Testing, testing… is this thing working?

You need to test your social media to know if anyone is hearing you!

Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

Testing is one of those things we like to avoid if we can, but if you’re avoiding testing your social media performance, you’re missing out on a lot of valuable information. Through testing you can discover who is viewing your social media, when they are doing so, and most importantly, if it is effective in spurring them to action. Testing your social media can seem daunting, but it’s important  – after all, it’s your forward facing communication to potentially the whole world! How do you make social media testing make sense in a meaningful way?

Define success and how you’ll measure it

This is really just another way of saying ‘know your goals.’ I like to phrase it as defining success because testing anything is pointless if you don’t have the measurement criteria to know if it performs well or poorly, if it passes or fails. Knowing your goals gives you the criteria that you will be testing. There are many different criteria, and they all sound a bit vague, but it helps if you look at what they mean for you, to help you find out which measurable is closest to your goals. As an example, Chandal Nolasco da Silva, wrote an article on Mention, 4 Metrics You Must Measure for Social Media Success that breaks down some of the more nebulous terms. Her definition of reach for example, makes it much more clear that it is about the size of your potential audience, and then breaks it down into different types of reach, based on organic, sharing, or paid. One it is looked at in those terms, growing your audience/potential customer base is a great goal, and know you know the right metric to test to see if you are succeeding in it.

Sometimes it seems that something like engagement or reach can’t be truly quantified, but we’ve learned that all the social media platforms build in a suite of data analysis tools to help those concepts become measurable stats. You can also use different social media tracking applications, which can do even more analysis of specific posts, including deep demographic breakdowns to really understand who engaged most with your posts, and when. There are lots of them out there, so it’s really just identifying which analytics tool can get you what you need in the most efficient way.

Keep it Simple

There are so many variables with social media, and it is very ‘tinkerable.’ No matter what platform you are on, there are many things you can tweak. Do you want to try different images, messages, different times of day to post, different offers or contests? Do you want to try draws or contests? The answer to that may all be yes, but if you do it all at once, how can you know which change had the most impact? Enter A/B testing. A great article on it by Christina Newberry, for Hootsuite, called A/B Testing on Social Media: How to do it with Tools You Already Have breaks it down well.

Basically, A/B testing means testing two slightly different versions, and seeing which gets better results. By only making small changes at a time, and comparing them to each other, you can be able to understand what is having a real impact in your testing. What I like about this is that it isn’t just a good or bad rating of one thing, it is a comparison between two very similar things, which allows you a deeper knowledge of what your audience is looking at and looking for. Instead of just ‘they didn’t like that one tweet,’ it’s ‘they preferred the tweet with the simple image, instead of the image with text in it.’ That is much more useful information!

Choose a Timeline

How long should you run a test for? It needs to be long enough that you get a good amount of data to measure, but not so long that it becomes the new normal, and you can’t remember what you were testing. I think the best way is to determine what can give you the best sample size of data. You could say that you would run your test until your posts were seen by a certain number of people, but maybe there was a spike in traffic for some reason, and you may stop your test too soon, or start to analyze before you have all the information to help you do that well. Most experts, such as Julien Le Nestour, in his article, How long to run an A/B test for argues that the best way is to run your test for whatever constitutes a business cycle for you. In almost all cases this is a week, but it might be different for you. By using a cycle approach, even if you have very high numbers one day, you will have the rest of the cycle to see if that continues, which can tell you if your high numbers were from a post that was an attention grabber that faded quickly, or led to sustained engagement.

Once you really know what you would consider a success in a social media test and how to analyze it, you know what element you will test in a clear and simple way, you have a duration planned for the test, I think you are well on your way to making sure you are being heard, loud and clear!

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Da Silva, Chandal Nolasco, (June 25, 2020), 4 Metrics You Must Measure For Social Media Success, Mention, https://mention.com/en/blog/social-media-success/

Newberry, Christina, (July 10, 2017), A/B Testing on Social Media: How to Do it with Tools You Already Have, Hootsuite, https://blog.hootsuite.com/social-media-ab-testing/

Le Nestour, Julien, How long to run an A/B test for?, Julien Le Nestour, https://julienlenestour.com/long-run-ab-test/

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