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 strategy 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.

If you don’t have a social media monitoring software or if you are a startup or student just getting started simply go to each social media platform and search the brand name to find the conversations. Look on official brand accounts to see what the brand is doing and look at the conversation happening on those official brand accounts.

Start with the social channels you know the brand has brand pages (they are probably listed on the brand website). Then search other popular social media channels the brand does not have official accounts to find additional consumer brand content. Do the same for one main competitor to find their social channels, brand content and consumer brand conversations. This Social Media Channel Template provides a list of top social platforms by category for ideas on where to look for official brand accounts and consumer brand conversations.

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. For the bigger picture in social media strategy, more tools, templates and guides, plus a framework for creating and executing a complete social media plan consider the 2nd Edition of Social Media Strategy: Marketing, Advertising and Public Relations in the Consumer Revolution. bit.ly/QSocialBook

A Simple Guide to Calculating A Social Media Marketing Budget.

You have worked hard in researching and developing a social media strategy and plan, but how much will it cost? Budgeting is an important part of social strategy and probably needed if you want your strategy to be executed. Few managers or business owners will approve any effort without first knowing the cost. Understanding expense is also an important step to calculating return on investment (ROI).

Free social media budget templateTo help make the budgeting process easier I have created the Social Media Budget Template shown above. I have broken down costs into five expense categories and divided each category into in-house costs (to be performed by employees) and outsource costs (to be hired out). I also suggest calculating the percent of each line item under a category and the percent of each category out of the total budget to understand where you are spending most of your money. As you understand how each category is contributing more or less to overall success you may want to adjust percentages to match contribution level. Each item and category is calculated as a monthly expense and percent of total per these categories:

Content Creation covers in-house or outsourced time to write and design plus any fixed costs such as stock photos or video production. Estimate time to create the content needed for the strategy in a month. You can get an idea of how much you need from a Content Calendar. For in-house employees divide salary into an hourly rate. For outsourced help calculate by their hourly rate or their cost per piece or project.

Social Advertising is paid outsourced costs for reach per social channel such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Again, start with a Content Calendar and estimate how many posts will be paid native ads or promoted/boosted posts. Then calculate costs based on current rates per social media network. Because much of social advertising works on a bidding process many managers set per day limits. Thus, this category is estimated based on spending per day, per network multiplied by the number of days you expect to be running social ads in a month.

Social Engagement is the cost for employees or contractors to listen and respond to brand talk per channel. Listening and engagement are important activities in social media. They cannot be planned ahead of time, but you can estimate how much it may cost based on current activity. You could go back to or perform a Social Media Audit to get an idea of the level of customer activity on brand social media channels. Are there hundreds or even thousands of posts everyday day or a few dozen? From there estimate hours per day needed to engage all or a percentage of those customers per channel. Multiply number of hours by employee or outsourced rates.

Software/Tools covers monthly costs for social media monitoring and other automation software services. These software services and tools can help save time and thus money in other categories such as content creation and engagement. There are a lot of free tools, but to get access to advanced features and enterprise level service many organizations have to pay. This budget category is broken down into monitoring, scheduling and analytics as a first step. You may find it useful to add additional categories such as consumer research, automation, or scheduling software. Some tools may have one time costs but most are billed as monthly access fees.

Promotion/Contests are costs for prizes, discounts, etc. Besides buying reach through native ads, many businesses build audience and engagement through special offers, discounts and contests. Whether they are executed through a Facebook app, hashtag or unique offer code promotions, contests, sweepstakes, coupons and discounts have hard costs associated with them. In this category estimate those expenses per campaign. For example, you may have a summer campaign and a holiday campaign or campaigns that happen around specific holidays. If you have a social campaign built around a live event, don’t forget to include those costs as well.

Finally, add totals per month, per line item and category. Also calculate percent of each category and category percent of the total budget. This social media budget template is a good way to calculate how much a social media strategy will cost to execute, but how do you know if the total is too much or too little overall?

One way to put total social media budgets into context is to compare to competitors. In a Social Media Audit you may have uncovered insight that a main competitor is much more active in social media and seeing business success as a result. Your strategy would be to increase your social activity to compete and your budget is an estimate of what it costs to match that level of engagement.

Another way to put your total social media budget into context is to compare to industry standards. In an analysis by Content Factory they estimate that outsourcing professional social media marketing can cost anywhere from $1,000 per month to $20,000 per month. Admittedly this number is very broad. Another approach is to look at typical percentages of overall marketing spending and social spending. In other words, take your existing marketing budget and estimate social media spending based on current standards.

Nick Rojas of The Next Web points out that businesses spend an average of 10% of revenue on marketing. Yet, this could vary by industry. For example, B2C products companies spend an average 16% of revenue on marketing. For social spending a CMO survey indicates businesses now spend an average of 9% to 13% of their marketing budget on social media (expected to increase to 21% by 2019). Thus, a general guideline would be to take your marketing budget as a percent of revenue (such as 10%) and then calculate a percent of the marketing budget (13%) dedicated to social media. If your estimated social media marketing budget from the template above is significantly off from this general number you may want to go back and adjust the plan. Or start with the general estimate then go to the budget template to see what level of social engagement you can afford.

Budgeting in social media can be complicated. But taking a step back and calculating costs based on categories and in relation to marketing spending averages can simplify the process. If you are budgeting against a solid social media plan tied to real business goals with the right metrics in place a return on investment (ROI) will be justified.