The Metrics of Social Media
Taking engagement to the next level.
By Ingrid Anderson, PT, DPT, OCS
Your business is on Facebook and Twitter. You may even have a YouTube channel. You have hundreds or thousands of “likes” and “follows,” and the numbers are growing. You update your blog regularly, and your clients and followers are “talking” about you on social media.
If you are trying to grow business through social media, this is not enough. Marketing is only useful if it generates sales, and if you are using social media as a marketing tool (rather than just for patient and community outreach), then it must lead to increased revenue or it represents time and money wasted.
Using and understanding metrics
Analyzing website and social media metrics can be overwhelming. “Engagement” is a fuzzy word that refers to the user’s interaction with your brand, but it can be measured. However, several metrics are generally accepted as effective measures of engagement.
Here are some examples:
- Conversation rate is the number of comments or replies to a social media post.
- Amplification rate is the number of times a post (or tweet or picture) is shared (retweeted or re-pinned).
- Applause rate is based on the number of “appreciations.” All social media platforms have some way of showing approval: likes, favorites, and even most blogs have a “thumbs up” icon to denote approval.
- Relative engagement rate measures different social media platforms against each other. Using this rate, you can see how you compare on different platforms, and even by user.
While you could track all of these metrics manually using each site’s analytics, numerous tools exist to help you, including TrueSocialMetrics.com and SimplyMeasured.com, both of which offer either a free trial or free version. Many can also show you how your metrics stack up against your competitors.
Economic value is the most difficult to quantify. What is the revenue generated and cost savings from social media? This is a challenge, since most people do not frequent Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, or Twitter to buy or find a product or service, unlike a Google search.
During a patient evaluation or initial visit to your physical therapy practice, ask new and returning clients, “How did you hear about us?” However, this question reflects only the first or last piece of marketing material “touched” by the client, and social media interacts with clients and potential clients throughout the continuum of their decision process. For larger practices, it may be more valuable to measure the effect on visit counts and revenue by using historical data.
Even social media and marketing experts are divided on how to measure return on investment (ROI) from social media.
If you are on social media, then you have a Klout score. Klout.com ranks users on a 1 to 100 scale based on the amount of interaction with the user’s content on the major social networks. It is a quick way to find out how you rank compared with other companies and individuals. (The average score is 40.)
Right platform, right message
Once you understand how your social media platforms are performing, as well as how they are performing against each other and your competition, you can use this to update and refine your content. More than 50 social media sites exist, and below are some of the most relevant to physical therapy.
- Facebook is the largest social network and its newsfeed is king. Increasing “likes” and comments on posts will influence higher placement in your followers’ newsfeeds. According to Kissmetrics, a popular analytics blog, posting photos instead of just text increases “likes,” comments, and click-throughs. Keeping your posts brief helps, too—posts with 80 or fewer characters increase engagement by 66 percent. Question posts are more popular than statements, increasing engagement by 100 percent.
- Twitter should be used to make announcements (think of it as a 140 character press release), link to interesting and relevant content (either yours or someone else’s) or to express your opinion on topics in which your followers are interested. Twitter is driven by the headline, so a catchy phrase is key. While photos can be posted, it is the 140 characters that must catch the readers’ eye as they scroll through ever-changing posts.
- LinkedIn is one of the oldest social networks and has a wide reach. The biggest mistake companies and individuals make with LinkedIn is posting a profile and then abandoning it, but this makes it fertile ground for diligent marketers. LinkedIn should be used to post articles and information relevant to our industry and your clients’ interests. Joining groups and becoming a regular contributor can help develop your business reputation as an industry leader and expert.
- Pinterest is one of the largest and fastest growing players in the social media arena. “Pinboards” are created using photos from other sources. When a user clicks a photo, he is directed to the original source. Physical therapy is very visual and pictures of exercises, positions, equipment, techniques, and sports can be appropriate pins. Pin photos and information from a variety of sources, not just your own site. Be deliberate about what you pin, because the photos create an association between your company and the site you pin.
- YouTube may be both the second-largest search engine after Google and number two to Facebook as a social media outlet, depending on what metrics you use. The idea of the “viral video” is largely a myth. Many, if not most, videos that “go viral” have significant help in the form of media and marketing professionals. That does not mean that you cannot use YouTube to create content that addresses your clients’ and potential clients’ needs. Videos should be short (two minutes is best), high-definition, and easily searched using relevant search terms. A “call to action” at the end of the video along with your website can be helpful.
When determining what social media platforms to choose, it’s important to understand your demographics and choose accordingly. The Pew Center 2013 Social Media Update includes relevant data on demographics for each of the largest social media platforms, and there are some big differences among urban versus rural, age brackets, and gender in both platform and engagement.
When to post
There are hundreds of articles and lots of data about the best days and times to post content on various social media sites. The real answer is: It depends. According to most sources, social media usage peaks in the mid- to late-afternoon hours; however, this doesn’t necessarily translate into peak engagement. A 2013 study by global marketing intelligence firm IDC reported that almost 80 percent of smartphone users check their phone (and along with that, their newsfeeds) when they first wake up. So if your client and patient base consists of professionals from 21 to 44 years old, your prime posting time may be at 5 a.m., to make sure you are at the top of the feed.
Significant differences between demographics (gender and age) with regard to social media and blog-reading habits exist. Analytics through the social media sites will give you detailed information about the gender and age distribution of your “fans” and who is engaged on your site. The best way to figure out the best times and days to post is by posting and analyzing when you get the most views.
Hootsuite.com is the most well-known free content-scheduling site. Klout.com also has scheduling features.
Who “likes” your business? (And why is it important?)
Sure, all of your friends and family, current and former patients already “like” you on Facebook and follow you on Twitter. But what about others? Analyzing the demographics of your social media and experimenting with timing and content of posts can give you great information whether you have a hundred or a thousand followers. For large practices that already have a social media presence, this can become cumbersome.
More importantly, you could be missing VIPs hiding in those contacts, according to Rosalyn Lemieux, CEO of Attentive.ly, a firm that helps companies monitor the “digital body language” of customers across social media platforms. “We find that many of our clients have VIPs hiding in their email lists and social media audience,” says Lemieux. “Some of the most common are B-list celebrities and active bloggers.”
Companies like Attentive.ly can help you find out who is “talking” about you on social media, and who among your “likes” has influence or high Klout scores. Tailoring your message to those who have influence and are already sharing your content can help increase your own influence and amplification rate.
No matter what platform(s) you choose, consistency and relevance are important. “The biggest social media mistakes I see are business owners only using it for marketing and not posting anything relevant,” says Lynn Steffes, PT, DPT, of Steffes and Associates Consulting Group. “You need to have a plan, and the content needs to be fun or at least interactive.”
Ingrid anderson, PT, DPT, OCS, is an Impact editorial board member, the head of Intown Physical Therapy in Atlanta, Georgia, and an adjunct clinical assistant professor at Mercer University. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.