performance of each individual tweet through three key metrics- impressions, engagements, and engagement rate.
Impressions indicate the amount of people who saw the tweet on their timelines. For the above tweet, this might include Morningstar Inc. followers, followers of any account that retweeted the post, or people searching the #ETF hashtag. Though it doesn’t account for people scrolling past the tweet without reading it, Impressions is a useful if imperfect way to gauge the quantity of people reached by a tweet.
If impressions estimate a tweet’s “quantity”, engagements assess its quality. Engagements indicate the amount of people who interact with the post in any way, whether through a reply, retweet, mention, or even clicking around it. This gauges the extent to which your post attracts attention and induces conversation. Dividing engagements by impressions gives us the tweet’s engagement rate, which essentially grades the tweet on its ability to induce action among the people who have seen it.
LinkedIn Analytics offer the same metrics, but also allow marketers to measure the impact of paid campaigns (in which marketers pay to show their posts to audiences outside their follower base). LinkedIn separates the responses of followers from that of non-followers, which allows marketers to determine exactly how many impressions, clicks, interactions, and followers their dollars “bought”.
Once marketers familiarize themselves with these measures, they can focus on better serving new and existing followers alike. How can marketers increase their impressions and engagements, then? Posting during each platform’s busiest times is an easy way to connect with more people. Facebook and Twitter see the most traffic on weekdays between 1-4 PM, whereas LinkedIn’s peak activity comes at noon and after 5 PM (http://www.fastcompany.com/3036184/how-to-be-a-success-at-everything/the-best-and-worst-times-to-post-on-social-media-infograph).
But whether it reaches 5 or 5000 people, engaging posts grab the attention of viewers quickly scrolling through their timelines. Images reliably generate more likes, shares, and comments than text based posts, partly because they inject color and illustration into a colorless text-dominated timeline, images reliably attract more attention than do text-based posts. Charts and tables are particularly useful for Morningstar because they condense heady financial data into a more digestible form.
Engaging posts also provide content compelling enough to merit a retweet or favorite. Twitter trends have eased this task, as they tell marketers what their followers are already talking about. If marketers can post content relating to the trending topic, that post will rouse more interest than usual. Because anyone searching the hashtag can find it, it will also reach more people outside of your follower base. As an example, if #InterestRates is trending, a marketer is well advised to post about rate speculation instead of one about, say, mid-cap funds. Though it seems like common sense, this decision not only increases more web traffic, but enhances the company’s reputation as a thought leader.
With social media expenses expected to make up 21% of marketing budgets by 2019, marketers will likely demand increasingly sophisticated measurement tools to optimize experiences for their consumers. Social media sites in turn will continuously refine and strengthen their analytical tools, providing businesses with key marketing insights and consumers with a seamless social experience.