The Importance of Social Media Audits

In addition to constant listening and alerting to their market, brands should conduct an initial, then annual social media audit to be successful in their endeavors.

Just as brands conduct audits of inventory, employees, and budgets on an often annual basis, they should also survey the landscape to find out what customers, influencers, partners and employees are participating on the social web. Audits are key for identifying priorities, benchmarking previous efforts, and planning for future efforts; the same applies for social media. I’ve been reviewing social media strategy documents from a variety of large brands, and I’ve noticed the following three common traits:

Understand the Three Types of Social Media Audits

  1. Initial Kickoff Audit. Brands should audit their social sphere as part of their initial planning process. Brands should work with a partner to find out the conversation index, top competitors, top discussed phrases, and customer experiences with products and services.
  2. Conduct Annual Audits: Social media teams should work with management and marketing managers to understand how and why the social web responded to activities in the market. Benchmark top advocates and detractors, and determine which topics or products are most talked about. Most importantly, benchmark your own social efforts, measuring the change and analyze what caused them, you’ll need this data as your budgets are questioned. Finally, use this knowledge to set quantitative and qualitative goals of where you want to be next year.
  3. Conduct Ongoing Monitoring: This really isn’t an audit but is key as listening doesn’t just happen in spurts. Brands should be constantly monitoring their brand using alerts and reports. Ongoing monitoring is helpful in responding to the real time web (crises can breakout even on a weekend) but may miss out in seeing the bigger picture and macro changes.

Key Takeaways
I was involved (I come from practice within corporate) in the brand monitoring when I was running the social program at Hitachi Data Systems, I leaned on Converseon and Factiva, now owned by Dow Jones as well as setup Google Alerts and tracked Technorati links. Here’s a few things you’ll need to take into account:

  • Don’t conduct your audit in a vacuum. Identify the keywords and phrases to measure by involving a variety of stakeholders. Be sure to distribute the findings to stakeholders as well as conduct a findings meeting to discuss next steps
  • Find a brand monitoring vendor as a long term partner. Find a listening platform that understands your business, and gets the social web –beyond just mainstream media. Forrester has conducted research Wave on this topic to find the right listening platform vendors to meet your needs.
  • Appropriately Staff and Fund. Don’t expect this partner to understand the nuances of your markets’ discussion, assign a few part time resources internally to champion this audit internally –and don’t forget to budget. I’ve seen many annual pricing proposals at the 100k range –varying on services and number of keywords used.

Love to hear your tips, best practices, and pitfalls to avoid in the comments when it comes to developing an active listening strategy.