Friday, June 19, 2015

Always. Be. Testing.

You have built or become involved with a great brand. You have done research and social listening to find where your customers were, and built social networks to be able to have conversations around the clock with these customers. You’ve even written a robust social media marketing plan and your community is growing, so it’s working, right? You’re done! Sorry, no. Not so fast.

Remember yesterday, when videos didn’t automatically play on Twitter? Just one example of how fast social media changes. It is constantly evolving and adapting and you have to also, in order to stay competitive and to ensure what you originally planned still works.

When you set your social media goals, they included clear KPIs, yes? If you’re not currently testing against those, how well are you really doing? If you aren’t measuring if what you are doing works and is moving you closer to achieving your goals, how will you know when you get there? One way, is to take a bit of advice from Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross. Today’s “Always. Be. Testing,” is the new “Always. Be. Closing.”

But wait. Didn’t we go into marketing, so we wouldn’t have to ever do math? Now we have to look at analytics and extrapolate data from them? I was terrified of people that would mention A/B testing and data analytics. Just like I was scared to ride a bike, until I started to ride. Most things in life seem scarier when we think about them, than they are once we start them, aren’t they? Testing on social media was just like that for me. For a while, I got away with not testing. I was growing my brand’s social media presence, I was having amazing conversations and meeting some great people online, and sales were up! On the surface, everything was great. But it could have been BETTER. And why settle? My excuse (to mask my fear of the unknown, or my fear that I was too old to learn new things like testing) was “I work with startups! We just don’t have the budget for fancy tools.”

Good news. You don’t have to have a budget to begin testing. You can actually begin right this second to measure and monitor your social media presence and hopefully bring you closer to realizing your goals.

1.      Time of Day

When you post, is almost equally important as what you post. If you are posting life changing content and no one is online to see it, did it really happen? It certainly won’t achieve the results you are hoping for. Every industry and community is different, so there is no magic answer as to what time is best to post on what social network. It would be easy to say “Don’t post in the middle of the night, everyone is sleeping.” But some brands do a majority of their work in different time zones from where their marketing team resides, so the middle of the night for some, might be lunchtime to others.

My suggestion: Post the same message at different times of the day, then look at which of those posts is receiving the most engagement. What post are people responding to? Marking as a favorite? Retweeting? If you do this for at least two weeks (you want a large source of data, you can’t make a determination if you only test once) on every day of the week, you will find what times during each day are the “best times to post on social media” for YOU.

2.      Text Content vs Visual Content

Do your community members and consumers respond better to posts with photos? Videos? Straight text? Write a post and test! Once you’ve determined what the best time to post is on Tuesdays, for example, release this post the first week with no photo or video. The next week, release it again, but this time add a photo or video and less or no text. Which got more likes? Retweets? Comments? Try this again on different days of the week for a couple of weeks, and that will help you determine what your community likes to see from you.

3.      Posting Frequency

Is there any correlation to how often you post, and how quickly your engagement rates are growing? This is another test you run by simply trying it. On specific days (for example every Monday and Tuesday) try posting quality, relevant content to a specific social network (you can repeat this with each one, but let’s start with Twitter) twice during the hour that you’ve already found is your personal “best time to post on Twitter.” The next week, on the same days at the same time, try posting 4 times during the hour. Did you receive more engagement on those posts the first week or second week?

There are also a great many free tools you can use to help measure and monitor the work you are doing on social media, but the networks themselves offer great information, if you know where to look. Two of my most used are on Facebook and Twitter. (there are also free analytic tools available for LinkedIn – both for business pages and individuals, Pinterest and Google+)

Part II will discuss how you can use Facebook Insights and Twitter Analytics.

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