How to evaluate your social media brand beyond the numbers

Let me tell you about something I call ‘Empty House Syndrome’ – picture yourself as a trick-or-treater on Halloween, going door to door to collect candy.

You approach the homes with lights on and ghoulish decorations on display knowing you’ll be rewarded for presenting yourself with a treat. If a house is dark and lacks the appropriate skeletal effigies and dangling ghosts, you skip it as it’s not worth your time to knock on the door without boosting your candy haul for the night. But the homes that suffer from ‘Empty House Syndrome’ are even worse than those darkened and uninviting – rather, they have the lit Jack-o-lantern on the porch, yet still refuse to come to the door when you knock. They invite you in, then let you down when you show up.

That’s what a poor social media presence is like – you pretend like you have good stuff to giveaway and the promise of an interaction, only to disappoint people when they try and do so.

Taking stock of social media performance is growing in importance for businesses. Social media is being integrated as part of the communications strategies for sales, marketing, customer service, and professional networking. To prove the return on investment – or to show the money spent, time invested, and efforts made are having an impact – there are a number of tools coming to market that will quantify your social accounts. Analytic software that reports on social media accounts will educate you about:

  • Your reach, or how many people you could possibly touch with your social media messages.
  • Your influence, or how important the people you’re engaging are according to other social media indicators.
  • Your overall engagement, or how much you’re responding to others on social media and being involved in conversations.
  • Your popularity, or how much you’re being liked, followed, shared, etc.

These are all important. Any business serious about having a presence on social media should be carefully looking at these numbers regularly. But while quantifying your social activity gives you a snapshot of where you stand, it doesn’t tell the complete story about where you’re going, or what you’re doing to get there. After all, behind those brand accounts are real people that are talking to other real people.

An eight point scoring system to evaluate social media presence

My evaluation approach puts numbers aside and looks at how social media accounts are being used, who’s paying attention to them, and what activity is taking place. It awards points for healthy, positive activity that will promote growth in followers and engagement. Rather than judging a social media account based on the numbers, it evaluates its based on actions.

Here’s how the scoring system works. You can award one point, or a half-point for each of the following aspects:

  • Presence exists. A social media account has been set-up. Congratulations. One point.
  • Graphics created. Custom, branded images have been created to make the social media space as interesting as possible. This has been done to its full potential and the result is aesthetically pleasing.
  • Automated feed. In some cases it may make sense to set up automated posting from an RSS feed. In other cases, this is a really bad idea. You have to think about what you want to accomplish with the account and what purpose it serves. For example, we have our @ITBusinessca account tweet out our headlines automatically to keep our followers updated as to the latest news to hit the site. But if you’re running a customer service account, then spitting out automated feeds might not make sense. Automation alone isn’t enough to achieve good impact on a social network.
  • Evidence of human life. Is the account clearly writing posts that are written by a person that is giving thought to how the content relates to the brand, and with a clear purpose as to what that account is out to accomplish?
  • Consistent engagement occurs. Does the person behind the account actively talk to others, for example by @ mentioning them on Twitter, in a courteous and productive manner? This should be happening on a near daily basis.
  • Evidence of listening. Does the person behind the account find people talking about the brand on social media and engage them in a positive manner? Is there sign the person is not just posting to the account, but paying attention to what others are saying?
  • Sharing by audience. Does the audience find enough value in the content to repost it? Are they perhaps sharing to social media from your Web site, or other channels?
  • Engagement by audience. The audience is in active discussion with the account on a fairly regular basis, showing they expect a person to respond to them.

The method works well to evaluate several brand accounts and compare them against each other. It quickly becomes clear which one needs more attention and which one is healthy. Take a spreadsheet and write out your brand accounts in one column. In the eight columns next to it, lay out your points categories as the header. Then score either 0, 0.5, or 1 to fill each cell. Once you’re done you can generated a stacked bar chart that looks like this:

The eight points evaluation approach can be charted out to give a quick visual indicator of what social media accounts need attention.
The eight points evaluation approach can be charted out to give a quick visual indicator of what social media accounts need attention. Award half points in cases where some effort has been made, but more could be done.

With one chat, you’ll be able to present to a group of people how they stack up – literally – to their peers. You’ll also be communicating the important things they should be doing, but aren’t doing, and recognizing them for the actions they are taking.

In other words, you’re gaining insight into what accounts are suffering from ‘Empty House Syndrome’ – the trick or treaters are knocking on your door, but you’re not opening it to give them candy.

Making up for the short fall on accounts that need attention is a two-step plan that I’ll explore more in future posts. It involves the creation of an action plan for the social account(s) and then regular reporting that demonstrates what impact those actions are having.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Brian Jackson
Brian Jackson
Editorial director of IT World Canada. Covering technology as it applies to business users. Multiple COPA award winner and now judge. Paddles a canoe as much as possible.

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