Digital marketing budgets are increasing and with that the expectation of being able to measure the impact that it's having.
But while a more analytical view of digital marketing might have gained popularity among start-ups and larger brands, it hasn’t trickled down into the collective consciousness of the small business world. Most small businesses know they need to get more rigorous in how they approach marketing but rarely have the time or the expertise to do it.
A major challenge is that digital marketing channels have a high barrier to entry. Improving your SEO and measuring your website’s conversion rates are extremely important, but climbing up search rankings, using statistically significant A/B testing and driving insights from Google Analytics can be complex for even the most technical of marketers.
However, small businesses are missing a trick by not being more analytical in their approach to social media. When you’re a small business doing one hundred things to keep your business afloat, being efficient with your time is crucial. And refining and improving your social media efforts is an easy win that any small business can do that will drive results for them over the long-term.
Enter the Test, Measure, Reflect and Refine model
We’ve developed a straightforward approach that will make your social media marketing better and better as time goes on. We call it the Test, Measure, Reflect and Refine model.
It’s an easy method to get the most out of social media and is applicable for any sector, industry or business on any social media platform. It bears a lot of similarities to the Build-Measure-Learn approach that is one of the pillars of The Lean Start-up, the book that’s swept through the tech start-up scene over the last few years. It forms the basis of everything we do at Digital Mums and we ingrain it into every mum that we train as a social media manager.
In terms of results, it has played a massive part of the success we’ve had, helping us grow from an unvalidated idea to a sustainable business in under 18 months. We’ve supported the delivery of over 40 social media campaigns based on this model, with another 60+ currently in the works.
How it works
The premise of the Test, Measure, Reflect and Refine model is simple - expand upon what works and throw away everything else that doesn’t.
It’s a general approach that should be adopted whether you’re doing day-to-day management of an online community or running a social media campaign based on a specific objective. It focuses on constantly tweaking and improving on content, conversations and engagement.
There is so much in-depth information out there about social media and a whole host of best practices you can adopt. However, every audience varies and what works for one audience might not work for another. Developing detailed user personas can allow you to make some very educated guesses, but the only way to validate them is to test, test and then do some more testing.
If you’re running a campaign based on certain assumptions about how your audience will engage, you should test it at a small scale before running it in full. You can measure the results and then make changes based on what you see. If it’s day-to-day management that you’re doing, you should choose a couple of things to test each week.
Perhaps one type of content works much better than another. Or one platform’s results are much better than another. Perhaps you’ve seen people responding to a particular type of messaging. Maybe certain times of the day work better than others. If you’re stumped for ideas as to what to test, here are a few places to start:
- push different content formats i.e. photos, videos and text
- push different content subject matter
- schedule posts at different times of the day and week
- try different lengths of posts
- engage with different influencers
What you choose to test first doesn’t necessarily matter - the important thing is just to get started.
What’s great about digital marketing when compared to the non-digital space is that everything you do can be tracked and measured.
Every major social media platform now has its own analytics platform (well not all - I’m looking at you Instagram), allowing you to drill down into the detail of every single post you make.
Some of the analytics platform can seem complicated at first, but they’re worth persevering with as the richness of data you’ll get is mind-blowing. Once you’ve begun your testing, you’ll want to wait a week or so before you start analysing it.
Once you have your data you can start to think about what this means for your campaign and your activity. You’ll need to sit down with the data and spend time really understanding what it means for your campaign.
It’s easy to be a bit overwhelmed when faced with the vast array of data from social media analytics. Distilling key insights will really help you improve your activity, but first you need to know how. Particularly, identifying which metrics are the most important ones and then what to do about the data you find. Here’s a quick breakdown of some of the most important ones.
Date / Time
By comparing data over time you can draw insights into any spikes or drops that happen. You can see if there are certain times of the week, or month that you get high performance or unusually low performance. For example, you might get much less success on the weekend but above average success mid-week so you should then push more activity mid-week and less at the weekend.
Depending on the platform you’ll get data on the people following you and sometimes even data on the people who have viewed your profile but aren’t following. This is hugely useful to see whether you are in fact reaching your target demographic. If you’re aiming to reach men, women, people of a particular age, etc. this metric will help you to understand if you’re achieving this. Perhaps the content you’re pushing out is not quite right for your target audience and so you need to change it up.
This metric is particularly useful if you are looking to build brand awareness. You can measure how many people are likely to have seen your activity. A spike in reach could be due to the subject of the content you share, or it could be to do with the format of content you share (photos, videos, articles etc.). You could see a dip, which might be because your volume of activity was less that day than compared to previous days, so you know you need to make sure to post more.
A big spike on a particular day might be be due to social shares from a particular influencer - you then know to focus on further building your relationship with this person as they have the power to reach your audience
If you’re looking to build relationships and engage your customers then you need to know which updates are generating likes, comments and social shares. By looking at the number of times people engaged with your activity you can learn a great deal about what your audience responds to. A spike could be due to the subject of content you share, or if you post at particular times of day. A tweet during commuting time might get more favourites as people are bored on buses and looking to engage whereas one at the weekend might get much fewer likes because people are too busy having brunch.
If you’re aiming to drive people to your website then this is a key metric to look at. And it’s particularly insightful to see how many people are visiting your website to see if brand awareness is translating into a deeper understanding and interest in your company.
It’s also useful if you’re sharing curated content as it shows how people are engaging with that content - are they clicking through to read articles for example.
Obviously it’s great to track your follower growth over time. You might have a drop in numbers compared to last week. What could that mean? Have you been posting enough or joining in conversations as much? Maybe a spike in followers is due to a popular hashtag or event you piggybacked on, which then might be a good strategy to continue.
Once you have the top insights from your data you can then refine your campaign and your day-to-day activity to take them into account. You can duplicate your more successful activities and get rid of those that haven’t worked. You might start posting more images, scheduling more activity in the evenings or engaging more with some of your specific influencers.
And once you’ve refined, you can begin testing again, a never-ending cycle to consistently improve your performance. You might only see incremental gains in the beginning, but over time these gains will add up and ensure that you build an engaged and constantly growing community.
Too many small businesses market on social media without ever knowing what engages their audience, endlessly spinning their wheels with little improvements over time - then they wonder why nobody is engaging with them and write off social media as a marketing channel.
Using our Test, Measure, Reflect and Refine model will give you a strategic, analytical approach you can apply to social media. Doing so will maximise the success of your activity and continually improve your results over time.