Social Media Strategy: Analysis

How to measure performance and effect of a social media strategy to constantly improve it. This is part of our series about our social media strategy framework.

Measuring Success

You can only improve what you measure.

We like to work from data. To know if you’re successful, you should try to measure your activities against pre-defined metrics that match your goals. So let’s talk a bit about analytics & measurement.

Iterative Strategy Development

Digital communications are complex. So your strategies, actions, tools and campaigns should be permanently tested, analyzed and adapted.

The traditional model was to work from one big strategy through a test with a consumer focus group, and after some little adjustments to launch a big campaign. You’d measure the results and then start over. It’s a powerful process, but a slow, sluggish one. If it fails, it fails big. Chances are, it will.

Instead, we recommend working from more and smaller ideas. “Little Strategy”, David Armano calls it. You take this little strategy into an iterative cycle of planning, launch, constant measuring. The insights you generate along the way help you adjust while you keep going. It’s much more agile, in the sense that software developers use the word. You get to results faster, and if you fail it won’t hurt but rather strengthen you. At the core of this is constant analysis.

A scenario of future communications planning

We think that marketing managers will work much more like stock brokers in the future.

Instead of one big campaign that gets all the resources, they will have somewhere between 10 and 100 little initiatives going simultaneously, all with only a little budget behind them. Powerful analytics tools will help the manager to make real-time decisions about each initiative. Which one is performing well? Which one could do better with a little bit more energy behind it? Which one is clearly failing and can be canceled? Most of the budget will be in a big pool that the manager can draw from for individual initives that perform well. We think that this is most probably the only way to work the uber complex network of niche interests and nuanced target-groups. It’s almost impossible to predict the outcome of a big campaign so we have to change our approach to a thousand fires of small commmunications, investments and ideas.

Monitoring, Analytics, Reporting

When we say “analysis”, we use it as an umbrella term that spans monitoring, analytics and reporting.

Monitoring helps you listen outside your owned platforms.

Monitoring tools help you analyse the public conversations on Social Media platforms. Monitoring gives you a glimpse into your customers their sentiment towards your brand and products, their interests and needs. These tools are available from a wide variety of vendors, and you need to test which one fits your needs best.

Analytics help you listen on your owned platforms.

Analytics are strong in Social Media, and easily accessible. More than in most other other communication channels, engagement can be measured well here. Many platforms offer detailed measurements and analytics around users’ engagement with your content.

Reports help you make sense of what you’ve heard.

Reporting the results of Monitoring and Analytics is the basis on which to develop true insights, which will help you adapt and optimize your strategies.

Let’s expand on these a bit more.

Monitoring

Successful monitoring requires two things:

  • Clearly defined questions: To get to useful insights, you need to know what you want to know.
  • Establish processes: In order to make most out of the insights your monitoring generates, you need processes that make sure that these insights get to the right people and places, and can be implemented.

To give you a better feeling for monitoring, typical approaches may include:

  • Topic radar: A regular snapshot evaluates the online conversations around your key topics (retail, banking, design…).
  • Opportunities for engagement: Constant monitoring identifies opportunities to engage with users around the topics you’re an established expert in. This could mean answering questions about these topics in general, or about your brand in particular.
  • Feedback: Expand on the regular snapshots to include opinions about your brand or products, and based on this develop concrete recommendations for further action.

About the monitoring industry

We’re still in the infancy of the vendor industry around social media monitoring. Most monitoring tools available out there are still mostly a display of their technical capabilities but fail to act as a true source of insights. This has lead to most monitoring strategies being driven by whatever the chosen vendor can offer, instead of developing a clear strategy of what insights a company wants to see before choosing the vendor.

Analytics

There is no single ROI for social media.

–Richard Binhammer, Dell Inc.

How to measure Social Media? The discussion around the best Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) has been going strong for quite a while now. While no universally accepted KPIs have emerged as of yet, there is a growing consensus on the basic approach:

  1. Define clear goals that match your business processes and metrics.
  2. Regularly adapt your KPIs and metrics according to new insights and industry consensus.

Altimeter Group developed a measurement framework that helps define the metrics you need. Imagine a pyramid that is made of three layers. Top to bottom: Business Objective, Business Metric, Social Media Metric.

Business Objectives are the clearly defined objectives that a company or department strives for. Typical business objectives include increasing sales, exploring a new target audience or increasing brand awareness.

Business Metric: To make the business objectives measurable, metrics are defined for every one of these objectives. The metrics could come in different flavors ranging from sentiment analysis to lead generation or cost reduction. Initially, each metric is watched closely. Based on the insights, objectives are defined around these metrics over a certain period of time.

Social Media Metric: At the lowest level, social media metrics are measured. They can show quickly which activities lead to good results. Typical social media metrics include Likes, fans, followers, views etc.

This brings us back to the first part of the social media strategy framework: the definition of business objectives. The set of metrics chosen should be as close to the business metrics as possible to make sure that the social media engagement keeps on track to achieve those goals.

Reporting

Just having data won’t help much to improve a strategy and engagement. We have seen companies drowning in data collected from the social web who, having no idea what to do with all the information, just stopped collecting.

Regular reports can be a good way to take all the data collected from monitoring and analytics and analyze them for learnings and insights, which then can be applied to the company and the strategy and turned into actionable recommendations. This a part of the strategy that profits greatly from pure experience. Pattern recognition capabilities and a vast pool of knowledge are needed to look at data and draw the right conclusions from them.

To give you an example, reports could be structured like this:

  • Monthly: Social Media Metrics Report
    An analysis of last month’s social media metrics and overview of the monitoring results. Recommendations for concrete activities in the daily social media engagements.
  • Every three months: Business Metrics Report
    Analysis of business metrics and recommendations for optimizing the social media strategy for short-term and mid-term objectives.
  • Every six months: Business Objectives Report
    Analysis of the progress towards business objectives based on the ongoing reports. An executive summary of key findings and recommendations for the top level management. If applicable, a revision of the mid-term and long-term objectives.

No report will change anything if it’s only glanced at and thrown into a drawer. Reports are there to improve the strategy and that’s how they should be built: with a complete focus on the meaning of results and clear actionable next steps.

A strategy that is iterated constantly stays current and flexible. It adapts to new objectives, target-groups and platforms on-the-fly. And it will never be outdated. But in the end, its success comes down to a different aspect: how it’s implemented in the company. That’s what we will look at for our final installment about our social media strategy framework.

The next article in this series is: Social Media Strategy: Internal Organization.

Author: Johannes

Johannes is a strategist and consultant for digital communications. His work is informed by his experience of working with brands like Deutsche Telekom, MTV, Postbank, Maggi and Nike and by his insatiable appetite for finding the bigger patterns behind current developments in technology and science. Holding a diploma in Media System Design, Johannes is a regular speaker at web and marketing conferences like Republica and the Social Media Summit.