One way to learn any subject is to try and model success. Find people who you believe are successful, deconstruct their methods, adapt them and apply them to your situation. But ‘Success’ in marketing is to evaluate.
What is Success?
With marketing this can be hard:
- how do you know they are successful
- are they ‘popular’ or are they converting
‘Success’ in marketing is hard enough to evaluate anyway.
With social media we have more ability to evaluate externally than in other places like blogs etc.
We only have access to external signs, we can’t see conversion metrics or revisit stats.
But we can see:
These are the Indicators we can use for evaluating if the person or company we are modelling is adopting a tactic or strategy that may be successful.
What does it mean - likes
Twitter has a bookmarks feature as well as likes - does anyone actually use bookmarks? Bookmarks may have cut down on the number of likes that mean “I’ll read this later”, but I suspect that it probably hasn’t.
Likes then can mean multiple things, and we have to be careful taking them as a sign of success.
They may mean:
- this is rubbish, I’m going to show this to people later
- I like this
- I have no idea if I like this, I will read it later
- oops, I accidentally clicked like and didn’t realise it
But it is a sign that the tweet appeared in someone’s feed and is a fairly good indicator of engagement.
On Instagram, Linkedin, Facebook and YouTube like usually means something more positive:
- I like this
- I noticed this
- keep going
YouTube has dislikes, which are interesting because they might mean:
- this is too controversial for me
- this is too challenging for me
- I don’t care about the content, I didn’t like your t-shirt
- I don’t like your voice
- I’m your competitor
What does it mean - sharing
Sharing works differently on different sites but is usually a fairly good indicator of success.
Sharing, even in the context of a slightly negative share, can put your content in front of people who would never have seen your message, and who might go and look at some of your other material as a result.
Sharing is a stronger sign of engagement and success than ‘likes’
Comments and Replies are probably stronger indicators than sharing, but can actually do less for growth than sharing.
Comments in the form of reviews, which are positive are always useful.
But comments are usually representative of the person leaving the review, than the content.
Comments are often useful to the content creator because they indicate gaps, ambiguities, or sources of new content.
From an external review, comments might be a useful indicator of sentiment. More than likes and dislikes, comments offer insight into the reaction of the person commenting.
Comments can also offer a source of sharing, particularly on Twitter, people will retweet comments, which really means that comments should be engaged with on social platforms.
- reply to comments positively when they are positive
- use comments as a way to explain your point in different words with different examples
- always be positive in your comments even if the comment was negative (always take the high ground)
What does it mean - followers
Tools like socialblade.com can help with followers. This will show you follower counts over time. This might correlate to type of content, or volume of content. So if you see spikes in someones follower count it might be worth drilling into their feed to see what they did around that time to evaluate if it was type or volume. It might also be an external factor that you can’t evaluate from the feed e.g. attendance at a conference, sending out an email newsletter, being mentioned in a newsletter etc.
Social Blade will also reveal dips, where people lose followers. Again this might be content, but it is also a result of bots. Follow/unfollow bots are common which obscures the follower counts, because the more popular you become, the more bots you attract.
One thing to look for with followers is the ratio between followers and following. i.e. if the person is following more people than they have followers then the follower count probably does not accurately reflect the impact of content.
Evaluating External Indicators are Challenging
External indicators can be challenging, but they are a sign of engagement. And provided the engagement is not negative, it is usually a fairly good sign that some approach in the messaging made a positive difference.
When I’m reviewing other people’s use of social media for what is working, and what is not, I’m looking at the combination of engagement. e.g. a like, leads to a retweet, leads to a comment
But it is very hard to evaluate long term.
Competitor Analysis Requires Experimentation
When modelling and evaluating people’s use of social media I try to scan trends.
- What type of content attracted more engagement?
- What similarities can I see?
Then experiment with your distilled evaluation of those similarities, e.g. images with cats do well, I’ll create a post with an image of a cat and see if that does well for me.
Track the evaluations you make for content types, and keep testing them.
This may not help you with conversion. i.e. what we are modelling are Engagement Strategies which can help grow our profile. But it is Conversion and Sales that grow a business, and you may need to adopt other strategies to achieve those goals.