An Agency Perspective on Social Media Measurement and Optimization
When moving from the brand side to an agency, there can be a steep learning curve and quite a few changes. These changes include a fast pace, balancing multiple accounts, and an increase in presenting. Having recently made this switch, I can say that one of the most noticeable differences — on top of those previously mentioned — is how measurement and optimization are conducted.
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Working with different clients with different needs and goals translates into viewing measurement and optimization from a new perspective. For example, one client may be establishing a social presence for the first time, another may be trying to refine a social media program that already exists, and a third may need some option that exists in between.
When assessing, measuring, and optimizing a brand/client’s social media and digital marketing, I have begun using the following four-part structure.
The first type of data I look to assess is anything that currently exists. When I am being dropped into a new account, I want to know what has been happening and what is being measured. As simple as this sounds, this data is what serves as a baseline to move forward with, as it provides an assessment of what has been taking place.
Additionally, this information can help to establish benchmarks and set goals to measure performance against. However, such information doesn’t always exist, and if that is the case, I jump to competitive and market data.
Competitive and Market Data
Competitive data is important for two reasons. First, this data provides a snapshot of what is happening in the space a brand is operating within. With this data, you can see which other brands are competing for your brand’s potential customers’ or audiences’ time and attention — along with which brands are doing this well and what that success looks like.
Secondly, you can derive context for the client’s own data and gain an understanding of what is happening within their market in order to better set goals, measurement, and meaningful reporting.
While establishing and understanding competitive benchmarks serve as important means for keeping an eye on the competition and informing measurement, they can be limiting if the client’s industry traditionally underperforms.
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I prefer to use competitive data with the caveat that it’s best to know the market and be aware of how your brand is performing within said market, but to also not be limited and bound by this market. Instead, brands should aim to not only be the top social media destinations in their market, but also best in class, regardless of the space they’re operating within.
A Measurement Framework
Now that all of the fact-finding and research elements are in place, the next step is to put this data into a framework to craft a structure for analysis and reporting.
Such a structure is something I’ve written about before in much more depth and with examples. However, here is a quick rundown.
The top level of the framework is the business objectives that social can feed. These are the most crucial for being able to show how social is contributing to a brand’s bottom line and its influence within the larger marketing mix.
Feeding into the business objectives are the marketing objectives and success metrics, which provide the contributing elements to the larger business objectives. Most marketing reporting happens at this level, whereas c-suite briefings and executive summaries reside at the business objective level. This area is where metrics like compound audience growth, awareness, engagement, traffic, and conversions are measured and tracked to determine channel performance and effectiveness.
The final layer is optimization. This part may or may not be reported out on, depending on the client, but it is essential in building a high-performing structure. Under this section are the rates, ratios, and tests being conducted to determine what is driving real results. The optimization level contributes to the insights needed to make data-driven decisions and iteratively enhance a social media marketing program.
A Test-and-Learn System
The key to success when leveraging optimization data is adopting a test-and-learn system. Coming from an agency perspective as an outsider and not being close to a particular brand or industry forces us to stay true to data-driven decisions.
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To help establish a culture for continuous test-and-learn, I establish tests, KPIs, a regular reporting cadence, and a near real-time reporting dashboard. An example of this may look something like:
- Launching with content developed from an audit and target research
- Developing insights from in-market performance of various creative executions and established tests
- Using insights to create a new generation of creative
- Generating more insights and repeating the process to continuously inform future strategy with a consistent feedback loop
As social and digital marketing becomes more advanced, the aim is to drive highly targeted, relevant, dynamic, and personalized content marketing programs.
As a result, a lot of time is devoted to developing comprehensive audience profiles and archetypes — along with lookalike audiences and custom highly engaged audiences based on pixel tracking — to run tests against.
Once the audience foundation is set, tests are run and the optimization metrics are measured through cohort analysis/audience analyses and content analyses to optimize toward delivering the most relevant content to individual groups, i.e., the right message at the right time to the right person. This level of testing and learning also transcends social media (to all digital touchpoints) to create a truly integrated digital marketing mix and enhance individual channel effectiveness.
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Jay Shemenski is a Senior Digital Strategist at Hill Holliday. He is a digital strategist with 6+ years of experience at brands like AARP and Harvard Medical School. His expertise is in developing comprehensive brand experiences and digital marketing strategies to successfully engage audiences and establish long-term growth.