How to Implement a Data-Driven Social Media Marketing Strategy

Big disclaimer: I’m not a “data geek” – at least not in the typical, Excel-Spreadsheet-crunching sense of the term. I do not like numbers, and am horrible at math.

Before I started working at Mention, social media marketing, to me, meant coming up with catchy copy, using funny GIFs, and way too many hashtags (#Sorrynotsorry).

But I’ve since learned that effective social media marketing needs to be so much more than that. This whimsical, “spray and pray” attitude to social media is what gives it a bad rep – when marketers say they can’t see the ROI of social, it’s because they aren’t measuring the right things, if they’re measuring anything all. How can you improve on something you don’t measure, and see return on your efforts?

You can’t.

This is why we recently partnered with Kissmetrics to look at how to build a data-driven social media marketing strategy. We conducted a full webinar on the topic, but here’s a quick recap of the key points.

Why you need data-driven social media marketing

When you talk about data with non-data-driven marketers, their first instinct is usually to run away – or come up with excuses like:

“It’s too complicated.”

“But I don’t have time”

The problem is, if you aren’t tracking your social media performance, you’ll end up wasting more time, because you spend time guessing, not knowing what’s effective. That means wasting money and resources, and losing tons of opportunities to connect and engage with the audience you really want.

Worst of all, you end up hurting your brand image, since you’re not giving your audience what they want – because you simply don’t know what it is.

And that’s exactly why you need to adopt a data-driven mindset towards social media marketing. Data can tell you so much about what your audience wants, what’s working, and what’s not, where you should invest more and what you should stop wasting time on.

Basically, if you want your catchy copy and funny GIFs to be seen by people you need to reach, and have them do things you want them to do – whether it’s to visit your site, join your mailing list, or buy – you need to be tracking and analyzing data.

Benefits of data-driven social media marketing

You get so many benefits from adopting a data-driven mindset for social media marketing, including:

All of which help you improve and prove your social ROI.

If it sounds amazing, that’s because it is.

And the best part? Starting a data-driven social strategy doesn’t need to be complicated. With the right strategy and some cool tools, useful data can be collected effortlessly, and presented in an easy to understand way so that you can actually use them to make better decisions.

Building a data-driven social media marketing strategy

So now you’re probably thinking, this all sounds great. Where do we begin?

To answer that question, you need to ask yourself another question.

What are your goals?

Most people feel overwhelmed by data because there are so many things you can measure, but often you actually only need a few key metrics – especially if you’re just starting out.

Define your goals well, and find the KPIs that can help you measure whether you’re achieving those goals.

Match your metrics to your goals

Here are a few examples of what I mean by matching the right KPIs to different objectives.

Goal #1: Increase brand reach

Let’s say your goal is to increase your brand reach, the first basic metric to track would be your follower count.

How to Implement a Data-Driven Social Media Marketing Strategy | Social Media Today

A lot of people say this is a vanity metric that doesn’t drive business results, and that’s true to some extent – the fact that you have 20k followers doesn’t generate traffic or revenue.

But it’s still a good indicator of how your brand is doing on social, how many people you can potentially reach and engage with. When people haven’t heard of your brand before, most will judge your “brand credibility” by your follower count, so it’s likely more important than you may think.

Next thing you want to look at would be your top influencers. These could be influencers talking about your brand, your competitors, or your industry.

How to Implement a Data-Driven Social Media Marketing Strategy | Social Media Today

Tracking influencers is super important if you want to increase your brand reach, especially if you’re just starting out – you may not have a big audience yet, but they do, and they can help spread your brand name much quicker than if you’re on your own.

Another important metric for measuring your brand reach is to track your share of voice against competitors. This lets you know how well you’re doing relative to other players in the field.

How to Implement a Data-Driven Social Media Marketing Strategy | Social Media Today

You may think you’re doing pretty good with 2k mentions per week, but perhaps your competitor has 200k mentions? By comparing yourself against your competitors, you get a reality check by putting your metrics in context.

Goal #2: Improve brand image

Now, let’s say your goal is to improve your brand image. For this, you’ll have to measure more than the number of your mentions – you need to look at quality, how people feel about your brand.

What are discussions about your brand like? Are they from fans or haters? Are people praising or bashing?

How to Implement a Data-Driven Social Media Marketing Strategy | Social Media Today

Brand sentiment helps you track your brand reputation over time, and if you see sudden spikes, you can find out why by looking back at your past campaigns or crises that happened during that time period.

Goal #3: Increase web traffic

Now, if your goal is to drive traffic to your website, metrics like follower counts and brand sentiment would be less relevant. A more helpful metric to look at would be your traffic sources to see which platforms bring you the most web visits.

How to Implement a Data-Driven Social Media Marketing Strategy | Social Media Today

This will help you find out where you should double-down – as well as which platforms you should stop wasting time on.

At the same time, you can also track the most popular pages from social media. This will tell you what kind of content your social media audience engage the most with, so you can provide more of the same.

How to Implement a Data-Driven Social Media Marketing Strategy | Social Media Today

Goal #4: Increase conversions

And if your goal is to increase conversions, the most important metric to track is conversion sources – exactly which platforms are bringing in your conversions.

How to Implement a Data-Driven Social Media Marketing Strategy | Social Media Today

Similar to tracking social traffic, you can see the conversions per platform, and even assign a dollar value to each conversion, to see the revenue generated from social media.

Choose some cool tools

Obviously, to gather most of the above data you’ll need to use tools to dig it up. Luckily, lots of data tools are designed for noobs like us (well, me at least).

Not all of these tools are free, but they do offer free trials.

The first one is a staple for any data marketer (wannabe): Google Analytics.

How to Implement a Data-Driven Social Media Marketing Strategy | Social Media Today

Google Analytics enables you to create specific conversion points on your site (i.e. a user signed up for your newsletter, requested a demo, or made a purchase), then track those by source, so you’ll know whether more conversions come from social media, search engines, or other sources.

If you’re just starting out and Google Analytics seems a bit daunting and overwhelming, try The Brand Grader.

How to Implement a Data-Driven Social Media Marketing Strategy | Social Media Today

The Brand Grader is a completely free online reputation assessment tool that gives you a quick snapshot of how any brand performs online.

Just type in the brand you want to monitor – could be your brand, your competitor, or any company – and put in your email to get a report of the following:

  • Top mention sources
  • Web and social mentions
  • Top web influencers
  • Brand sentiment online
  • Language and geographical distribution
  • The brand’s social following

The next cool tool – if not the coolest – for social media marketers is Mention.

How to Implement a Data-Driven Social Media Marketing Strategy | Social Media Today

Mention lets you track social media mentions of your brand and your competitors, and see important metrics like brand reach and sentiment in easy to understand graphs. You can also find influencers talking about you or your industry, and analyze the top platforms and sources, best time to engage, etc.

Then of course, we have Kissmetrics.

How to Implement a Data-Driven Social Media Marketing Strategy | Social Media Today

Kissmetrics shows you the journey your website visitors take, including where they came from.

You’ll see from which social media platform they came, what steps they took on your website, and whether they converted, or left without doing so. That makes it easy to put a dollar figure on your social performance.

If a user discovers you first on Twitter, visits your website, then returns three days later to make a purchase, you’ll know that they first came from social media.

And then we have Bitly. You may know it as a link shortening tool, but it actually does much more than that.

How to Implement a Data-Driven Social Media Marketing Strategy | Social Media Today

Bitly OneView, a feature of Bitly Enterprise, gives you a holistic view of how your content is performing across how each channel, platform, or device.

Just use a Bitlink in each of your social posts and you’ll be able to track incoming traffic in real-time back in your Bitly dashboard – you can even compare organic content to paid efforts to see how social is affecting your bottom line.

Track. Measure. Improve.

Being “data-driven” didn’t come naturally to me, but it’s a lot less scary and complicated than I had initially thought. The key is really just figuring out what matters most to you and your business, finding the metrics that will help you track these elements, then, of course, making better decisions based on those results.

If you want more specific strategies and ideas on data-driven marketing, you can check out the full webinar

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