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From the Inside

Measuring social media success

Estimated read time: 9 minutes

This is my final column contribution to the Native, and it looks like I’ve left the most difficult topic until last. That nagging question we all nervously ask ourselves each day: How do you measure success on social media?

For a platform that spits out stats like a tame cat turned savage (yes that’s a thing) it’s extremely ambiguous and challenging to actually know if your audience is picking up what you’re putting down.

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So how do we figure this one out? Let’s break it down into some key questions that you need to ask yourself.

What does success on social media look like to you and your team?

Before you can begin to measure success, you need to know what it looks like. This varies from team to team and when you set your goals, you need to keep in mind what is actually achievable. It could be a campaign tailored to reach or link clicks, all the way to page followers, engagement and on and on. Being realistic with what you can achieve at the beginning saves you from disappointment in the end.

How do you set realistic targets?

When we complete our University of Glasgow quarterly reports, we gauge our success on Universities that have a similar following to ours and gauge how well we’ve done compared to them. We don’t compare ourselves to the likes of Oxford or Cambridge, just off the top of my head I think Oxford has approximately 15.7706X the amount of followers as we do! We do brag here and there, if our engagement percentage is higher than the big ones though.

It’s really important to keep tabs on what other universities are doing to ensure that your targets are realistic. Plus, it’s always nice to see what your peers are up to. An easy way to quickly see how you’re doing is to build up your ‘pages to watch’ section under the ‘Insights’ tab on your Facebook page. We also use a programme called Talkwalker that makes it simple for us to see top posts from Unis across the sector.

What is your return on investment?

It wouldn’t be a post by yours truly if I didn’t mention the word ‘budget’ at least once, assuming that you have one! Are you getting anything in return for just boosting posts? It’s time to think about what an impression, engagement, link click or video view is actually worth. You’ve figured out what success looks like and set realistic targets but they don’t mean a whole lot unless your content is being delivered to the right people, for the right price.

Which stats and metrics are actually important and what do you do with the data?

You spent £1000 on an ad campaign and it reached 1 million people…is that an important stat? It’s impressive (and definitely share it with senior management) but is it what you really set out to achieve? Is this success for you and your team?

I’m going to stop with the figurative and get into a tangible example. Summer Grad in June/July was our most recent campaign. We always know that this is one of the busiest times for our channels and a great way to reach out to our entire community to celebrate all our Grads’ hard work. Looking at previous years, our videos and photos generally received engagement from alumni reminiscing about their time at UofG, current students who are looking forward to graduating and of course the Grads and their family and friends.

Keeping this in mind, ‘success’ looked like lots of meaningful engagement from our current community; we weren’t concerned about pushing people to different web pages but wanted them to feel like our channels were there just for them.

Setting our ‘target’ was challenging because the content we created for last year’s grad was a little bit different to what we were planning for this campaign. However, after looking through various posts that were created for our current UofG community over the past year we decided that a successful post would be between 500 – 800 engagements on Facebook, 2000+ likes on Instagram, and 10-15 Twitter retweets (but really with Twitter it’s often feast or famine depending on what gets picked up).

So, we had our ‘success’ and ‘target’ now my favourite part, ‘budget’ came into play. We set aside £500 for all of Grad, which we spent on Facebook, and decided we would put it behind the daily videos we were planning on creating. Again, looking at previous posts to see how much an engagement was worth, a good return on our investment was around £0.01 per post engagement (it sounds low, but because we weren’t targeting a new audience we thought this was achievable).

Because we knew what we wanted to achieve we knew which stats and metrics to look at. Right away if we look at our Facebook ROI for £515 (we went over budget… oops), we received over 380K engagements working out to £0.001 per post engagement, so that checks a big box for our spend… success right? Well, yes and no.

Looking at the data across all our channels, we realised that our audience engagement waned as our Grad week progressed and people were more interested in straight to camera long form stories from Grads and people involved in the ceremony instead of the slick exciting daily videos. In the end, we reached our targets on many occasions and deem this campaign as a success. We will however, adjust for our next Grad to continue refining our approach and maybe spend more time searching for, and planning, one or two stories per day.

Why is measuring success important?

Without knowing what works, and what doesn’t, it’s near impossible to adjust and refine the type of content you create and the approach you take to your channels as they continue to grow. It’s also really important to have the ability to demonstrate the value of social media to senior management in a digestible and tangible way. Social media isn’t free after all, and when money is going out you need to be able to justify where it’s going.

Well folks, that just about does it for me. It’s been an absolute pleasure writing for the Native! Big thanks to Dave for putting up with my loose interpretation of deadlines, my long-suffering UofG colleagues Tasha and Emma for being an invaluable knowledge resource, and of course to all of you for reading (if indeed you’ve managed to get this far). I hope you’ve enjoyed what I’ve had to say, make sure to come find me and say hi at a conference or any of the multiple gatherings we tend to find ourselves at in this lovely industry.

Bye for now!

*If you’d like to be a future From the Inside columnist then please get in touch!*