Beyond analytics: Making social media work for you through the not-easily-measurable

One of the most important bits of social media management advice: Listen to your audience. (michaelaw/stock.xchng)

It can be tempting to measure your personal or brand’s social media success based on your number of followers or clicks. Numbers are tangible and easy to digest. But if you’re only looking at the numbers, your numbers are doomed.

Some of the best things you can do for your social media presence are not easily measurable. Branding, community building, developing influence and showing authority on your topics (Forbes) are more of a feeling than a specific number, but they’re incredibly important to social media success. With our AL.com social accounts, we want followers and clicks, but we also work to brand ourselves and show our authority as the go-to source for Alabama news. Entrepreneur might call that our specialization. AL.com also covers national topics and trends, but the thing we can offer to our audience that national outlets can’t is our local coverage, and we try to emphasize our highest quality pieces of local storytelling on social (Hootsuite).

Successful brands make their followers feel valued. People want to communicate with real people, not robots. To reach those who want to talk to you, Inc. suggests joining the social networks your target audience is already using. Entrepreneur, Search Engine Watch and Mashable all stress the importance of listening. When something goes wrong with your brand, people will talk about it on social. You need to be a part of that conversation. After we share an AL.com story, we monitor the conversations that follow. People may point out a mistake or a technical problem. If we communicate honestly and quickly, we can turn the conversation around.

Listening and responding to AL.com’s followers has been a top priority for us. It’s hard to write a rule book for every possible situation, but we’re developing a more unified voice for communicating with our audience. I respect brands that engage me on social media — whether it’s solving a problem or just saying thanks for being a customer — and I want our AL.com brand to elicit that same feeling.

I want our reporters to feel comfortable engaging their followers in a similar way. Our company encourages social media activity on a personal level, and I’m so glad that AL.com doesn’t try to restrict our voices (within reason). In a world where a Taco Bell employee thinks it’s funny to post a photo of himself licking taco shells online, it can be scary for employers to encourage social media use. But as Gary Vaynerchuk says, there are more benefits to employees having a social presence than restricting it. Companies should deal with taco-licking situations individually.

Especially since employers are looking at potential hires’ social media (Time), employees should be careful. I encourage our reporters to let their personalities shine but to use common sense. Don’t make a negative post about the company or overshare about objectionable activities. Your social media accounts have become a digital resume (Forbes), and “think before you speak” has become “think before you post.”

Tell me about your experiences in the comments: How did your favorite brand on social media win you over? Does your company have a social media policy for its employees; what does it say?

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9 thoughts on “Beyond analytics: Making social media work for you through the not-easily-measurable”

  1. With our AL.com social accounts, we want followers and clicks, but we also work to brand ourselves and show our authority as the go-to source for Alabama news.

    I find this hard to believe, given the excessive number of non-Alabama stories written by al.com reporters.

    1. Hi, Wade. As I mentioned in my post, we do report on national stories as well as Alabama stories. We have a small team responsible for national coverage, but we have far more reporters who focus on local coverage. If you think there’s a certain local story or subject that we should be covering, I would be happy to share contact information for the appropriate city’s hub leadership with you.

  2. I started following some of my favorite brands on Facebook and Twitter because of what they offer on their sites. A lot of retailers will post sales or coupon codes that are exclusive to social media sites. For example, during March Madness a cosmetic brand I follow on Facebook (Arbonne International) posted links to one day sales. They did not advertise this on their website or send out any special email…it was all done on Facebook. Instances like this keep me wanting to follow my favorite brands so I don’t miss out on any good deals.

    As for my company’s social media policy we don’t have one that I am aware when it comes to employees. With over 4,000+ employees I think it would be hard for HSN to mandate that every employee be monitored on their social media accounts. I have worked for smaller companies in the past where the owner has followed me on social media. For small businesses I think it is a good idea for the owners to be aware of what their employees do and how they represent the brand when not at work. For bigger companies I think it is impossible to keep an eye on everyone. It will be interesting to see how this changes as social media continues to evolve in the workforce!

    1. I’ve definitely participated in some “flash sales” on Facebook with my favorite brands. I also really enjoy following sites like Mashable and Gawker who write about things I am interested in. Following brands like those make me feel like I am keeping up with what the internet deems popular at the moment, and I also love that those two in particular usually use humor in their posts.

      My company’s social media policy is pretty general. It basically boils down to “use common sense,” but I would like to work on creating a more specific one. I don’t want to ruin social for anyone, but our staff needs to represent themselves appropriately. It can be tough to keep up with everyone, but we do maintain a Twitter list and Facebook list of everyone who works for our company, which helps. Obviously there are more networks out there, but thus far, Facebook and Twitter seem to be the networks that people manage to get themselves into trouble on.

      1. Social media policies are important, especially if they are meant to prevent people from abusive or distasteful conduct that could cost a company its reputation and possible cease its existence. There are a few instances where people have been fired for speaking out including:

        Chelsea Welch, a server at a St. Louis Applebee’s restaurant was fired after posting a photo of a receipt from a customer who refused to tip; presumably because of religious reasons. In an unrelated incident, Drew Brees was shocked at how his $3 tip on a $74 takeout order became a hit topic on the internet.

        Daniel Ray Carter Jr. , a Virginia sheriff’s deputy was fired for Liking his boss’s political opponent on Facebook.

        Joe Lobato says he was fired for a Facebook post as a result of him feeling sick and receiving no sympathy for his condition. Lobato complained about his working conditions in a Facebook post, and was reported by a coworker resulting in termination for “gross misconduct,” posting negative statements about the company on a “public forum.”

        I think some employers use social media as a tool to control their employees lives. On the other hand, employee actions on and off the clock do affect a company’s brand and reputation management. Social media rules should be evaluated to find a happy medium so that people can express themselves in a positive manner, and not be controlled.

      2. I couldn’t agree more, Jason! It’s all about finding a happy medium to make sure your employees don’t publicly embarrass the company, yet are still able to be themselves on their personal social media accounts. If Applebee’s employee training included a conversation about how it’s not acceptable to post photos of receipts on social media (regardless of how ridiculous the note or tip that a customer leaves), that server might still have her job, and Applebee’s might not have had to navigate that sticky situation. Of course, there’s no way to guarantee that employees will follow such a policy, but the employee should at least know what is acceptable behavior on social media according to their employer.

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