Many brands are successful on social media, so they must all have access to that elusive social media magic bullet, right? How do I get my hands on that “secret formula” for publishing engaging social media content? The hard truth is that the one-size-fits all formula doesn’t exist.
There isn’t one set of mystic answers that every brand can replicate in order to be successful on social media. Success on social media is about building a relationship with your audience, and it depends on how that audience reacts to your social efforts. So how do you know what the “secret formula” is for your audience? Testing, and lots of it.
Testing organic content may seem like a daunting task, but you are limiting your success without it. For large amounts of data, there are many social media tools that can assist with the collection and archiving of information from various social platforms. However, it is important to focus on the insights gained from that data and allow those insights to inform your social media decisions.
Before you can begin testing anything, you need to make sure that you have a good foundation of information to work from:
- Know your audience - Hopefully you’ve built out a social persona. If not, make sure you really understand your target audience. Go beyond demographics and think of identifying characteristics, interests, and need states. What platforms are your target users on?
- Know your brand - What is your brand voice? What tone have you used on social media in the past? What are your business goals for social media? What is your customer value proposition?
- Know your resources - What team member assets and/or budget do you have access to for producing social content? Do you have the capabilities to produce rich content or just text? What size audience do you have the resources to manage?
- Brainstorm - Come up with a list of what is relevant to your audience. What topics are they interested in? What products or services do they use? What other industries or brands do they have an affinity for or have existing relationships with?
The Basics of Testing Content
There is a lot of information that can be extracted from testing content published to different social media platforms. One key thing to remember is that insights will differ across platforms, so you should have a different “secret formula” for each platform, based on each audience.
The inherent aspects of each platform (such as its user demographics and content capabilities) should also influence your formula by platform.
Here are some key questions that can be answered by testing:
- What should I post about?
- How much branded content should I post?
- What type of content should I post?
- What time of day should I post?
- What day of the week should I post?
Let’s tackle the above list one at a time, just to make it easy.
First, pull out the list you created during your brainstorm. Create pieces of content (or use content you’ve already created) for each topic, product, or service you listed based on your resources. Start with an 80/20 rule initially, with 80% of published content being non-branded content and 20% of content being branded content.
What is the primary business goal you listed for social? Make sure you measure each piece of content against the metric that reflects that goal, whether that is referral traffic, shares, or viral reach.
Once you identify content topics that perform well, expand on them and continue testing. Remember to acknowledge qualitative feedback from your audience as well. Are they using comments or questions to point you in the right direction?
The next step is to vary types of content. Using topics that seem to work well, post different types of content (depending on the platform). Do your Facebook polls seem to get more response than links? Do photos get more shares than videos on Google+?
Now you should have an idea of what types of topics your audience relates to, including branded products or services, and have an idea of what content mediums they interact with. Next, vary the times of day you post. Do you tend to see better results during certain times of the day? What about days of the week? Are your users most receptive on Monday afternoons and Thursday evenings?
Your first round of testing will only give you a basic idea of what, when, and how to post. You’ll have to continually evolve and test your social content and continue to monitor the reaction of your audience, as that will also change over time. Success, whether measured by shares or referral traffic, is gained when the content you produce provides value to your audience.
It is also important to keep an eye out for content fatigue. Posting the same topics or same types of content continuously may diminish the value of your content in the long term. Find a happy mix of content topics and post types.
While your audience may enjoy pictures of cats, make sure you don’t just publish pictures of cats. Strive to add value to your audience with a well-tailored content mix.
I guess you could say that there is a “secret formula,” only it doesn’t tell you what to post or when to post your social content but how to discover those answers. As with all digital marketing success, you must inform your actions with data and insights gained from data analysis.
Content testing is an ongoing process and is an important way to gain those insights in order to cook up the “secret formula” for your brand’s success on social media.