With the first half of 2015 completed, it is a good time for direct response marketers to assess how their social media plans are performing.
A thorough audit of an marketer’s social networking efforts covers three basic items: What the organization is doing well, where it could improve, and the measures it must take to get every part of the social initiative up to speed.
Social networking audits have three phases:
Phase #1: Re-evaluating goals.
Before creating a communications plan of any sort, marketers must answer two questions: Who is the audience they’re aiming for, and what do they want that group of people to do?
For marketers, the answers seemingly are easy when it comes to their social media outreach: They are aiming for customers, and they want them to increase their buying.
For purposes of the social audit, though, marketers of all stripes will need to know more, specifically about their customers. Aside from demographics (such as age ranges, gender and ethnic breakdowns, and income levels), they must understand everything from what social sites their clientele frequents to what devices they use to visit them.
All of these factors will shape everything the marketer does on social media.
Phase #2: Determining what is out there.
This step in the audit entails finding out what people are saying about the direct response marketer in the social sphere, along with determining what the business’s presence looks like in that realm.
Any company that sells to or serves the public will likely encounter less-than-flattering statements about itself on social media. While some folks may make their points in an unpleasant fashion, their comments can nonetheless provide valuable insights about issues the business has that the C-suite may not be aware of.
The audit process can also uncover representations about the business that the marketing and executive groups may be surprised to encounter.
Even at small companies, employees sometimes set up social media handles, profiles or other representations that purport to be coming directly from the business. The employees in question may mean well – such as folks who are trying to recruit technology talent for the operation – or they may not.
Either way, the boss is often the last person to find out his or her staff has done this.
Similarly, scouring social media can reveal corporate trade secrets that have leaked into cyberspace. Whether that intellectual property is customer lists, information about upcoming product releases or technical data, its release can harm the business.
The broader lesson for managers and executives: Ensure employees sign statements annually that they understand and will follow the company’s policies on social media.
Phase #3: Evaluating the brand on social.
The final piece of work in the audit is assessing how the corporate social media effort is portraying the brand. This will involve both the marketing and social media units of a marketer.
Marketers will need to evaluate every representation of the brand to ensure it is correct, up to date and in line with corporate best practices for branding the company.
The social networking folks, meanwhile, will check whether every representation of the brand helps foster the best engagement with the audience. Every post, for instance, should contain both images and links.
If a marketer is not already collecting and analyzing data about its presence on social media, that business should start doing so now.
A variety of outside vendors and tools can help. Some cost nothing – such as the monitoring tool Social Mention – while others have both free and paid versions, such as Talkwalker.
For the most part, though, the rule of thumb is that strong data gathering and analytics tools will cost money.
Looking at social media by the numbers.
Any business prefers to avoid spending money if it can. But for DR marketers, social media is not the realm to try going the cheap route when it comes to getting outside help.
As of January 2014, roughly 74 percent of online adults were using social networking sites, according to the Pew Internet Project. The numbers were higher for those 18 through 29 (89 percent) and 30 through 49 (82 percent.)
In short, social networking sites are where customers are posting and tweeting, commenting, and shopping. Can your business afford for your outreach on social media to be anything less than the best?
Photo by Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Bernard Perrine is the CEO and co-founder of Twitter marketing company SocialCentiv.