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This article was first published in the April 2018 issue of British Dealer News.

Do you know what aspects of your social media marketing are achieving worthwhile results? Equally, do you know what’s not working and why?

Performance testing and iterative improvement are concepts familiar to everyone in the motorcycle trade, but yet they’re often overlooked when it comes to marketing – and social media marketing in particular.

Last month I mentioned the abundance of free data that’s available to help you measure the commercial impact of your social media activity. I’m returning to that topic, because its importance can’t be overstated.

I’ll work on the assumption that you already have a clear picture of the role social media plays in your overall marketing strategy, and that among your tactical objectives are things like developing awareness of your brand (and products/services), increasing online sales, improving customer service, and supporting in-store promotions and events.

For illustration purposes, let’s look at brand awareness and online sales (or enquiries if you’re not actually selling online) and how you can measure social media’s contribution to their growth.

Awareness raising boils down to getting eyeballs on your content and the messaging that surrounds it. To figure out how effective you’re being at attracting those eyeballs, you need to monitor audience reach, post impressions (views), and post engagement (interaction). Audience reach is a measure of how many people have had your content presented to them, while impressions are the number of times they’ve actually seen it. Post engagement is the most telling of the three metrics, because it relates to the volume of likes, shares, and comments a post has received.

Even if your audience base is relatively small, a high rate of post engagement means you’ve done something that worked and will increase audience reach. The content you see first, and most often, in your social media feeds are posts that people have interacted with. More interaction delivers greater reach, more impressions, and therefore increased awareness of your brand and what you’re trying to promote.

On the other hand, if you’re posting stuff that nobody ever reacts to then you need to re-think your approach. After all, “doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results,” is a definition of insanity.

You’ll get a general feeling for how you’re doing with post engagement from the notifications you get in real-time about likes, shares, and comments. For a more objective and reportable perspective, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter all provide free analytics. In the case of Facebook, where you’ll find the data under the Insights tab of your business page, you can also compare your performance against that of other brands.

Orders and enquiries that come through your website can be collectively referred to as conversions. In other words, the conversion of a website visitor to a customer or prospect, or a website visit to an order or enquiry.

Measuring conversion rates, and comparing how different social channels and other sources of traffic perform, takes us into Google Analytics territory. It’s another completely free resource and hopefully you already have it set up on your website. You’re really missing out if you don’t, because it provides a wealth of information you can use to make your marketing more effective and your ecommerce more successful.

Which brings me back to the real point of this month’s article: measuring performance is essential, but you need to understand the data and then act on what you learn.

When something doesn’t work – achieving little or no post engagement for instance – ask yourself why, do it differently the next time, and keep trying new things until you find an approach that resonates with your audience. And when something does work well, don’t fall into the trap of endless repetition. Even the funniest joke gets old eventually.