January 4, 2013

A social media reporting battle plan

A mix ’n’ match approach allows you to mimic costly reporting tools, stay on budget and still find meaningful data.

At some point, your boss or client has probably asked for a social media report. Unfortunately, there is no quick way to create one. Like many other communications efforts, the evaluation stage is the first to fall victim to the mortal enemies of a PR team—tight deadlines and even tighter budgets. In an ideal world, you would always assess your progress. Regrettably, the demands of managing hospital communications usually spell sayonara to any thoughts of reporting.

But don’t let dwindling hours and a tiny budget stop you. With a little self-coaching and practice, you can craft social media reports for your hospital or service line without using up all your time or allowance.

As we officially learned last month, most of us are unhappy with social media measurement. Even the expensive tools leave something to be desired. But here’s the good news: A mix ’n’ match approach allows you to mimic costly reporting tools, stay on budget and still find meaningful data. So, let’s take on two social media favorites and come up with a battle plan.

Managing Facebook

Stick to Facebook Insights. It’s free, fast and relatively painless. You can sort by date range and compare. First, find out if your page is gaining or losing momentum. For the key metrics, take a look at Likes and tab views (under Reach). Compare it by month or quarter. You can easily display the numbers in a nice, neat table or graph using Word or Excel. Also use the Reach tab to find out how many people saw your posts and where they were located. Under Overview, check what posts had the largest reach and highest number of engaged users. These metrics have the most to do with EdgeRank, which determines what is displayed in people’s news feed. For example, comments have greater value than Likes. Unless you have time to get down and dirty, stick to topline metrics. If you have time, take a harder look at your most popular posts. Take screenshots and show your boss what types of posts are really resonating with your audience.

Looking at Twitter

Twitter doesn’t have its own internal insights, but don’t fret. Spend a little money on a monitoring tool like HootSuite or Sprout Social and you can receive updates on popular links, peek at trends and look at daily engagement. On the free side, a hidden gem is Followerwonk. Not only will you get your influence score, but you can also see the scores of followers. Drop competitors’ Twitter handles into their compare users search and see how you stack up. Under analyze followers, look at the map. See if the bulk of followers are located near your hospital. Another fantastic graph displays follower activity by time of day; use it to schedule tweets during high-activity hours. Finally, right from Twitter, use the connect tab to view what handles you most frequently interact with. Unless your hospital are receiving dozens of retweets and mentions per day, you can check it manually.

If you use other social media platforms, there is usually a way to monitor without blowing your budget. Putting Google Analytics on your website (free) will display how much traffic is coming from your social sites. Educating yourself on social media monitoring requires a time investment on the front end as you explore and adjust, but the learning curve is not unreasonable. Don’t expect a monitoring site, paid or free, to drop a report in your lap. There is no standard way to create one. Keep it simple. Use the metrics that make sense for you; ignore the ones that don’t.

After you’ve done some research, request a meeting with your superior. Set the expectation for what free and low-cost monitoring can produce. Together, determine what social success will look like for your hospital or service line.

This article originally appeared on Ragan’s Health Care Communication News