Five Ways to Create a Social Media Audit

By: Guest | April 18, 2011 | 
Deirdre Breakenridge is an author, entrepreneur, and the president of Mango! Marketing.

In PR, we’ve always conducted a communications audit as a part of our strategy and planning process. Now that social media is integrated into our communications programs, the social media audit becomes an equally important part of the bigger program.
The audit is an opportunity to fix what’s wrong with social outreach, to guide your new efforts moving forward and to prevent your company from making the same “old” mistakes from the past.
When you conduct an audit and evaluate your social media properties, there are a few areas you want to review. Afterwards, you may learn that these areas need to be adjusted sooner rather than later.
  1. Branding guidelines and visual identity. Is the brand identity being diluted as social media properties continue to pop up to represent your organization? It’s really important to decide what guidelines employees need to follow when setting up social media profiles. For example, which logo should be used by the “official” or main page vs. those pages set up by various departments within the company? What approved imagery or taglines should they use? Gather approved logos, acceptable taglines, brand imagery and other specific guidelines and make them available to employees for easy set up of social sites.
  2. Engagement on a scale of one to ten. Each social property is set up for engagement, which could range from informing key stakeholders via a Twitter feed to inspiring and helping customers through direct conversations on Facebook (to answer questions, solve problems or alleviate concerns). The audit may quickly uncover that several properties are extremely active with high levels of engagement (these sites score a rating that is closer to ten). At the same time, other properties may have much less engagement, with respect to direct conversations and are on the lower end of the rating scale.  This is your opportunity to decide whether the properties with little engagement should jumpstarted, or shut down, or redirected to another more dynamic property.
  3. Purpose or intended strategy. When you set up a social profile, it doesn’t always keep its intended purpose. You might find that a profile meant to build community and answer consumer questions turns into a one way messaging feed. How do you keep a profile on track and reaching intended goals? One way is to create a purpose or strategy process, in the very beginning, prior to site creation. Any department or employee who wants to create a social profile will fill out a form that clearly discusses the objectives, goals and overall purpose of the property.  Your social media team will be able to evaluate the purpose and strategy, before the site is created, which will help to guide and maintain the effort over time.
  4. Frequency of posting. You may find that many of your existing profiles are not posting frequently enough to gain traction with customers. Then, in other cases, you may see that you’re just bombarding audiences with unwanted messages. It’s important to keep the conversations going, yet careful consideration should be made to the volume of postings. Your outreach should always be meaningful and not seen as “Spammy” or self-serving. Listening to constituent conversations and keying into the information that they require helps you to manage your flow of communication. When you listen closely, you will find the right frequency that suits your customers’ needs.
  5. Creating meaningful content. If you want to connect with your customers as a helpful resource, then this is contingent upon the content you share. When you audit, pay careful attention to the type of information you present to your constituents and whether they consider it valuable enough to share with their networks, or take the time to let you know that they appreciate the information.  Moving forward, by listening to their conversations, you will be able to proactively develop the content that people want to receive from you.

The audit is not a one-time process; it’s a six month or yearly exercise that can truly take your social outreach to a higher plateau and help you to achieve your goals. If you haven’t taken the time to audit your social properties, it’s never too late to start.

Of course, it’s a lot easier for smaller companies and those brands just starting out. However, even large brands can take advantage of the audit process by evaluating a cross section of Facebook pages, Twitter handles and other social platforms, to get a better idea if the overall social media initiative is headed in the right direction.

Remember to audit, fix it, and then move forward!

Deirdre Breakenridge is an author, entrepreneur, and the president of Mango! Marketing. A 20+ year veteran in the communications industry, Deirdre is considered one of the 25 women that rock social media and is listed among the top PR 2.0 influencers in 2011.  Deirdre is a co-founder of #PRStudChat, a dynamic Twitter community for PR students, educators, and professionals and she also blogs at PR 2.0 Strategies.

  • DonovanGroupInc

    Great and timely post as I’ve just finished speaking to several non-profits who are fighting (as Dave Fleet from Edelman Public Relations in Toronto calls it) the “GMOOT” impulse which is “Get me one of those”…get me a Twitter account, get me a Facebook account. The tendency to look at Social Media and your online presence as a silver bullet or stand alone solution is a tempting one but a misleading one as we who live and breathe the medium well know. Deirdre’s advice here is great food for thought for those new to the medium and positive reinforcement for those who have been in the game for some time. Thanks for sharing – great stuff which I am already sharing with my clients as I write. Andy

  • shelholtz

    All great advice! I may be a bit off-topic here, but I get concerned when I hear or read the word “audit” bandied about as if it’s something anybody can do for themselves. An audit, by definition, is something that’s conducted by an objective third party. As I noted to a friend who conducted a webinar on how to do your own communication audit, I’ll buy that concept as soon as the IRS lets me audit my own tax returns. Thus, I would argue that all the great points you make are something you want to make sure the auditor you bring in covers — or incorporate in a self-assessment. But I would caution against undertaking an audit of your own efforts.

  • HowieSPM

    This is a great post Deirdre. Holds beyond PR.

    I think engagement has to be looked at cautiously. I have a friend who is now in charge of Social for a video game company that has almost $1 bil in sales but a very low social media presence to date. They hired a big Social Media firm who has lots of case studies with zero proof of success on their website. So I brought up one of my favorite examples. McDonalds with 7 million FB Fans. They get about 600-1000 Likes and Comments per post which divided by 7 million is zero. Divided by the 26 million meals served per day is negative zero. BUT since we miss on average almost all tweets and facebook feed posts once we get a few hundred connections its more a function of the platform than the brand or what they are doing. And so 1000 people could be viewed as good especially if they bring quality engagement input.

    I get surprised we don’t see hard data coming out. If McDonalds had 500,000 clicks on a unique wall app I think we would hear about it since Facebook is desperately looking for such success. They would probably tell Mashable even without the Brands permission LOL

    I often see inflated expectations on the one hand and sometimes inflated achievement on the other. Depends on the person and their job title. And this can lead us astray. It is important people who craft strategy and do the audits look hard at their own goals because even creating 1 rabid brand ambassador for a big company could be a pay off as long as they can see what they spent to get that.

  • ginidietrich

    So three things: We were getting ready to record Inside PR today and Joe said, “Gini. You got Deirdre Breakenridge to guest blog for you?” “Yes, Joe!’ He responds just, “Wow.”

    You got @shelholtz to comment! That only happens here when I have my enemy pants on. Way to go!

    And lastly, AMEN! We’ve had three clients of late that wanted to jump onto the social web and we fought back, asking them to first let us hire someone to do an audit. They all three agreed and we found the social web makes zero sense for two of them (right now). What a waste of time and money it would have been had we not done an audit! So thank you for this!

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  • 3HatsComm

    @shelholtz Good point on the objective 3rd party, ITA that a fresh set of eyes can see not only what you’ve done, but how and why what you thought you did wasn’t always what really happened, see what you need vs. what you just wanted. And yet, the pessimist in me wonders if the agency or consultant trying to get more biz will always be 100% objective. Or maybe that’s the hat I’d wear on the other side of the table.. as if I was a doubting client thinking someone is just trying to sell me something. FWIW.

  • 3HatsComm

    “The audit is not a one-time process.” Co-signed. Research, reevaluation, it’s how you’ll learn what’s working, what isn’t so that you can adapt, improvise and make needed improvements. Like you said, so you can fix and move forward. That Twitter account you made last year is SO 2-years ago. Social media moves, changes and is evolving at such fast speeds, you can’t rest on your laurels and keep doing what you’ve always done; you have to work and stay on top of it. FWIW.

  • wendyroan

    Great post. Thanks so much. Gini, Would you be willing to share what you found that leads you to the conclusion that a social web presence isn’t the best strategic communications choice. I’m struggling with a client right now on this very conversation. Thanks!@ginidietrich @shelholtz

  • ginidietrich

    @wendyroan Hi Wendy! I can certainly answer that because I agree with dbreakenridge but she wrote this so I’ll let her start.

  • dbreakenridge

    Thank you, Shel, and you make an excellent point that the audit process is conducted by a third party. In this case, it’s more a call to action for communication professionals to be aware and to review and assess social media properties, in an effort to have a best practice program. The use of the word “audit” was to get attention, because it does make you think of the IRS or what an accountant does with respect to financial statements at year end. But, certainly an objective third party is the most qualified to audit. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  • dbreakenridge

    @wendyroan @ginidietrich @shelholtz In response to your question, Wendy, I’ve been conducting audits for clients and it’s interesting to see how some of their online communities are thriving and others have very little engagement. And, in some cases, there are properties completely inactive, which probably shouldn’t have been created in the first place. The best way to assess where you should create a community is by “listening” to conversations and determining if the people you want to reach are active participants in those networks. And, if the brand can be a meaningful resource, then there’s a reason to be there. It’s easiest when a brand determines that customers or other constituents are having conversations about its products and services, or sees that a competitor is active in a particular network. Then, there’s an immediate need to observe and join the conversation the right way. However, it’s a large social universe and there are times that we need to use technology (through keyword searches) to uncover topics or issues related to the brand that determine which communities would be the potential places to engage. Monitoring the conversations may lead to creating a presence and joining in the discussion and sometimes where not to spend time and resources. I just recently worked with a client to determine that a Facebook page would not be the best option for a department within the organization looking to create a presence. However, that same department built a blog on its website, and has a thriving community. I’m finding with many brands it’s a healthy mix of media when it comes to reaching constituents. Social media, in many cases, is a big part of the mix.

  • dbreakenridge

    @HowieSPM Hi Howie, thank you, and I agree that we have to keep the expectations in check. It’s so important to be realistic about what our social efforts will achieve and how we can measure the achievement to show a realistic picture and the value of a social media “win” rather than something that’s inflated. I think the audit or evaluation process, is a good way to identify that realistic view of what’s happening with public interactions (whether it’s a large or small company) and the information obtained can be used to create even better ways to engage; to provide more meaning and valuable engagements for customers moving forward.

  • One thing I would add to this would be an industry and audience analysis – basically looking at how social media has affected the client’s industry and then how their audience is interacting with each other and with brands online, what kinds of content/formats are they creating and consuming, what the demand is like for content, etc.

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