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Monitoring the effect of social media

So you’ve done your research, chosen your social media platforms and written your social media strategy. You’ve got well-written, well-placed and well-timed content consistently delivered and directly targeted to your audience. But now what?

How can you tell whether all the time, money and effort you’re putting into your social strategy is paying off? It’s time to get back to the data and make sure your monitoring tools and techniques are doing what they need to do to make it all worthwhile.

In this blog post, we will focus on two key questions:

  1. What exactly should you be monitoring?
  2. What makes an effective monitoring tool?

What exactly should you be monitoring?

With so much information out there, it can be difficult to narrow things down and focus on what’s important. But if you are to see real benefits from your social media campaigns, it’s important to set some measurable targets at the outset and ensure that what you are monitoring is distinct, trackable and targeted. If you have a very limited budget or amount of time to dedicate to social media monitoring, it would make more sense to focus on one or two platforms, whereas if you have a whole team at your disposal, you can afford to go into more depth and cast your analytic web further. The important thing is to identify what you need and what your resources are, and then be selective about what you choose to monitor.

Some of the main types of platform you will likely want to focus on include:

  • Social network sites, e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn
  • Blogs and micro-blogs, e.g. Twitter, competitors’ blogs, your own blog page comments and interactions
  • Video and photo sharing sites, e.g. YouTube, Vimeo, Pinterest
  • Forums and message boards
  • Review sites, e.g. Amazon, Yelp
  • News-related sites, e.g. online newspapers, Reddit
  • Social bookmarking sites, e.g. Delicious, StumbleUpon, Digg

Within these main areas, you should concentrate your monitoring on conversations, engagement and awareness.

Conversations

This type of monitoring centres around what people – consumers, competitors, key influencers and the general public – are saying about your brand, your industry and topics you are interested in. Using Twitter hashtags is an easily trackable way to do this for the micro-blogging site and is a key part of many analytics tools. The ability to filter by keywords means that you can also monitor what your competitors are doing and how they are tailoring their content to meet current trends and changes in market conditions.

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Engagement

Understanding how people are interacting with your social media campaigns is crucial to both your short-term and long-term strategies, so it’s important to look at number of shares, likes, clicks, comments, reblogs and retweets and how these meet your sales or community-building goals. Over time, you will be able to see which campaigns have the most impact and ascertain the reasons for this so that future marketing can be more tailored and effective.

Awareness

Thorough social media monitoring can not only help to focus your marketing strategy but also help you gain insight on what your customers and potential customers want and need. By keeping abreast of current industry news in real time, you will have a strong awareness of trending topics and perhaps even predict the next ‘big thing’.

Social media monitoring also has the added benefit of helping to nip any crises in the bud and reacting in a positive, prompt and polite manner to any negative comments might even enable you to turn a negative situation into a positive one.

What makes an effective monitoring tool?

If you are to effectively monitor social media activity from a range of platforms, one thing that is clear is that you are going to need some kind of tool to help you. Fortunately, there is a range of solutions available, from free management tools such as Hootsuite and Social Mention, to more in-depth paid options such as Sprout Social, Brandwatch and Social Knowledge.

When choosing a social media monitoring tool, it’s important that the software is fit for purpose and matches your company’s needs. Here are a few questions to ask when comparing your options:

  • Is the interface easy to use?
  • Will the tool cover all the platforms you need it to?
  • Does the software allow access to historical data and if so, how far back will that go?
  • Does the software work in real-time? If not, what is the time-lag?
  • Is there a limit to the number of search terms, clients or platforms you can monitor?
  • Will you be able to see all results or only a sample?
  • What kind of reporting is available?
  • Can you filter data by demographics, geographics and so on?
  • Does the data include information from mainstream media sources, e.g. newspaper sites or only social networks?
  • Is it possible to reply or engage with the posts directly through the tool?
  • Are scheduling tools built into the software, so that you can create campaigns and schedule posts ahead of time?
  • How much does the software cost?
  • Can more than one person be logged in at once?
  • Is there the option to allocate different tasks or levels of access to different team members?

To conclude

Whilst there are limitations on what can be monitored due to privacy rules, time and financial restrictions, analysing the impact of your social media activity can provide you with a wealth of useful data, is a critical part of any serious marketing strategy, and should be used to inform future campaigns and publicity efforts.

Listening to what consumers, followers and industry leaders are saying about your brand, your services and your products allows you to tailor your content and target your audience more effectively, in turn leading to more loyal brand supporters, increased website visits and ultimately better bottom line figures.

With the ability to predict changes in the marketplace ahead of time and react to news and issues as they happen, social media monitoring is ever more important.

To make it work for you, monitoring needs to be consistent and regular, comprehensive yet filtered where necessary, and always fit for purpose, feeding directly into your marketing campaigns and allowing you to tailor your content according to what your customers want. When planned and executed carefully, social media monitoring is a very powerful tool indeed.

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