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Published on June 14th, 2011 | by Amelia Northrup


The Art of Social Media Analytics, Part 3

Summer is the “off-season” for many of us in the arts world. Why not take this time to refresh your social media strategy?

This is part 3 of our 3-part series on social media analytics tools. Check out Part 1 and Part 2.

blue_dataThe last part of our series concerns making management decisions based on data. Once you have the data, what do you do with it? As we come up with more sophisticated methods to track social media sentiment and reach, it becomes possible to track more accurately how people are responding to social media. This is especially important because social media can be a valuable part of your market research. It is like a 24-hour focus group, answering many of the questions you may have about your audience as well as the questions you didn’t think to ask.

As mentioned in Part 2, there are a variety of questions that you may have about your audience and a variety of tools that track different measures of success. Some tools are narrowly focused on one measure, while others give you a conglomeration of these measures. Some examples of the measurements of success include:

  • Sentiment: Are social media users referring to my organization positively, negatively, or neutrally?
  • Conversions: How many and which fans are buying online (or offline)?
  • Spikes in activity or “buzz”: How are social media users responding online to campaigns?
  • Impact: How many people is the message reaching and how much influence does the organization have? How many people are sharing posts?

When thinking about measurement tools and management decisions, the first question is often, when is it worth it to pay for analytic tools? As technology evolves to be able to track more specific and more valuable information, more paid analytics tools have come on to the market.  There are two basic instances where it’s worth it:

1) when you have a large customer base

2) when you need enterprise-level social media analytics

Firstly, if you have a large customer base or a large social media base (no hard and fast rule, but larger than 100,000) and you are literally having trouble monitoring comments on your brand, you need a tool that takes more of a summary view. Secondly, most paid tools are enterprise-level tools-tools that more than one person can manage or assign tasks to others and have other special features. If you feel you need this type of functionality, then paying for an analytics may be worth it.

Besides those two factors, a company should also consider the elusive “Holy Grail of Social Media,” return on investment, or ROI. Many organizations have found a “chicken and the egg” scenario of needing time and resources to show results (often, revenue), but needing results to convince upper management to spare the time and resources to devote to social media. This situation can be difficult; you might try proposing a pilot program or experiment with a cheap or free tool before proposing a larger investment.

One institution that has made a practice of using data to make decisions in social media (as well as investing in technology—check out their web and new media strategy) is the Smithsonian, under the guidance of tech guru Nancy Proctor. As one employee put it “why would you change anything without metrics and feedback?”

Once a company has the analytics tools in place it’s easy to observe your numbers of fans, interactions, and gauge the quality of those interactions. What’s more difficult is translating your observations into actionable decisions.

A simple example is that of David Horgan’s, eMarketing Specialist for Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. David had experimented with linking ads to their Facebook page and their homepage. “We found that the ads that direct people to our Facebook page (rather than to our homepage) were about 3x more effective on a cost per click basis.” Management Decision: Direct more ads to the Facebook page than the homepage.

Another example is the blogathon on the Smithsonian Collections Blog that Rachael Cristine Woody worked on for American Archives Month. According to Rachel:

Until that time we had almost solely focused on collections content.  In October we shifted to also cover our profession and offer a more behind-the-scenes look at what we do/deal with, every day.  These posts became the most popular posts we’ve published so far, numbering in the thousands for direct hits, and to this day still receive at least 100 hits a week.  It was at that time that I think the blog truly found its most invested and engaged audience, and it helped to call attention to us that we should be covering more on our profession. 
Management Decision:
In addition to giving the collections exposure, engage and influence the professional community by providing transparency, advice, and support.

The National Museum of American History combined traditional survey techniques with data from analytics tools (Google Analytics and WebTrends data, click metrics from HootSuite, etc.), comparing the results of four closely-related surveys on each of four major communication channels (their blog, email newsletter, Facebook page, and Twitter feed). Although more complex, the results allowed Dana Allen-Greil to make decisions regarding how the Smithsonian communicated with patrons:

At the National Museum of American History, we’ve long had a hunch that our Twitter feed should focus on conversational and educational content, rather than marketing in-person events. If our followers aren’t local, do they really want to hear about events they can’t come too? Click metrics from HootSuite plus data from a survey of our Twitter followers gave us solid footing to make the case against Twitter as a platform for driving foot traffic to the museum.  Less than 25% of responders reported planning a visit to the museum after seeing a message from us—this is compared with over 55% of email subscribers who said they did.  Even more to the point, less than 10% of Twitter followers reported attending an event compared with over 30% of our email readers.  We discovered a similar trend with our Facebook fans and have altered our content strategy accordingly.
Management Decision: Use Email (not Twitter) to Promote Synchronous, Location-Specific Events.

More info on Dana’s Twitter content strategy can be found here.

So there you have it. As much as social media can seem nebulous, there are specific things to measure, to think about and analyze, and then to make decisions that you can feel confident about. When you develop your social media strategy for your next season, mix things up a bit with some new questions about your audience, new tools, and a new perspective on the art of social media analytics.

Special Thanks to the following people for their contributions to this series: Michael Edson, Brian Hinrichs, Maggie Johnson, Katryn Geane, Kristin Garbarino, Devon Smith, Lindsay O’Leary, and Crystal Wallis.

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About the Author

Amelia Northrup is the Strategic Communications Specialist at TRG Arts. She serves as a writer and editor for the firm's consulting projects, Data Lab research and analytics projects, and a contributor to TRG's knowledge center online. Formerly of the Center for Arts Management and Technology (CAMT), her responsibilities included writing for the Technology in the Arts blog, as well as authoring white papers and reports. She has presented at the NAMP, TCG, and Performing Arts Exchange. Additionally, she is a member of the Advisory Committee. Previously Amelia worked for two years in marketing at Kansas City Repertory Theatre before becoming a student in Carnegie Mellon's Master of Arts Management program, graduating in 2011. She also holds degrees in Vocal Music Performance and Communications from University of Missouri.

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