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.