Having a brand presence on social media used to be as easy as a lizard in a kitchen–fun and friendly with only the occasional small problem to manage. How times have changed!
With the emergence of a slew of platforms, unique features rolling out regularly, reach and frequency rules changing constantly, and trends coming and going, keeping social media efficient and effective requires a strategy, a lot of effort and much flexibility.
Similar to how you'd begin nearly every PR activity, prior to a social media audit answer these two groups of questions:
What are your goals, and what do you want to achieve with social media?
Social media has the power to drive brand awareness, strengthen positioning, create loyal fans, turn advocates into brand evangelists, develop leads, promote direct sales, tune-in, etc.
Nearly any call-to-action (CTA) can be achieved through social media; however, each platform requires a specific strategy to tell your story.
For example, a highly visual, heavily produced video likely will connect better with an Instagram audience than a TikTok cohort. Facebook is a destination for longer-form copy and images, as is YouTube for long-form video.
Understanding your brand goals provides a blueprint for the audit. Now, we can dive into how content is shared and whether it’s the right message, on the right platforms, to the right audiences.
Which social media platforms will provide the greatest success for your goals?
It’s not enough to have followers, who are casual observers. They may skim a post, like something if the mood strikes them and stick around for appearances.
Instead, you need an audience. Moreover, you need an active audience. Its members will engage with posts through liking, sharing and adding meaningful dialog to the conversation. They are there to clap when informed and entertained. They are fans and will take action, validating the reason why your brand is on social media.
So, take the answers to our first questions and apply them to where you should focus. A presence on social channels that will do little good for the brand is a waste of time, money and resources.
For instance, a brand may not belong on TikTok or Twitter or Facebook. That’s ok.
If so, aim all resources toward having the best YouTube channel and Instagram account in that category.
The 12-Point Social Media Audit
The actual audit consists of reviewing 12 key social media posting criteria through empirical data and interpreted evaluation. This will help create a plan for what to cut, what to emphasize and where to make tweaks.
From there, highlight areas of focus to meet brand objectives, increase reach and promote account growth. Often, a combination of minor adjustments and some larger changes to the social strategy will make a measurable difference in a relatively short period of time.
The 12 criteria:
1. Content Quality – When it comes to creative execution, images should be high-res and copy should be well-written, grammatically correct and contain interesting context. As noted above, video is subjective by platform.
For example, on Instagram, video is typically more polished than it tends to be on TikTok. In the end, the point is to connect with target audiences. Even if the video is raw, that’s never an excuse for posting with poor lighting and audio.
2. Posting Cadence – Frequency plus leaving your audience waiting for new content is a winning combination.
For example, on Instagram, aim to post a minimum of 3x per week; this should include one in-feed post, one story and one reel. On Twitter, aim to post two to three times per day. Most platforms will support a recurring series strategy that provides fans with an inside look into the brand. TikTok is particularly good for this.
3. Fan Engagement – Social Media 101… is your audience engaging with posted content through likes, shares and comments? One way to encourage engagement is to connect functionally and emotionally. Another is to be bold through brand creativity in videos that showcase the authentic brand personality. Depending on the brand goals, look for a balance of humor, originality and functional messaging.
4. Brand Engagement – Brands can, and should, be part of discussions on social platforms. By liking and commenting on industry and pop-culture posts, the brand is part of the conversation. This may lead to more visibility and audience growth. Look at the depth of the accounts the brand follows. This could include fan groups of the brand, influencers and other brand accounts in the zeitgeist.
5. Community Management – Is the brand responding at some level to its fans? Actively engaging with all comments requires resources, but responding to a select few doesn’t. Even if it’s an emoji, it shows that the brand is listening.
6. Use of Tags and Hashtags – Tagging other people, places and brands increases the reach of each post. It’s a missed opportunity for building engagement and audiences if not done at least once per post.
In addition, hashtags create ownership of a rally cry, enforce the brand message, or add the brand to a popular search category. This is an easy and important tactic to look for during the audit.
7. Cross-Posting – When a brand has a presence on multiple social media platforms it should know not to post the same content on each. As we said, different platforms require specific message approaches. Look to see if the Facebook account is promoting its Twitter feed, Instagram posting TikToks, etc. This is an easy way to see a growth spurt across platforms.
8. Team Efficiency – In every social audit, look at the social media team. Is it operating efficiently with assets readily available from campaigns, talent and other departments? Is there an in-house resource for production or a way to have content created quickly and within budget? This is as critical as the content.
9. Reach – Is the content being shared on the right day, at the right time, and on the right platform to reach the maximum number of people? Are there partnerships, collaborators, influencers, or talent helping share the message? Use this data to determine the ratio of audience to impressions to engagements. This speaks volumes to the quality of content, what may be working and what’s definitely not.
10. Consistency – What is the messaging within posts? Is the brand generally focusing on two to three related topics aimed at the audience? Is it what the audience wants to hear or what the brand wants to say? This might include product benefits, brand experiences, or partnerships. Consistency over time builds an emotional connection with fans.
11. CTA – Every post should tell a story and, based on the brand goals, incorporate an action. It could be visiting an external page, soliciting a comment, joining an email newsletter, buying a product, etc. Is the CTA clearly communicated to the audience? Most important, is it working?
12. Trend Participation - Trends frequently pop up across social media. Brands may participate to connect with audiences, increase reach and build followers. Look for self-awareness to ensure the brand knows when to jump in and when to watch from the sidelines.
After a social media audit is a good time to review with your team the purpose of the brand’s social media presence. In today's marketing discipline, execution is as critical as creative development. Every post tells a story and communicates a brand's position.
If employed strategically, social media has the power to help transform your audience into brand fans, loyalists, advocates and eventually evangelists.
Steve Denker is a strategic marketing consultant. Follow him on LinkedIn