Social Media Not Meeting Expectations? Perform A Social Media Audit.

Companies have been active in social media for years. Today 97% of Fortune 500 companies are on LinkedIn, 84% are on Facebook and 86% are on Twitter. But those efforts were likely created in a piecemeal fashion. Different brand accounts were added for different reasons at different times. Objectives or options may have changed. Or you may be so focused on current social accounts you are missing out on opportunities elsewhere. How do you know you are posting the right content in the right places to drive the right consumer actions? Perform a social media audit.

Free Social Media Audit TemplateWhat Is A Social Media Audit?

A social media audit is simply a systematic examination of social media data. It is a snapshot of all social media activity in and around a brand evaluated for strategic insights. Why? Different organizational objectives and target markets may require different social media messages and platforms. Existing brand accounts may be wrong for current business objectives and new social media platforms may be ideal, but were never considered. Perhaps brand social media was started by marketing or public relations, but now customer service requests are overwhelming the system and increased integration is needed.

First Start By Listening.

Use social media tools to gather data about brand social media channels and content. Discover what consumers are saying about the brand, product, service, and key personnel in any social platform. Listen to what is being said by and about brand competitors. You may be monitoring social media daily, but simply responding to what comes your way.

Analyze the bigger picture. Qualify and quantify social media action looking for patterns and opportunity. Listen with an outside perspective to the social talk about your brand, employees, customers and competitors. Look on both official corporate social media accounts and unofficial or personal accounts.

An audit need not capture every mention, but should gather a complete picture. Find conversation on all social platforms. Be sure to consider social networks, blogs and forums, microblogs, media sharing platforms, geosocial, ratings and reviews, social bookmarking, social knowledge, plus podcasts. This Social Media Channel Category Guide provides a quick guide to the top social media platforms in each category by kind and key characteristics.

Next Organize Social Talk Data.

When collecting social talk data it should be organized for meaningful analysis. This can be done by following a social media audit template such as the one I created from the concept of the Five Ws that journalists use to write news stories. Gather social talk into three categories of company, consumer, and competitor (down first row) then record observations by where, what, when, and why (across columns).

Collect and Analyze Social Media Audit Data by:

  • Who—company, consumers, competitors
  • Where—social media channel (YouTube, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.) and environment (describe the look and feel)
  • What—type of content (articles, photos, videos, links, questions, etc.) and sentiment (positive, negative, neutral)
  • When—frequency of activity (number of posts, comments, views, shares, etc. per day, week, or month)
  • Why—purpose (brand awareness, promotion, drive traffic, customer complaint, praise, etc.)

The number of rows under “Who” will vary based on the number of brand and competitor social accounts and the number of social media platforms where consumer brand talk is found. Larger organizations may need to divide the “Company” category further into departments, offices, or employees. Capture what each location or executive is communicating.

Then Determine What The Data Is Saying.

Does the data point to opportunities? Are there trouble spots? Do brand social media platforms present a consistent look, voice and unified message? Are customers complaining about similar product or service issues? Is the brand consistently posting quality content and consistently responding to customers? Are there social platforms where customers are talking about the brand, yet there isn’t an official brand presence? Answer these questions and use a five-point scale to mark each channel as a problem (1) or an opportunity (5) for a defensive or offensive social media strategy.

Determining the “Why” for each social action is important. If you can’t think of a strategic purpose then reevaluate the effort. Is maintaining a brand account on specific social media platforms worth the organization’s time? Once a purpose is determined, identify the social media metrics to measure performance. Ask questions such as, “Why does the organization have a Pinterest page and how is success being measured?” “Because everyone is there” and “to increase followers” is not enough. If you know the business purpose and metrics ask, “How has the platform performed? With roughly 10% of marketing budgets spent on social media it is more important than ever to connect social action to higher-level business objectives and justify expense.

Finally Evaluate Brand Engagement.

Are your consumer’s engaging with your brand? How are views, likes, comments and shares? Have they gone up or down over time? Advertising Hall of Famer Howard Gossage said, “Nobody reads ads. People read what interests them.” In social media reach is gained when consumers find content interesting enough to share. Quality content is important. Whether educational or entertaining it must be considered valuable. Only social media that is viewed and shared reaches an audience that can then take action to meet business objectives.

Today you can also interrupt people’s social feeds with paid social media or native advertising. Paid social media can buy reach to a targeted audience, but that does not replace the need to create interesting content. Social media advertising merely buys exposure. Content must convey value to drive consumer action, further distribution, and ultimate ROI.

Is It Time For A Social Media Audit?

If you haven’t evaluated your brand’s social media presence in a while it may be time for a social media audit. Use this template to see how consumers are experiencing your brand in social media. You may uncover some problem areas, promising opportunities, social channels you should be in and ones you should leave behind.

A social media audit can help you:

  • Realize the need for increased integration with other departments.
  • Find gaps in brand promise and product/service performance.
  • Uncover inconsistencies across brand social accounts.
  • Reveal blind spots in current social action with content, schedule and response.
  • Discover consumer ideas for product/service improvements.
  • Optimize brand content to drive engagement.
  • Find unexpected consumer generated content on other platforms.
  • Discover valuable brand or industry influencers.
  • Optimize time devoted to most effective social media platforms.
  • Learn from successful competitor social strategies.
  • Uncover a need for metrics to connect social action to business objectives.

Whether launching a new social media effort or evaluating current social activity, a social media audit can deliver valuable insights to create or optimize any social media strategy.

A Guide To Social Media and UGC Policies for Employees, Influencers and Fans.

Are you leveraging the influence of your employees and fans in social media? Brand evangelists whether employees, influencers or fans have enormous potential to greatly impact perception and demand of products and services through user generated content (UGC). Research reports consumers trust other people more than advertising and this gap may be growing with younger generations.

Social Media Policies for Brand Evangelism

A Salesforce survey found the most trusted sources of product information was online reviewers (31 percent) and friends, family and colleagues (23 percent) ahead of the band itself (20 percent). With Millennials trust in online reviewers was 40 percent, followed by friends, family and colleagues at 25 percent and trust in the brand itself only 19 percent. Yet, before launching into a widespread brand evangelism or UGC campaign there are important considerations to follow.

The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) publishes Social Media Discloser Guidelines that explain brands have responsibilities to ensure influencers, partners and employees properly disclose relationships and ensure statements about their and competitor products and services are truthful and accurate. They suggest explicit social media policies and ensure partners have their own policy aligned with brand standards.

Yet WOMMA indicates it is not enough to have a policy and publish it. You should train and educate influencers, and employees on those policies and actively monitor brand campaigns to ensure standards are followed. Also consult government websites (like the FTC) for current views on social media disclosures and claims.

Social Media Policies

Social media policies set standards for employees and partners for the way they post content in social media as part of their job or as a private person. The Forbes Human Resources Council suggests social media policies should be comprehensive including guidelines across many categories, best practices and training tips. Yet, Jylian Russell of Hootsuite says actual social media policies can vary greatly from a comprehensive legal document to condensed straightforward guidelines.

Examples include the two page Adidas guidelines to 14 page New York City Schools guidelines. Intel’s social media guidelines take a balanced approach with a short summary of 3 rules of engagement expressed in a simple graphic as (1) Disclose your relationship to Intel, (2) Protect Intel, and (3) Use common sense when posting. The policy then expands to explain the three rules with details, examples and links to additional, resources.

A good policy will consider standards for official brand accounts and standards for employees on their own accounts. Jylian Russell suggests a social media policy include rules and regulations for behavior and conduct including brand guidelines, etiquette, engagement and confidentiality. Roles and responsibilities should be specified and legal risks should be addressed such as crediting sources, confidentiality and disclosure. Security risks can also include information about secure passwords, attacks, or scams and accountability.

The Forbes Human Resources Council says a social media policy should include several categories. First educate about social media including specific platforms terms of use, conditions and limitations. Then explain blurred personal and professional lives and how personal social media actions have professional implications. Remind them to think carefully before posting about controversial issues and follow conventions as a brand representative. Set standards for respecting professional boundaries of co-workers including guidelines for internal workplace issues and conflicts. Identify how to clarify their opinions as their own and ensure they don’t disclose confidential or proprietary information.

User Generated Content Policies

Another important consideration is user generated content (UGC). Many fans often share content to the brand hashtag or handle and you may run contests, events and promotions to ask for this content. Practice good policies when it comes to sharing, repurposing, and eliciting UGC. One important practice is attribution or giving original authors credit for their content. The fan-based marketing company Tradable Bits says the way to attribute user generated content varies per platform, but a general standard is to include the original network’s official log, author’s username, profile picture and a live link to the original content. Alex York on the Sprout Social blog suggests in social media adding the words “credit,” “photo,” “cc” or “by.”

In addition, Tradable Bits suggests that brands should explicitly and transparently request permission for the rights to use fan photos and post content. This can be as simple as replying to posts asking that they grant rights with a response. To go with this ensure you have a publicly published rights granted, or user generated content policy that spells out the details of how the brand will use UGC so fans know exactly what rights they are granting. The website TermsFeed suggests included clauses addressing the categories of intellectual property, liability, privacy and acceptable use. Macy’s User Generated Content Policy is published on their website and covers brand social media channels and hashtags.

Are you leveraging employees, vendors, partners, influencers and fans to their full potential in social media? Before diving in consider legal requirements and having strong social media and user generated content policies in place.

Please note that what is presented here is simply general guidelines and does not imply legal advice. You should consult your lawyer or company’s general counsel before any action or policy.