Social Media for Businesses: Using Sprout Social to Improve and Enhance Your Social Media Strategy
For even the most digitally-savvy business, finding the time to keep up with posting and engaging on each of your social media channels can be a challenge.
At Fresh Egg, we advocate an ‘always on’ social media policy – if your competitors are using a platform to successfully engage with your potential customers, you need to be making the most of that opportunity too. You do not need a presence on every single social media platform that exists – by knowing who your target audience is and where they spend time online, you can work out which platforms you should be spending the most time and resource on.
Driving engagement is a key part of any good social media strategy. By generating significant engagement with the appropriate audience on the appropriate social media platforms, you can in turn drive traffic, downloads, sign ups, sales, or any other metrics that are important to your business. But how do you plan and report on the performance of your social media activity? We use one of our favourite tools – Sprout Social – to not only post more efficiently but also report on those all-important engagement metrics to ensure our activity aligns with our business goals.
Watch the video below to see what Sprout Social is all about.
Posting using Sprout Social
Sprout gives you the ability to post and schedule on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn from within the tool. In the ‘Publishing’ tab you and your team can schedule posts on each of these platforms or queue messages to go live at a preset time. We use both of these features at Fresh Egg. Taking a couple of hours at the beginning of the week or month to schedule messages across social accounts saves time doing so on a daily basis.
Scheduling for different time zones
Adding content to the Sprout Queue automates posts to be delivered at set times. Sprout allows you to set up to ten custom post times per profile. This is a great option for posting in different time zones. For our Australian social media profiles we simply set custom post times that are optimised for Sydney. The image below shows the queue settings.
But be reactive too
Maintain a consistent level of social activity by scheduling posts in Sprout Social, but always aim to leave some time in your day to post reactively too.
Your followers will expect some level of instant engagement and when it comes to breaking news, timing is everything. If your business has the flexibility to be quick off the mark on a relevant trending topic, creating content and socially seeding it instantly, the benefits in terms of engagement with your fans will be huge.
The optimal thing you need to remember is that any reactive tweets need to be relevant to your audience. For example, if you’re a law firm, do you really need to comment on the ‘Are You Beach Body Ready’ controversy or latest football scandal? Don’t fall into the trap of having an opinion on every trending topic.
Always write content that is optimised for Twitter rather than using a feed from Facebook that will cut off the end of the message and vice-versa. Don’t post your tweets on platforms where using ‘@’ and ‘#’ are going to look out of place. This lack of optimisation will destroy the user experience and make your business appear amateur.
To save time, it is recommended that social posts are recycled regularly in addition to new content. Depending how large your community sizes are will depend on how often messages can be reposted.
Use the ‘Report’ tab and select the ‘Sent messages’ option from the left in Sprout. From this you can view the most clicked on and highest reaching messages from the last week/month/year or a set time range. Resend these messages from within Sprout when you’re short on time and want to ensure you are still posting regularly. Don’t worry about being too repetitive, particularly on Twitter. Think how many tweets you see in your feed, your followers are unlikely to see the same post from you twice.
Scheduling on LinkedIn
Sprout now offers a particularly smooth process for LinkedIn business pages, that were previously not an option to schedule messages on.
LinkedIn is often one of the top traffic referrers for our B2B clients and some insurance clients we work with. We were really pleased to see Sprout has recently improved the UX with posting to LinkedIn further, by enabling native image uploads when you post an image from the Sprout scheduler. What do we mean by this? Basically, there will be no more weird hosted links, like the below, ruining the user experience.
Growing an engaged community
While we believe that measuring your business purely on its number of fans or followers is simply a vanity metric and means very little, growing followers is a necessary tactic all companies need to do to begin with to grow their brand’s awareness. So understanding how to grow an engaged, relevant community is a key tactic for those who are relatively new to social media.
I spoke to creative director and co-founder at Sprout Social, Gil Lara and asked him about the best way he felt Sprout can be used to grow a community on Twitter. He said:
"There are many ways to grow your followers but you should start by having actual conversations on Twitter—just get out there and be helpful. There’s tons of inquiries online everyday—about topics that you’re an expert in—so offer your point of view and be helpful without an agenda in mind.“Follow each person you interact with but don’t watch your own follower counts so closely and don’t ask for follows or retweets. A larger follower base will come organically if you are approaching Twitter from a genuine standpoint and engage in interesting conversations with the community.”
Gil Lara, creative director and co-founder, Sprout Social
At Fresh Egg we completely agree. If you are motivated to grow an engaged community of customers and advocates of your brand, the size of this community will snowball over time. By offering value adds to your audience, such as a free downloadable guide in return for an email address, the relationship can be built further with that potential customer.
When you are starting out on social, offer advice, opinions and value adds and eventually your online reputation will precede you.
Running searches in Sprout
At Fresh Egg we use the ‘Discovery’ tools within Sprout to help us find opportunities for engagement, rather than just waiting for our potential customers to come to us. By running searches in here and saving them, we can quickly look for the users who are important to our business.
For a client of ours, a UK cottage holiday rental company, we monitored queries around the word ‘cottages’ on Twitter and through this the client was able to offer advice to Twitter users looking for specific , unusual cottages or last minute deals. They were able to be helpful, but furthermore, meet the intent of that potential customer who may go on to rent a cottage from them and become a lifetime customer.
Reporting with Sprout
There are a number of reporting capabilities in Sprout, from colourful simplified PDFs, to extensive data downloads. When setting the objectives for your social media strategy, it is worth considering the metrics you will be looking at and how these can be reported on.
At Fresh Egg, we often use a combination of performance reports for social media activity across our clients from gathering data on engagement metrics from Sprout Social, to looking at assisted and last click conversions in Google Analytics. It simply depends on the client and their objectives.
For an example of our web analytics measurement plan, download this template.
With Instagram recently overtaking Twitter as the second biggest social platform (with 400 million users, no less), the timing could not be better that Sprout has recently launched an Instagram report.
“The Instagram Report that we launched earlier this year has really taken off. What some may not realise is that you can run a report on several Instagram accounts in aggregate. We’ll crunch all of the data and show you what’s happening at a high level—across all of your Instagram properties. However, even for a single Instagram account, the report is super insightful.”
This screenshot of the report, annotated by Gil shows some of the most useful features.
Reporting on social customer service
Social customer service is a term that gets banded around and isn’t fully understood by all brands currently. Facebook recommends that this is a much-needed offering from business pages, as users will expect to get a response from you there. They recently launched their response rate badge for brands to understand how quickly they were replying to comments on average.
One challenge with providing good customer service on social media is keeping this consistent between different team members.
Sprout makes this a little easier. Gil says:
“The engagement report is for any company that is actively engaging with their audience on Twitter and Facebook. We’ll show you response times across your team so that you can understand what your customers are experiencing and identify coverage gaps. It’s all really important stuff to understand, whether you are a small operation or running a large customer care team.”
At Fresh Egg, we’re able to gather a great level of detail by analysing on a post-by-post basis using the ‘Sent Messages’ csv download report. Through this you can start to break down your messages into granular detail, enabling you to view hashtags, times of day and message themes that have been most successful.
Another report that we find really useful is the ‘Twitter Comparison’ report. When carrying out an audit of social media activity, this can be used to benchmark against competitor activity, you can compare against any account without needing their login details. This report gives a percentage score for engagement and influence. Gil at Sprout explains how these are calculated:
Engagement: “Your engagement score indicates how well you are communicating with your audience. We use an algorithm, measuring the number of @replies or @mentions you've sent in relation to status updates (basically a percentage of @replies out of all of your sent tweets). This helps to see the conversation you are having with your Twitter followers.”
Influence: “This score is an indicator of your growth and interest level among your audience. These numbers are commonly low but increasing them over time will result in greater brand awareness and enthusiasm for your business.”
Sprout Twitter post report : monthly audience engagement
Sprout has said that they are also working on some new features for campaign planning and measurement for 2016. Watch this space…
This blog post gives an overview of some of the ways we use Sprout Social here at Fresh Egg to plan and report on the performance of social media activity. While Sprout Social is a paid for tool, there are of course a number of free alternatives that can offer some similar benefits. One comprehensive free option for scheduling social media activity is Hootsuite. In addition, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ all include their own insights dashboards. However, finding useful insights in this level of data can be a challenge.
A social media strategy is a living, breathing thing that must constantly evolve to remain relevant. “Delivering good content at the right time is how you keep an audience and eventually, expand into THEIR networks.” – Gil Lara. By combining measurement in Sprout with detailed assessment of other metrics, such as social referral traffic and conversions in Google Analytics, you can understand what is resonating with your audience and constantly refine and improve your social strategy to ensure it is effective in driving value and return for your business.
Do you struggle to show ROI from your social media activity? Find out more about our approach to social media and get in touch with the team today.