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.
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.
If the brand has an official social media account (such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc) you place it under “Company” with its own row for insights. This is where you describe what the company is doing on those platforms. Under “Consumer” you should list all the social platforms where consumers are participating in discussion about the brand. If they are engaging on an official company social media account list it here and provide those insights in a row (such as Facebook and Pinterest). Also search the brand name and see what people are saying off the official account be sure to include that discussion as well.
If a brand has an account on a social platform and there is no consumer engagement (such as Twitter) then list it under “Company,” but don’t list it under “Consumer.” This may be a platform the brand may want to close. Search main platforms where the brand doesn’t have an account (such as Instagram). Are consumers talking about the brand? List that platform in a row under “Consumer” and describe what is being said. There may be a brand community but no official brand account and they may want to add this platform. For “Competitor” you don’t need to go as in depth to capture insights. Simply list each official brand account on a row and describe what the brand is doing and their customers are doing on those channels.
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