Goal setting and evaluating analytics are keys to solving the social media puzzle

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How’s business?

It’s a simple question. But when you’re talking about marketing your business on the internet, the answer can be a lot harder to put your finger on.

An IBM survey in 2015 found that 96 percent of businesses are using social media as a marketing tool. And even though over the years algorithms have changed to make it harder and more expensive for businesses to get content in front of a wider audience, use of these platforms has stayed strong.

To be on top of your social media game, you have to be on multiple platforms, posting several times a day. CoSchedule, a social media aggregator, has analyzed reports from 14 companies and put together a comprehensive look at the optimum number of posts, types of posts, and times of day to post on the most popular platforms.  (goo.gl/a1epkb)

Even with that information, posting-schedules change depending on your goals. Social media is a means to an end, and what you do really does depend on what you want to get out of it.

The Harvard Business Review points to a failure to establish real goals for social media as a significant failing that afflicts more than half of the medium (300-plus employees) to large (more than 500 employees) businesses that participate in social media.

Going hand-in-hand with the lack of established goals is an inability to track results.

If these problems befall bigger businesses, it’s a good bet that the yeoman’s share of small businesses are in the same boat.

Social media is a conundrum. It is both so simple your 16-year-old can gain hundreds of likes posting selfies with an iPhone, yet so complex that your business or nonprofit can spend hundreds of man hours and have not much tangible to show for it.

There are many issues that go into straightening out social media efforts, from goal setting, to matching platforms to the desired audience, to multimedia posting strategies. But what we’re going to talk about here is analytics.

Analytics are usually reserved for business pages. On Facebook, you may have to start a new business page if you’ve been using a personal page or group. That has its own set of problems if you have a lot of likers. Twitter analytics are available for individuals as well as businesses. And Pinterest makes it easy to convert your personal page to a free business account so you can use analytics.

If you have a webpage, you can have Google Analytics. They are free, easy to get, deep, and customizable.

Once you have data from your platforms and your website in hand, here are five things to look for that will go a long way to helping you understand your audience, the effectiveness of your messages, and whether they’re accomplishing your goals.

  1. Although it’s always a bigger number, disregard impressions. Sure, it looks good, but it is largely meaningless. This is the number of times a post had the possibility of being seen by someone. With Facebook, for example, it’s the number of times Facebook allowed your post into people’s news feeds. Think about how you breeze through your news feed and you’ll see what I mean. Focus instead on the primary engagement metrics – clicks, likes – and the holy grail of retweets and shares. Likers and followers are great if your goal is to grow your footprint and expand your reputation as an influencer or thought leader. But sales is another matter. If you are not geographically limited, go for it. But if your store is in Greenville and your likers are in Indiana – well, you see the problem
  2. Download the reports so you can customize the data. Group your posts by goal area, market segment, or whatever other metric you want meaningful information on. Then you can aggregate the results and know that posts about Widget A got more engagement than posts about Widget B. But wait, did we only post twice about Widget B and 10 times about Widget A? A little basic skill with a spreadsheet can reveal a lot of information.
  3. Percentages are helpful because straight-up numbers are often misleading. For example, taking your total reach (that’s the number of unique individuals who had the chance to see your posts) and total engagement gets you an engagement percentage. What’s a good engagement percentage? You’d be surprised how low the bar is. Over 1 percent engagement rate is considered good. Of course, that presumes you are happy with the size of your audience.
  4. Look at what is working in terms of your content. Posting links to other content (curating) is an easy way to get a lot of post activity. Do your readers bite on that? Are photos or videos you generate getting a lot of hits? And how about posts from your own website or blog? Facebook gives you a lot of fielded (sortable) data on this.
  5. Finally, if you are using social media to increase donations (nonprofits) or gain newsletter subscribers, or to sell something on your website, you need to follow the breadcrumbs across the internet. Google Analytics will tell you what brought visitors to your website, at what page they started and at what page they left, how long they were on your site, and how many pages they viewed while they were there. If you accept donations, you can learn how many landed on your submission page and how many actually received a confirmation page (that tells you they made a donation).

There’s a ton of information in just a couple of exported datasheets. And it’s easy to get lost in it. Having goals helps you narrow down what you want to look at. It takes some working at it to feel comfortable drawing conclusions, especially for those of us who aren’t trained in data analysis. But being able to match your efforts to your goals and chart progress is what business intelligence is ultimately all about.

It’s the answer to the question: “So, how’s business?”

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