This week’s readings were all about search engine optimization and web analytics. I really enjoyed these readings because this is a big part of what I do day-to-day at my job where I manage library websites and social media. Last semester, I did a project on drafting social media policies and a project on creating goals and a dashboard related to the library website. I’ll be sharing a few pieces of those projects in this post since it directly relates to the readings.
“5 Social Media Metrics that Your Business Should be Tracking” is a good place to start, as it gave good detail on what social media professionals should be looking for in terms of analytics. The 5 metrics included were:
- Reach – This is kind of an obvious one you would want to track since it concerns audience growth rate. Reach allows you to track growth over time, which is positive because you can see the highs and lows of when your audience is at its peaks during the year. For example, I work for a public library in a college town. From tracking our reach on a monthly basis, we know that we are going to have a decrease in audience growth during the summer because a good portion of the town population is gone. For this same reason, we know we will see a spike in audience growth when the school year starts up and new incoming students begin to follow the library.
- Engagement – I have found that many novices to social media really pinpoint on the reach metric and how important it can be to your business, leading them to not pay as much attention to engagement. This is a BIG mistake because while reach shows you the size of your audience, engagement allows you to understand if what you’re posting is actually something your audience is interested in. Social engagement is not happening if you’re followers are silent participants.
- Acquisition – With acquisition, you will want to have some sort of web analytics being reported for your website, as this allows you to see how many people you’re pushing to your website from social media. Acquisition lets you know which audience members are returning vs. new and where they came from.
- Conversion – This metric allows you to connect social media date to what it’s doing for your business. This is easier to track when your business involves profits, but non-profits have been starting to use it more frequently as well.
- Activity – This shows the actual impact on your business. With activity, you can track if your business is saving money by using social media.
Another article I read this week was “A Scientific Guide to Writing Great Headlines on Twitter, Facebook and Your Blog.” This article had some great ideas and actually shows you some trial-and-error moments so you can visually see what worked and didn’t work. For example, the article found that using action words (verbs instead of nouns) was helpful in Twitter posts. It also gave a list of the top 20 most retweetable words and the correct way to post pictures to Facebook.
The article also noted research related to photos, such as photos outperform other types of posts and will get higher engagement. Be careful with this idea though because it doesn’t work for everyone. For instance, at the library I work at text posts will get the highest reach and engagement, while photos and links to websites tend to fall flat.
One thing I thought these articles left out was the idea that social media continues to change. One day the types of posts your business is using might do phenomenally, while other days they may do nothing for your company. This could be because your audience changes or it is a low time in the year. However, one other explanation social media professionals should be ready for is a change to the algorithm that determines what shows up in a follower’s feed. This happens periodically with Facebook and suddenly your posts are not doing as well because less people are seeing them due to a system change. Social media professionals should be prepared for this type of problem and have ideas ready to circumvent this problem when it happens.
I also read “How Promotion Affects Pageviews on the New York Times Website” and the academic article “Understanding web metrics and news production when a quantified audience is not a commodified audience.” If you’re interested, these two readings, “Analytics Education – Resources and Academic Programs” and “10 Questions to Ask About Your Twitter Reach & the Free Twitter Tools to Answer Them,” provide some good resources for getting started using web analytics and delving deeper into the idea.