So you’re an enrollment marketer who wants to get more out of your school’s social media marketing, but you’re no social media analytics guru? That’s okay.
I’ve written on the topic of social media analytics in the past, but for this post I’ll get a little more in detail about where to put your focus.
Why? Because one look at today’s analytics dashboards, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed.
Thankfully, getting started can be a lot simpler than you think.
Let’s Review the Basics of Social Media Analytics
There are three levels of indicators – let’s just say “stuff to measure,” shall we? – when you’re analyzing your social media performance.
- Primary indicators are, in general, observable effects of your social media activity – how many times your posts have appeared in news feeds, likes, comments, shares, etc.
- Secondary indicators are your marketing teams’ social media activity – your external output. (For this post, I’m assuming you are currently executing a content calendar. If you need help coming up with content, go here for ideas.)
- Key performance indicators (KPIs) are the measurable actions you most want your audience to take – the most valuable product of your social media efforts.
This means a key question you need to ask yourself, if you haven’t already, is “What action do I most want my audience to take?”
KPIs can be:
- Evergreen. An example of this might be general interest form submissions, so you can get them into an email flow you know gets great enrollment results.
- Short-term. They can be part of a campaign to push event signups (or, as the pandemic may demand in your region, virtual visit signups) leading up to key deadline dates.
Now, let’s walk through how to read analytics for meaningful information, connect your primary indicators to KPIs, then use that data to analyze your progress and prove ROI.
Step 1: Get a snapshot of your primary indicators.
You can’t start until you know where you are. This is often the biggest hurdle for enrollment marketers. With so much data to analyze, where do you look?
Let’s break down the social media analytics dashboard for three social media networks you’re probably on – Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter – and one you might not be on yet, but should consider: TikTok.
Finally, you need to take a look at the other side, too. Your website analytics will show you what traffic you’re receiving from social media and how that traffic relates to your KPI(s).
Record the indicators below in a spreadsheet, or whatever method you’re comfortable with.
If you haven’t already switched from the classic Facebook desktop design to the new one rolled out in early 2020, I suggest you do. It’s a much cleaner, simpler design, and you’ll likely have to switch to it soon anyway.
To get to Facebook Insights in the new design, simply navigate to your page and look for Insights on the left side of your screen, under Manage Page.
This is the big picture for primary indicators for whatever period of time you want to look at. The default is the last 7 days. I’d suggest looking at the last month (28 days).
It looks like this:
Image source: Facebook
If you’re just getting started with social media analytics tracking, I’d suggest you definitely record the following:
- Post Reach – impressions, or the number of times people saw your posts in their news feed.
- Post Engagements – this combines all audience responses: likes, comments, shares, etc.
- Responsiveness – how fast you’re responding to direct messages.
If you have been routinely publishing video content, check out the number of views (a “view” is minimum 3 seconds), and also record:
- Videos – number of views of 3 seconds or longer.
There may be other indicators to check, depending on your strategy. For example, if your goal is to use your page to convert visitors to event attendees, you definitely want to track Actions on Page. (While this can work, I typically recommend driving visitors back to your website instead.)
As it is a mobile-only platform, Instagram Insights is only viewable from your mobile device. If you haven’t already made your account an official business account, you’ll need to before you can get social media analytics data.
Tap the hamburger icon (three stacked horizontal lines) in the upper-left corner of your screen, and then tap Insights to access the dashboard.
There are three main tabs from left to right: Contact, Activity, and Audience. I’d suggest you start in Activity.
It looks like this:
Record the following:
- Interactions – the total number of actions taken on your account.
- Profile Visits – the number of times your profile was viewed.
- Website Clicks – the number of times users went to your site from your profile.
- Emails/Calls – the number of times users contacted you directly from your profile (calls and/or emails, depending on how you have this set up).
Scroll down to look under Discovery, and record these numbers as well:
- Reach – the number of unique accounts that viewed your content.
- Impressions – the total number of times your content was viewed (could be by the same account multiple times).
The first thing to do if you’re new to Twitter Analytics is to turn analytics on. You do this by clicking on the Tweets tab (between Home and More) and clicking on the Get Started button.
You’ll immediately be shown your dashboard.
Tweet Activity Dashboard (TAD)
The TAD is pretty straightforward. The default setting shows you results over the last 28 days.
It looks like this:
Image source: Twitter
If you have a strong video strategy, you may also want to check out your Video Activity Dashboard (VAD).
There are just a few basic indicators I suggest you record from your TAD:
- Impressions – the number of times users saw your tweets on Twitter.
- Impressions per Day – the average daily number of impressions.
- Engagement Rate – the number of engagements (clicks anywhere on your tweets, retweets, replies, follows, likes, etc.) divided by overall impressions.
- Link Clicks – the number of times users clicked through links that you shared.
From the Trends section of your VAD (right-hand margin), you’ll want to record:
- Total Minutes Viewed – total number of minutes users watched your videos.
- Completion Rate – number of completed views divided by number of video starts.
Just like with Instagram, you need to have a pro account to access TikTok Analytics. On your mobile device, tap the three dots in the upper-right corner to access Settings, select Manage my account, and tap Switch to Pro Account.
Then tap Explore Analytics to access the dashboard immediately. As a “business” or “creator,” you can also access Analytics through your Settings menu, where it appears as an option from now on.
You can choose to view your 7-day or 28-day history. Just like with the others, I suggest you start with 28 days.
It looks like this:
I suggest you record the following basic indicators:
- Video Views – number of content views for the period.
- Followers – number of followers right now.
- Profile Views – number of profile views for the period.
Finally, you need to take note of where your KPIs stand over the same time period (the last 28 days). These are the actions you most want your audience to take.
This will vary, depending on what those KPIs are. For the sake of simplicity, let’s assume your focus KPI is some type of form submission. Check whatever dashboard you use, e.g. Google Analytics (or with your IT department), to determine:
- How much traffic are you getting from each social media network?
- How many visitors have filled out the form over the last 28 days?
Divide the number of form submissions by total traffic, and you’ll have your conversion rate:
Example: 250 form submissions / 10,000 visitors from social media = 2.5% conversion over last 28 days
Step 2: Make a hypothesis and set a goal.
You now know exactly what the value of your overall social media presence is in relation to your focus KPI. Now you’re ready to make a hypothesis. Make it something simple, like this:
“If we try X, we will increase our primary indicators by Y, which in turn will increase our KPI by Z.”
Whatever X is, it should be focused on more than awareness. To move the needle, you need to strive for engagement and subsequent lead generation (form submission).
To make a good hypothesis, go back to your dashboards and look beyond activity to content and audience.
What do the prospective students, their families and alumni in your audience seem to get the most excited about? The Content tab will help you figure that out.
- Facebook: Navigate to the Posts tab and scroll down to the list. Insights gives you your reach and engagement for each one.
- Instagram & TikTok: On both of these platforms, just go to the Content tab on your mobile device to see how individual posts and Stories have performed.
The other important piece of information to consider is your actual audience – not to be confused with your target audience.
In other words, forget for a second who you’re trying to reach. Who are you actually reaching? That will help you decide whether to lean into a trend you didn’t expect, or realize you’re heading in the wrong direction and reverse course.
- Maybe you’re attracting people from much further away than you expected and you decide to lean in with more distance learning content.
- Or maybe you’re a female-only college that is attracting a lot of men and few women, so you decide to give your content a highly critical look.
Facebook, Instagram and TikTok all have Audience tabs that provide this useful information.
Twitter is all about the numbers. In the absence of audience details, creating a hypothesis is pretty simple. It boils down to looking at Top Tweets in your TAD, looking for common characteristics of those tweets and trying to repeat it.
Chances are, your videos are likely getting the best engagement on Twitter. It’s never a bad idea to try more video to try to increase tweet-to-profile and Twitter-to-website traffic.
Step 3: Use social media analytics to test your hypothesis
Now that you’ve done the tough parts – finding the data, recording the data and applying strategic thinking – all you have to do is implement your hypothesis and set a date to record results.
Whatever tweak you decide to make to your content, content type, frequency of posting, etc., put the plan in motion and stick with it until your check-in date. I’d suggest giving it at least another month (28 days in analytics terms).
Note: Whatever your hypothesis, hold yourself to a consistent standard of responding to your audience in real time as well.
If you’re committed to responding to comments, messages, etc. within 24 hours – or better yet, 12 hours – make that your top priority. Nothing kills a social media strategy faster than forgetting to be actively social!
At the appointed time, go back and see how you’ve done.
- Take a new snapshot of your primary indicators. Have they increased?
- Take a new snapshot of your KPI. Has it increased?
If you’ve done well, keep it up (and don’t forget to report the proof of ROI to your superiors!). Set a higher goal and keep climbing.
If your intervention had little to no effect, just try something else. Failure is not a problem as long as you’re willing to try something else and record your progress.
Step 4: Keep tracking progress.
Repeat this process. Set dates on the calendar for social media analytics review, at least once a quarter. I guarantee it will be worth it.
Data never ceases to be valuable, whether it tells you what you want to hear or not. It’s even valuable to track your lack of progress.
If your team has gone through a tough time that has reduced your output – a lot of turnover, budget cuts, etc. – it helps to see the downturn. That only further proves the effectiveness of the strategy when you were executing it well. It helps you argue that returning to it is a smart move.
In other words, I’m saying that social media analytics are almost more important than activity. They give your actions meaning. They help everyone see the value of what you do, and help you do it better.
If you need help with social media analytics, just ask.
I want to see higher ed institutions like yours attract more of the ideal audience for your schools. Getting comfortable with social media analytics is a big part of that.
So if you need help with this, please let me know. As always, my team and I are eager to help you get the most out of your social media marketing efforts.
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Featured image by NicoElNino via Adobe Stock