Why do so many small and medium-sized businesses fail to prioritize social media marketing?
I’m sure there are lots of reasons, but let me take a guess. Barring “too busy” (which is just the baseline for owners and marketers, in my experience), I think the #1 reason is that people don’t feel like they can control the outcomes.
Understandable. But while you can’t control them completely, there are tons of easy, free social analytics tools you can use to impact the results of your tweets, pins, and posts. (Of course, there are incredible paid tools like HubSpot that can tie all of your marketing efforts together for you, but I know that's not in everyone's budget right away.)
Look at it this way: All those tweets that have big ol’ goose eggs where your favorites and retweets should be aren’t failures—they’re data points. Rejoice! You weren't falling on your face, you were just providing the much-needed data sample for the next step: using social analytics tools to find the best times to post, the best hashtags to use, the right platforms to target, and even the Instagram filter that leads to the most likes.
Hallelujah! Praise Big Data.
In today's market, finding and reaching your niche is particularly important. To help businesses do this, a lot of social platforms offer native analytics for company pages and profiles (including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Instagram). These offerings range from blah to impressive, but they don’t always give you the most actionable data.
Naturally, there are tons of premium tools available at a range of price points. They usually lure you in with free versions, but there are always limits; some companies are just more graceful about it than others.
Here are a few of the tools that I think will help the most. I personally use Buffer and Tweriod on a regular basis, but there are a few others on the list that I’ve only started experimenting with recently and plan to put into heavy rotation (*cough* Followerwonk).
Twitter Social Analytics Tools
Twitter’s native analytics feature a range of raw stats, as well as the top tweet and media tweet, top mention, follower, and even more data if you use Twitter cards. If your Twitter analytics are active, you can also view tweet-specific stats on mobile and desktop, which I find particularly helpful.
All that is certainly helpful, but the lifespan of content on Twitter is so short that you need a little more info to have the maximum impact. Tweriod is my favorite way to find the best times to post on Twitter. It analyzes your tweets and your followers’ last 200 tweets and sends you an email or direct message with your results.
The report will include the times when your tweets will get the most exposure, when you have the most followers online, and even your peak times for @ replies. Then, you can schedule your tweets to post at these times and wait for the engagement to roll in. (If that's not happening, we need to talk about hashtags). The free version analyzes up to 1000 followers up to once a month.
Followerwonk is another excellent tool for improving Twitter performance. It lets you analyze any account’s followers/followings for location, most active hours, gender, age, and more. You can also sort your followers and the people you follow by social authority and a few other basic stats. All of this will help you understand your buyer personas, create targeted content for them, and focus on engaging with the people who are most active or likely to become customers.
Better yet, you can search for the top Twitter accounts that contain certain keywords in the bio (e.g. you can find the most influential users for “healthcare informatics” or “homebrew supply”), keep track of new and lost followers on your own and competitors’ accounts, and see the overlap of your followers/followings with two other accounts. One more awesome thing: with your permission, it will add a posting schedule in Buffer (see below) based on your followers’ most active times. The limitations of the free plan are mostly minor, and the value certainly outweighs the restrictions.
Facebook Social Analytics Tools
Facebook Insights, which becomes available after a page has reached 30 likes, offers a breakdown of your fans by age, gender, and location, and provides valuable data about post reach, engagement, and when your audience is active. It's definitely worth your time.
If you’re looking for something a little more customized, try Quintly, a tool for social media benchmarking. You can add all kinds of different Facebook metrics to a custom dashboard, including interaction rate by post type and interaction rate by time and weekday.
Quintly includes several different ways to visualize key metrics, and makes it easy to keep track of other users posting on your page and people talking about your brand. The free plan is limited to Facebook (premium version includes most social platforms), one user, and a 30-day data period.
Instagram Social Analytics Tools
Instagram has done a lot to prevent marketers from ruining things, like preventing clickable URLs in post descriptions, so it’s not surprising that they waited so long to provide native analytics—but they finally caved!
They launched business accounts and native analytics at the end of May. The most noticeable feature—for consumers, anyway—is the "Contact" button on business profiles, which makes it much easier for customers to contact businesses directly.
Businesses will benefit from analytics breaking down impressions and reach, particularly top posts by impressions, reach, engagement, likes, and comments sorted by different time frames and post types. You also get follower demographics like gender breakdown, age range (including age breakdown by gender), and top cities and countries.
Best of all, it includes the top days and times that your followers are on Instagram. As far as I can tell, this is based on Instagram's super-secret private data, not engagement, meaning that it's telling you when people are actually online, not just when most of your engagement happens. I could be wrong, and there's likely to be a strong correlation between the two metrics, but if I'm right it's pretty awesome.
In order to convert a standard account into a business account, you're required to connect your account to an existing Facebook Page (sidenote—Instagram is owned by Facebook), which imports payment credentials for advertising and other business info. This will also prevent the abundant fake accounts from taking advantage of these features. Note that it doesn't appear to pull in data retroactively, so you'll get the most value if you sign up now and let data accrue, even if you won't be using it right away.
Iconosquare dominated the Instagram analytics arena for a long time, but they recently limited their free services. You can still get some value out of a 7-day free trial, and if you really love it, the $50/year price tag isn't too painful.
That said, you can get started with squarelovin and see many (but not all) of the same stats at no cost.
Here are a few data points you can get from both tools (and probably competing services):
- Average likes and comments per post
- Monthly totals for likes and comments over time
- Best and worst times to post
- Best filters for likes and comments
- The hashtags you've uses
- The top hashtags on Instagram
- Account growth over time
- Most liked and commented posts over life of account
- Frequency of posting over time
- Posts per month year over year
- Most-used tag and filter
A free report from Simply Measured adds a few valuable stats you won't find elsewhere: keyword analysis of comments, most active commenters, and top photo tags by engagement per photo.
You can also explore the Instagram activity and performance of popular brands and influencers, which can be really handy if you’re competing against mainstream brands or looking for ideas that apply to your product or service.
Optimizing and Scheduling Pins for Pinterest
Pinterest offers native analytics on business accounts, with basic stats about your profile and audience, including average daily impressions and viewers, average monthly viewers and engagements, demographics and interests, and more.
If you mostly pin/re-pin things from around the web (rather than uploading images directly to Pinterest), check out Viralwoot. It’s a bit of a tease, because the free version features its own compelling stats on the front page to get you to sign up for the paid version. However, for many businesses, it’s worth the effort to be able to schedule up to 100 pins a month. You can also schedule pins with the super-affordable Buffer plan in the next section.
Multi-Purpose Social Media Tools
Buffer – The only thing on this list that I actually pay money for is Buffer (of course, we use HubSpot here at VIEO, but I don't use it for my personal social media). The "Awesome Plan," at $10 a month, is do-able for me and sooooo helpful. However, there is a free version that would be sufficient for many small businesses. not only will it make scheduling posts easy-peasy, but it will analyze the attached accounts for optimal posting times and create schedules based on that data.
Klout – By far the most simple and easy to use scheduler, Klout is a free way to schedule posts at peak times for your audience. It measures the impact of your activity on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and a few other networks through a simple 1-4 system. You’ll be able to see how much each of your social profiles contributes to your Klout score (oh yes, they give you a grade), and track your score over time to see your overall social reach rise and fall. When you’re scheduling posts, Klout will suggest times based on when your audience is most active. It even suggests articles based on your interests that you can share. It’s the perfect place to start if the idea of metrics and scheduling makes you want to vomit.
Cyfe – This dashboard-style tool can pull in info from Google Analytics, Google Alerts, Google Trends, Salesforce, AdSense, MailChimp, Amazon, Facebook, WordPress, and Twitter and organize it in real time. You can choose up to 5 modules with free plan, which is far from comprehensive, but could help you consolidate things considerably. At $19 a month, the paid version is pretty accessible, and if you use more than a few of the integrations it offers, it’s probably worth your while.
Keyhole – This nifty little website is a recent discovery, and I’m glad I found it. Just enter a keyword, hashtag, or URL and set a date range to see the number of related posts and users including that topic, as well as the total reach and impressions for your chosen subject during that time. It also shows you the peak times for the topic during the days in the selected range, making it great for finding out when the most activity is happening around a popular subject; whether you choose to post at peak or off-peak times is a matter of strategy.
All right, folks. That about does it. If I've missed anything that's helpful to you, please let me know in the comments!