Proving the business value of social media is one of the biggest challenges facing PR professionals. Communicators are getting better at using the various social platforms to get their messages out to an appropriate audience, but it’s a different story when it comes to showing the C-suite how Facebook, Twitter et al. can impact the top and/or bottom lines.
As senior managers demand more accountability, PR pros must improve their measurement strategies so they can prove that social channels have value and merit more budget, whether in dollars or time.
With that in mind, here are some tips on how to track the reach and effectiveness of your social media communications, from Claudia Keith, CCO for the City of Palo Alto, Calif.
> Know when your audience is online. Schedule posts when they have the best chance of being seen by the most people. Analytic tools such as Sprout Social for Twitter and Insights for Facebook can provide data about when your followers or fans are online. It doesn’t make sense to post something at 8 p.m. on a Sunday if only 10 percent of your audience is looking at social media at that time.
> Create custom links for better tracking and measuring. By embedding a unique link in your posts and tweets, you can more easily see what type of content your audience is likely to click on, signifying better engagement.
> Keep it simple and visual. Make sure you have a strong image to go with your posts, and report on which images get the most shares. Research shows that tweets using images get retweeted a lot more often than others.
> It’s not quantity, but quality that counts. Target your followers and have a strategy behind your growth and engagement. It doesn’t do any good to have 80,000 Twitter followers if none of them retweet or engage with you.
> You don’t always need to use the 140 characters at your disposal for a tweet. Shorter tweets get retweeted more, with the ideal length for a tweet somewhere between 70 to 100 characters.
> When replying to a tweet, add a period or a word before their @username. That way the tweet can be seen by all of your followers and their followers.
> Respond to every post, comment or tweet. This can be difficult if you are a large company with a huge following. But for a city or nonprofit that is working to be authentic and to create a voice via social media, it’s important. Even thanking somebody for a Like helps to make a connection with our city.
To learn more about PR measurement strategies and tactics, attend PR News’ Measurement Conference, which takes place April 20, at the National Press Club, in Washington, D.C. The early bird rate ends April 2.
Follow Matthew Schwartz on Twitter: @mpsjourno1