In order to build an effective social media program, it is imperative that you do your research first. Social media audits play a critical role in developing strategy as well as assessing the performance of your organization’s use of social media.
Before launching into an audit, it’s important to establish a set of questions you are trying to answer. These may include:
- What is the public saying about my company?
- How are we using our social channels?
- How effective are our ideas and content?
- How are our competitors using their social channels?
- What channels are our target audiences using and how are they using them?
- How curious is the public about my company or a specific topic?
Once you know what questions you are trying to answer, you can determine the type of audit you should conduct. Each question should be answered with its own audit and each audit requires its own methodology. There is no right or wrong methodology for an audit. What matters most is consistency.
As an example, let’s consider the first question: “What is the public saying about my company?” I like to call this a “Coverage and Conversation” audit. This examines what the public is saying about your company rather than what you as a company are saying through your own channels.
First, determine what channels to review. To get a full picture, I’d look at blogs, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, SlideShare, Scribd, Google+ and Wikipedia. You may notice that two very large social networks are missing from this list: Facebook and LinkedIn. While both are important, the way the privacy settings on these sites have been built makes it difficult for someone doing an audit to get an accurate picture of what is being said. For these two, I’d recommend looking at the topics, volume and tonality of comments and posts made by the public on your channels to assess the degree to which you are being discussed.
After you know what channels you will be looking at, the next step is to figure out what tools you will need to conduct the audit. I’m a big fan of the service Sysomos for historical audits. The service makes it very easy to pull large data sets from blogs and Twitter with the click of a button. For some sites like Flickr and SlideShare, the built in search function on the sites can pull the information you need.
Once you’ve identified the appropriate channels and tools, you need to determine your keywords. With the exception of Wikipedia, you’ll want to create a Boolean string in order to narrow down your search results to what you need. A typical string may look something like this:
(“Company Name” OR “@CompanyTwitterHandle” OR “#CompanyName”) AND NOT (Insert terms to exclude)
If you are looking for what’s being said about products or services, you can add them into the string as well.
Next, you’ll need to determine the depth of your search. Typically, when I’m conducting an audit, I want to look at as much information and data as possible in order to get the clearest answer to my questions. Usually this means looking back at a year’s worth of content. If you look at a shorter period, your findings may be skewed by crises or exceptional news events. For sites like Flickr, YouTube, SlideShare and Scribd, I’d use the advanced settings in the search function to list the results by popularity, and then review the first five pages of results.
To recap – conducting a successful audit requires knowing what channels to look at, what tools to use, what keywords to search with, and how deep in the search history to go. While that might seem like a lot, there is still one huge area left – analyzing all the data and information you pull during your audit.
For a “Content and Conversation” audit, you’re going to want to know:
- Total volume of mentions for your company on each channel (letting you know where people talk about you most)
- Topics for each individual piece of data (this helps you understand what people are interested in about you in each channel)
- Tone of each mention (letting you know if people like you on a channel or not)
The information you uncover from an audit will vastly inform and improve your social media strategy. Have you uncovered surprising information about your company following the completion of an audit? Let us know in the comments.