LONG READ: Why you need a social media review and how to do it [INFOGRAPHIC]

You need to run a social media review and, reader, I’m here to help you.

I’ve come up with a four-stage process for you to assess the channels you have and the channels you need today. 

What you’ll get if you go through it is: 

  • An understanding of where your audience is and where you need to be
  • An understanding of how your channels are performing.
  • An understanding of the gaps, the successes and the things that need to be closed down

This is the process developed over the last 12-years when I’m running a review.

Because I’m nice like that I’ve created an infographic on the process for you.

You can download that here.

Why run a social media review?

If the recent events at Twitter teach comms people anything its that the landscape is ever changing and nothing is permanent.

Most public sector channels were set up around 2010. Most have never really been looked at since they were set up. Often I’ll see the busy comms team shovelling out tweets with a link just because someone did it in a certain way. That someone is now long gone but the team have been locked into legacy behaviours that nobody has questioned.

Time is limited and the channels that you have take time. It’s vital that you look at the channels that are most relevant rather than doing something because you’ve always done it. 

If you run a review you’ll be better able to focus on the important channels rather than ones done through habit. 

The important thing here is data.   

There’s a slide I’ve used for years with the words ‘Without data you’re just another person with an opinion.’ It comes from W. Edwards Demming an American engineer and statistician who helped rebuild the Japanese post-war economy.  

If you use data you are better able to make a case and educate your organisation.

Why educate your organisation?

Simply, you need to educate your organisation on the changing landscape to give better advice.

As a comms person, you need the data at your fingertips to give that advice. What worked 10-years ago often doesn’t now. What worked 10-months ago can’t always be relied upon. One of the important tasks is to stay abreast of the data. I’m less bothered about trends without data. Duck egg blue, I’m sure, is marvellous. But if the trend comes without some supporting numbers I’m less likely to pay attention.

Google Plus was a trend. It died because it had no decent data. 

What channels would you look at?

In 2023, the channels to look at in the UK would be Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Nextdoor and LinkedIn.

Step 1: Your audiences

First things, first. 

Let’s look at the audiences you have and to keep it simply I’ll look at four things.

  1. Geography

If you’re in the public sector then geography is paramount. Is it UK-wide? Is it regional? Is it in the boundaries of your NHS Trust, council area or the towns, villages and cities covered by your fire and rescue?

From the list of channels, for geography, I’d be looking at Facebook groups across your community. According to research I’ve carried out in Braintree in 2022 there are more than 400 Facebook groups with 1.2 million individual memberships. Yes, these were all mapped and counted.  That equates to eight Facebook group memberships for everyone who lives in Braintree. 

For example, the population of Coggeshall in Essex is 3,900 and the largest Facebook group Coggeshall, Essex has 7,600 members. That’s almost twice the entire population. Of course, not everyone will live in Coggeshall but they’ll all likely have an interest in the village.

These Facebook groups fill the role of the parish pump conversation and the patch reporter who covered an issue by knowing the patch.

Also important for geography is Nextdoor the platform that has more than 10 per cent take-up and which Ofcom says has an audience over 55. 

Geography may also be relevant for Instagram and TikTok with key hashtags or influencers who have an audience for whom geography is relevant. The #barnsleyaccent hashtag on TikTok, for example, is a rich corner of TikTok that celebrates the accent. In Fife, welcometofife has 35,000 followers. Both are part of the landscape.

Geography plays a part in most other channels but Facebook groups and Nextdoor are key.  

  1. Business

The business audience also plays a role on social media and it pays to be aware of their reach and influence. Here, LinkedIn comes into its own. Groups are a key part of the platform often unexplored by the public sector. The Shropshire Business LinkedIn group has 4,000 members, for example. A Shropshire Freelancers and Entrepreneurs has 162. Both may be relevant audiences if you need to reach business in the county.

Facebook groups sometimes have a business flavour but less often.  

  1. Media

For this, traditional media is surprisingly effective. News people talk about swapping print dollars for digital dimes. The cash-generating small ads, display ads, property and automotive that generated the profits for newspaper groups have largely moved online.

But despite the print decline, audiences have often moved online. In Sunderland, less than 20,000 people see a copy of the Sunderland Echo built more than 70 per cent will see a piece of Sunderland Echo content online. This could be from email, a link forwarded in a community Facebook group, Twitter or most often from a Facebook page. The Manchester Evening News is a classic example with 20,000 print copies and 1.7 million people liking their Facebook page. 

Twitter is also where journalists can be found. 

While some news organisations are experimenting with podcasts, TikTok, Snapchat and other channels Facebook is the driver.

  1. Partners

Your partners’ social media is often overlooked. But sharing content at key times of year can amplify a message. Think of the benefit of the public sector getting behind a fire and rescue bonfire night message in late October or flu messaging for the NHS in winter.

  1. Your own internal channels 

Internal comms is often the bridesmaid left behind while the popular trend takes all the love and attention. But organisations in the first weeks of pandemic free from IT-shackles often experimented with channels as an internal comms solution. Facebook groups for staff or informal WhatsApp groups proved themselves as lifesaving routes to the organisation’s best advocates. 

  1. Minority groups

The broadbrush often captures the big numbers but it does nothing to capture minority communities. ONS data or the council website will often give you a breakdown of minority groups in your area. The council equalities officer may give you a breakdown of the best ways to reach them. The Facebook group Polski Erdington in Birmingham, for example has almost 4,000 members and Hackney Council brilliantly used WhatsApp in the pandemic to reach the observant Jewish community after a conversation with community leaders. 

Your demographic audiences

This is the one that most fascinates me. 

Each demographic group uses technology in a slightly different way. 

Dig around the Ofcom and UKOM websites and you’ll find a mine of available useful data that shows how your audiences are consuming social media and online news. 

The splits are usually 16-24, 25-34, 35-44, 45-54, 55-65 and 65+.

Broadly put, UK under 24s have nine different platforms where at least a fifth of them are using it every month. As you go through the age ranges, over 35s tend to gravitate to Facebook as their primary social platform. 

Using this will give you good idea of where your audiences are online.

From looking at how people are consuming social channels you’ve got a better idea if you are barking up the right tree when you map your own channels as an organisation. As 74 per cent of under 24s are using TikTok, do you want to reach this group? You can start to make sense of where the gaps are. 

Your channel performance

As you’ve looked at how people are consuming media you’ve an idea where the gaps are. In turn you can see when you look at your own channels at where you’ve maybe been left high and dry. Time spent on the corporate MySpace in 2023 needs to be re-allocated.

In 2023, the channels to look at in the UK would be Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Nextdoor and LinkedIn.

Your insights in the backend can be useful for establishing your audience. 

Take a look at the following: 

  • Followers or likes.
  • When the channel was last updated.   
  • Across a seven day period, hope many updates, how many were calls to action, how much engagement there was, messages inwards and how many were replied to.

This will give an idea of how engaging and therefore how successful your channels are.

I issue a green, amber and red rating. Green needs to be celebrated. Amber needs a helping hand and red needs to be either closed down or to face radical surgery. The equalities Twitter that hasn’t tweeted in nine months is causing pure reputational damage, I’d argue. So to is the Facebook page posting repetitive posts with the same content or the Instagram that’s pure call to action. 

I’ve long advocated an 80-20 split between engaging content and call to action. Social media is social. If its not then people feel as though they are being sold to and the channel will fail.

Again, this is where you need to educate the organisation.    

Your report

Your report pulls all this together and gives a list of strategic and tactical recommendations. 

Nobody says this will be straight forward. It takes time but all good things take time. By taking this path you can better allocate time and scarce resources. There is nothing so demoralising as ticking a box and knowing deep down that staying late will make no difference at all other than to your blood pressure.

The communications landscape is a fractured and often changing thing. You need to be on your toes. 

To chat about social media reviews at your organisation drop me a line dan@danslee.co.uk.

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