Whether you’re celebrating or secretly dreading it, the final days of 2018 are upon us. That means it’s time to run some year-end social reports to find out whether your social media marketing strategy is winning–or struggling.

There’s one big indicator, however, of whether or not your strategy will have the kind of impact you need it to. Data doesn’t help you unless you know what to do with it. You can’t optimize your social strategies for the new year unless you know what to make of the information you get from the reports. An endless stream of data won’t do you any good unless you’re looking at the right data and can make use of what you see.

Here are the best ways to use the data from 2018 to inform your social strategy in 2019.

What Year-End Social Reports Do You Need?

In order to understand what social reports you need to examine, you have to understand what you’re trying to find in those reports. Not all metrics are built alike. Some are better than others when it comes to giving you the bang for your buck in terms of feedback you can use.

When social marketers were asked about their most important tools, four specific items emerged at the top of the list:

  • Social media management software
  • Social media analytics software
  • Visual creation tools
  • Sufficient ad budget

All of these tools provide marketers with information that they can use to reflect on the previous year’s successes (or failures) and start sketching out plans for the next year’s social strategy.

Measure Your Social Team’s Effectiveness

Social media management software — and the data that software can provide — is the number one must-have item on a marketer’s list. Data that gives you an understanding of your social team’s level of success is some of the most critical information you can gain from year-end reports.

Take a good look at your team’s response rate to the social contact your brand has received over the year. To do this, compare the number of messages they’ve sent against the number they’ve received, their response times, follow-ups, and resulting conversion rates.

Sprout Social has a stand-out set of tools that can help you track social conversation histories and offers an easy-to-understand engagement score that lets you clearly see how well your brand is interacting with your social audience — and where you need to improve in the coming year.

Measure Your Social Strategy’s Value

You also need a solid way to measure the current value of your social strategy. What works? What doesn’t? Social media analytics form the nitty-gritty data that can inform basic details like what content you publish and when to publish it.

Use your analytics to measure how much social traffic and engagement you are getting in order to determine which social networks work for you and which don’t. (Remember, just because Facebook has the most users doesn’t mean that it’s the best social site for your brand if your target audience is actually on Instagram!) Use this information to prioritize your social time going into the next year with an eye toward search engine optimization, particularly with local traffic.

Social media analytics also tell you which content engages your customers and what just drifts by them. The data you generate here lets you evaluate which social channels and which posts are gaining clicks, likes, comments, and reposts. Use the information to decide what you need to do to create content that will better appeal to your customer base. Content is always what drives engagement.

Measure Visual Content Sucess

Another important data set surrounds the impact of your visuals. How do your branding images and other visuals impress consumers? What’s a hit — and what’s missing the mark?

There’s an entire science behind visual content marketing that includes everything from the ideal color and fonts to the images that will best capture the minds and hearts of viewers. Better content always leads to higher engagement from your audience. One of the easiest ways to gain more knowledge about what works is by looking backward to see what has already worked and then dissecting what makes your audience want to like and share an image. Are there colors that resonate with your brand? Is it the emotion behind an image that gets your audience interested? You won’t know until you start looking.

Again, these are all metrics that you can use to drive your content creation in the coming year.

Measure The Worth Of Your Ad Campaigns

Finally, don’t overlook the data that tells you how your budget’s bottom line looks. Is the budget for your social marketing and ad campaigns well-spent? Is it enough to be effective?

While every brand would love to have an unlimited budget for marketing, that’s not a realistic possibility. You have to allocate your resources where they produce the most. That being said, it’s rarely a wise idea to reduce your marketing budget. Sometimes you simply have to expand the marketing budget to get the results you need to drive growth.

If you can’t increase your budget, you can often find ways to eliminate waste in your ad campaigns by identifying what has been unproductive in the past and focusing your resources on what methods have given your brand the best results. A campaign-specific analysis that looks at why a campaign didn’t perform as expected can often identify what you need to avoid in the future.

The Takeaway

A good look backward is often the best way to inform the future — especially in marketing. Think of the analytical data you’re looking at as your customer’s voice — because that’s exactly what it is. Year-end data is telling you what your customers found interesting, useful, and engaging — and what could have been done better. It’s your job to break that data down and put it to meaningful use in 2019.




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