We’re just starting a new year, and for most marketers that means exciting changes and preparing for a successful year of brand promotion and customer interaction on one of the most cost-efficient platforms available to us—social media. There’s no better way to start than to audit and evaluate last year’s efforts, so you can replicate your best strategies, eliminate your worst, and learn from all the experiments you attempted throughout the year.
So what’s the best way to approach this process?
Measure Year Over Year Results
Your first foray into your year-end audit should be a high-level snapshot of how you performed over the previous year. After all, your results—your bottom line—should be the central driving factor in your campaign.
Assuming you had a baseline in 2016, take a look at the following statistics, comparing them against your 2017 results:
- Follower growth. How many new followers have you gained this year? This is a bit of a vanity metric, but it can still help you track your popularity growth.
- Click-throughs and traffic. How often do your followers click the links you provide? How much traffic growth is your site seeing?
- Engagements and mentions. How many conversations are you having with your audience? How involved are they? How often is your brand mentioned by people on social media?
- Budget. You should also consider how much you spent, one year over the other.
If your growth rates are roughly the same, you know your tactics are on par with the previous year’s; for many marketers, this is a victory, but I consider it a loss. If you aren’t experimenting on a regular basis, you’re depriving yourself of opportunities for near-constant improvement.
If your results are actively better or worse than last year’s, your next job is to isolate the variables responsible for the discrepancy. These are some of the most common:
- New strategies or tactics. Did you initiate any new strategies, or launch any new tactics? If so, do the changes in your results coincide with the timing of those new strategies? If that’s the case, you can reasonably conclude that these strategies had the positive or negative effect. Look at things like your content quality, your audience targeting, and the type of content you created.
- Budget and publication frequency. Did you change your budget, or the volume of content you were producing? A dramatic increase or decrease could have a marked effect on how your audience perceives your brand—in either direction.
- Major brand changes. Though rare, if your brand underwent any significant changes—such as updating your look or targeting a new audience, you should expect some significant changes in your results. You’ll have limited data on the effects of the new direction and the tactics associated with it, but you should be able to discern an initial trend.
- New competition. Don’t neglect the influence of competition; if you have a new competitor emerge on the scene, or if your existing competitors step up their efforts, your audience might be pulled away from your brand through no fault of your own. This still requires understanding, and a potential change in the future.
- Support and promotion. What other strategies are you using to support and promote your social channels? For example, do you have a content and/or email campaign to forward new followers to your accounts or provide more content for your ongoing social feeds?
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Once you’ve captured this high-level data, I recommend sorting your high-level strategies into a handful of different categories:
- Surefire successes. These are changes, tactics, and scenarios that objectively and certainly increased the value of your campaign. Seek to keep them and/or replicate them this year.
- Near misses. These are strategies that were close to being successful, but missed something important; learn from them, and alter them to get a second chance at success. Make sure they’re not included in your 2018 strategy.
- Mistakes and losses. Confront the mistakes you made in 2017; did you miss the mark with a certain line of content, or flub an important opportunity? These insights can usually help you avoid damaging strategies and refine your tactics in 2018.
- Missed opportunities. This is the hardest category to fill, since it requires acknowledging opportunities you may not have known you had. Brainstorm with your team, and try to come up with some new territory to explore in 2018.
Digging Into Specifics
The high-level data should be enough to guide the overall direction of your campaign, but it’s also worth looking at more specific pieces; these tend to be more qualitative analyses, and involve outliers in your dataset, but are useful in helping you learn the strengths and weaknesses of your campaign.
For example, were there any standout posts you had this year, which received more shares and comments than any others? What can you learn from them? Were there any followers who transitioned to becoming brand evangelists? What can you take away from the experience?
Putting It All Together
The real challenge now is taking all this data and making it actionable. You have a clear, high-level understanding of how your social media strategy worked in 2017, so you should be able to use that to chart a better strategy in 2018.
Of course, this is only the first step; you’ll also need to take measurements throughout the year, and be unafraid to make continued changes. For further help, see The Definitive Guide to Social Media Marketing.