What kind of framework should you use for evaluating content and engagement performance on social media? We look at one option.
How does a publisher keep track of the many touch points their organisation has with social and other platforms? Consider the number of departments which now have significant interest in maintaining visibility on how their publication’s brand officially intertwines with platform dynamics, from background factors such as video advertising rules, to very visible points such as content formats.
From the marketing and revenue side, there’s a need to stay on top of various monetisation and visibility strategies, as well as new and developing opportunities from the different platforms. Meanwhile, from an editorial perspective, everything from storytelling techniques to audience building and content distribution warrants close attention.
The issue for those managing these various touch points quickly boils down to the question of what are my primary concerns regarding this platform, and how are we performing on that front right now?
Tackling this effectively requires some creativity, yet could quickly become very bogged down in too much detail and over-complication. That’s why German publisher Bild’s solution is so attractive.
A recent Digiday article explained how the site has implemented a ‘distributed content value framework’ in order to quickly evaluate its relationship with platforms.
The publisher evaluates key platforms — Facebook, Google, and Snapchat — on developments in areas of key strategic interests, such as brand expression, user engagement, and ‘relative monetization’. The system uses a simple red, yellow, and green light system to give a quick visual representation of how progress is being made in each area. On a surface level, the framework is represented like this:
Simple colour-coding indicates the progress of various teams on areas of key interest involving the platforms. It’s effective in keeping the conversations direct, and allowing people outside the daily operation of each area to get an understanding of where things stand quickly.
It’s a striking idea, and one that can even be broadened out to be used to evaluate various projects in audience development. With a continuous cycle of feature releases and new formats, settling on the most crucial aspects of your social publishing campaign can be a worthwhile exercise in itself. There’s also a lot to be said for coming up with some kind of measuring stick for the efforts publishers put into platforms. Here are some reasons why:
1. It helps focus on what matters in your strategy on a daily basis,
2. It provides a means of tracking experience with different platforms in a consistent manner,
3. It allows team members outside the data and analytics space to get a quick overview of how content performs
For audience development and social media editors in particular, being able to grade efforts on the basis of results makes sense. It can sometimes be difficult to highlight audience engagement wins. The numbers are high and change regularly. For anyone not working with the metrics each day, it can be tough to convey progress via spreadsheets. The system doesn’t necessarily have to be the traffic light version used by Bild.
Any regular tracking framework will suffice, as long as it has been simplified, is easily replicated, and can be deciphered by wider members of your organisation. But to make sure that any new framework is a genuine reflection of performance, there are some factors to be considered to ensure that what’s being measured makes sense.
Crucially, the metrics involved need to be adaptable and platform-specific. So, while the framework itself is easy to follow, the underlying data and methodology is custom built, and differs depending on platform, content format, and audience. For instance, grading ‘engagement’ on Snapchat and Twitter will be completely different. Similarly, audience building on Facebook versus a platform such as LinkedIn will require relative metrics.
Let’s take three areas that audience development specialists will be particularly interested in to start.
Social media engagement can be seen as the pulse of an active social publishing campaign. Without sustained engagement (shares, comments, clicks), your visibility and audience contracts. Therefore, high-level engagement metrics are one of the most basic indicators of page and content health, even if they should always be taken into account relative to other metrics such as clicks, time on site, and subscriptions.
To figure out what measurements make sense for each platform, perform some analysis on the growth patterns you see for each platform.
Each platform has a variety of interactions that users can choose from, so consider how to weight each to come up with an overall score. Look at metrics such as average percentage growth in Facebook shares so far this year, and try measuring against it next month. Are comments or views more important for you than shares? Then adjust their input in the final score.
If growth is slower than expected or fluctuating unpredictably from month to month, apply a cautionary tag. If you see significant engagement drop-offs in a month with no real change in output, it’s time for a red light.
There are two strands to this aspect — growth of audience, and ensuring sustained and regular engagement with existing readers.
Getting a lot of new viewers and subscribers on a popular post is of less value than you think if a decent percentage of them do not continue to engage with future content. Similarly, stagnation of existing readership is something that all audience development editors should be alert to, across platforms.
Here are some things to remember when considering what colour your light should be when on the question of audience:
• What percentage of traffic to your site from individual platforms comes from returning visitors?
• What proportion of your site’s ‘side door’ visitors have visited more than once in the past 30 days?
• Are other developments, such as experimentation with new content formats and increased social engagements, having a discernible impact on traffic, dwell time, viewership, or other critical consumption metrics?
3) Content formats
Format is slightly more difficult to measure than engagement or audience growth, as it is mainly predicated on the features that a platform makes available to publishers. When large platforms release new features, from video enhancements to article formats such as AMP, publishers need to have a framework for approaching them.
The goal here is to attempt to quantify how experimental your site is on different platforms, without going so far as to turning the entire business model over to any one format or platform.
Publishers can consider the range of formats and distribution channels available to their content on various platforms. To what extent is your team utilising all that Instagram stories has to offer, for instance? And how many of your story viewers are swiping through to your site? Taking usage into account helps when making a decision about whether to fully utilise a particular format or not.
On a related note, brand expression is another key area for many publishers who worry that their own identity is being swallowed up by the homogeneous nature of social feeds. To what extent would a new reader be able to identify your story over a competitor’s? In Bild’s case, Snapchat was the only platform of three (the others being Google and Facebook) that scored highly on this count.
Putting this a framework like this into effect isn’t exactly a brand new idea. Teams have been measuring targets forever. But in the context of measuring platform relationships, it’s particularly attractive. With so much energy and resources spent in this area by publishers, it’s worth taking the time to plot your progress.
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