Acting as the Distilled Community and Content Assistant is as new to me as it is to the company. There’s certainly a lot of emphasis in marketing placed on generating a strong community and raising web visibility. You can find a whole host of posts relating to such matter - MackWeb Solutions talk you through a manageable content and social media marketing process on their recent SEOMoz piece with aplomb but what of those with new domains, starting out and struggling with the bewildering task of manning these social channels?
As a preface to this piece, yes, the hardened social media expert might anticipate what I’m about to write here but for those who are grappling with their new site or are merely struggling to know how to prove the value of such outlets, then this is how we do it here at Distilled. Fundamentally, this post serves to deliver a few tool ideas and some handy pointers into the baffling world of managing social communities, what to track and what mediums to put your interactive efforts to.
Now, we’re not talking strategy here, it's metrics that matter. You want to be able to measure your efforts alongside the value of what this work brings to your business. Jen Lopez, the community manager at SEOMoz, tackles this subject extensively in her post and how they manage their social outposts. Initially, it’s good to focus on one community. Presuming you’ve set up the standard channels - Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Linked In, YouTube [for those that use video] it may seem a little daunting to successfully speak to and engage with all of these various online communities so why not start with one?
Identify the best social media channels to suit you. Work to prove the value of one of those channel and then scale up. Of course, this is not to say you should neglect other communities but focus some initial resources towards getting one of your channels working and then look to the others. Building a relationship with your community takes time and there’s no quick fix approach to an effective social media strategy. Dedicate time daily to check in on inboxes, mentions and comments in order to keep up with all of your various sources.
With your social presence up and running, we can now work to establish goals for each of these various platforms - but we’re not looking for arbitrary ones here. It’s important to ensure your communities are actually adding value to your business. Therefore, in terms of social, you need to focus on engagement, not just volume. A community can be defined as ‘a group sharing common interests’ and if you’re sharing those interests, you should be talking about them too. You want high value fans that speak and engage, not just numbers tucked under your followers belt. At a top level, through the free tool Metricly we're tracking followers, retweets and mentions. For greater insight, the paid tool from SEOMoz provides great social data (amongst many other things) which works on Twitter and Facebook currently and helps match your social efforts and their related successes.
With some quantitative data on what your social efforts are producing in terms of numbers, now you can tie this to your business directly and gauge the effect this social engagement has on your site. How valuable are these actions to you? Yes, it’s important to invest in building community but does this make a difference to your business goals?
At Distilled, this month we’re looking to measure the current status quo before setting our goals (after all each community is different). We aim to try a number of different social initiatives, measure their impact against our previous performance and then set goals off the back of these results.
Apply a method. Tag your tools.
Every link that we put out on our social channels, we’re tagging with the ‘social’ tag through Google’s URL builder. Then, when it comes to tracking your online efforts and the effect this is having on bringing people to your site, you can easily gauge this through Google Analytics. Through GA, you can now clearly see how many people are following the links through your tweets and posts to access your site and, in turn, how your social interactions are increasing CRO to the company which makes everyone happy, right?
Here at Distilled, we’ve been tracking our weekly metrics through social tags and what traffic is coming through to the site thanks to this engagement. In fact, we’ve specialised our reports by creating the Distilled Marketing Report within GA’s custom reporting tab. This way, particularly if you’re tagging is working effectively, you can identify the real monetary value for all the efforts made towards your social communities and establish which sources are working better than others to both drive people towards your site, and then how they then convert when on the site.
In a sense, you can track social traffic vs other traffic. Want to prove the importance of social media to your CMO? Identify the difference that a community makes here.
This screenshot gives you an idea of what a company's GA tab might look like. By setting up an advanced segment within the Custom Reporting tab, you can track specifics, in this case social sources. We manage our marketing metrics on a week to week basis; social vs other traffic. Custom reporting allows you to build a picture of social engagement and its worth to your site.
Pro tip - Annotate GA, entering details on new promotions or initiatives, these can then help explain big fluctuations in your performance when it comes to analysing what is working.
Ultimately though, we’re talking qualitative as well as quantitative and want to measure what people are saying and sentiment as well, not just traffic numbers and value. It’s not simply goal conversions, you'll also want to ensure your community feels invested in your product and company development. Tools such as SEOMoz, Social Mention and Social Sprout (n.b. this author has not used Social Sprout so can't vouch for it's effectiveness) provide the platforms to track comments and conversations with your social communities and help with the qualitative measurement you should be performing.
We all need to become more agile with our marketing and put your customer at the heart of everything you do. By building a rapport with your audience, they are more likely to want to invest in your company and where better to talk directly to your community than via social?
Managing an ever growing [and chattering] social community is no easy task but hopefully, some of these tools and insights into the way we do it will help you in your daily interactive efforts. By tracking these metrics and using these tools, we can see what works for us and what doesn’t and in turn, lead us to a better strategy in order to engage with our communities and thought leaders. Have you established your companies metrics? What do you think is important to ensure a manageable content and social media marketing strategy and how can you improve?
Send us your thoughts...or tweet them, I’ll be there.