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Editor's Note: We get a lot of questions about using data and analytics to guide your HIV communication efforts. We’re sharing this popular blog post again to highlight some of the ways you can use data in your work. Remember, if you need help with your social media metrics, sign up for our Virtual Office Hours or take a look at this list of free social media marketing courses, many of which emphasize metrics and evaluation.
Data and analytics: two words that can sound intimidating if you’re not a trained data analyst. But collecting data and analyzing metrics can transform how organizations use social media to communicate. Particularly for public health organizations, these data can help answer important questions about your online audience, including:
- What types of content perform best?
- When is the best time to post content on each channel?
- How often should you post content?
At HIV.gov, we routinely assess our metrics and make adjustments and enhancements to our communications based on data. Here are some tips on our approach:
Measure What Matters
There are many metrics that an organization could track, but it’s important to spend time thinking about what you should track. The metrics you collect should be based on your communications goals. For example:
- If you want to measure reach and brand awareness, consider tracking total followers, new followers over time, reach, impressions, and shares.
- If you want to measure user engagement, consider tracking likes, favorites, shares, replies/comments, and mentions.
- If you want to measure how much traffic social media drives to your website, consider tracking engagement with social media posts (link clicks) and incoming traffic to specific web pages (you may need to create customized links to measure this).
Finally, if you want to measure behavior change, consider setting up dedicated experiments where you use social media in a controlled environment.
Once you’ve determined which metrics you’re interested in collecting, you can decide which tools you’ll use to collect that information. Many social media platforms have their own built-in analytic tools (often free), like Facebook Insights or Twitter Analytics . If you want to track all of your social media channels in one place, or are looking for additional metrics, you can use a third-party tool. We previously covered some of the free and low-cost analytic options, which include:
To learn more about putting these ideas into practice, we spoke to Jennie Anderson, Senior Program Manager at Kaiser Family Foundation/Greater Than AIDS , who shared why her team tracks metrics:
“Analytics and measurement are an important part of any social media strategy. Data help us refine and create powerful messages that reach those in need with up-to-date, relevant information,” said Anderson. “We use a combination of quantitative data, in particular Facebook Insights and Google Analytics, as well as qualitative information, such as comments on post, user engagement, and reactions, shares, etc., to inform our digital outreach.”JENNIE ANDERSON, Senior Program Manager, Kaiser Family Foundation/Greater Than AIDS
Similarly, Kyle Taylor, Senior Manager of Communications at NASTAD , and his team use social media metrics to make adjustments to strategy and content in real time:
“Analytics are a vital component of our social media strategy. Our communications team uses Sprout Social to track and create a weekly analytics report. This allows us to see in real time which messages are resonating with our audiences and make adjustments on the fly,” said Taylor. “We also create an annual analytics report that we share with our entire staff. I’ve found that sharing data helps our colleagues have a better understanding of how we are engaging our stakeholders.”KYLE TAYLOR, SENIOR MANAGER OF COMMUNICATIONS, NASTAD
If you still have questions, there are free online classes and guides that can help you get up to speed, including:
- The Beginner’s Guide to Social Media Metrics
- 5 Essential Social Media Metrics to Track and How to Improve Them
- Google Analytics Academy
Even experienced digital marketers can sometimes struggle to understand—and make good use of—the social media data they collect. Whether you are new to social media or a seasoned expert, we’re happy to provide one-on-one technical assistance to help you make the most of your metrics. Sign up for our Virtual Office Hours today. While you’re at it, don’t forget to sign up for our emails to get information about digital tools delivered straight to your inbox!