By Anthony Gaenzle published April 14, 2014

Auditing Your Social Media Content: 5 Issues to Tackle

keyboard keys-social media iconsI wrote an article recently about there being no such thing as a “quick” content audit, which led me to start thinking about the same process as it relates to social media content. Social media is such an effective method of distributing and amplifying your content that, in my mind, the channels and pages that you use as a part of your social media marketing campaign deserve just as much care and attention.

The same basic principles discussed in my previous article apply when conducting a social media content audit — you simply can’t cut corners and expect to achieve great results. If you are ready to start out on the social media audit journey, bring a bag full of patience, the willingness to listen to experts, and be sure to free up your calendar. 

Here are five top issues you will need to tackle when conducting a social media content audit:

1. The dreaded audit spreadsheet

If you are anything like me, you have a love-hate relationship with spreadsheets. They can be tedious and frustrating, but they are a necessary evil in our world. Unfortunately, our brains just can’t efficiently retain and recall all of the info that you will undoubtedly uncover in your audit, so you will need to set up a spreadsheet (or many spreadsheets) to record your findings.

You can set up a separate spreadsheet for each channel or each page, you can combine everything into one — really, you can choose to organize the data you uncover in whatever way you find easiest. While there’s no one format that you need to follow, there are plenty of free examples available online if you need a place to get started. Once you have the spreadsheet ready to go, the fun can begin. And by “fun” of course I mean tedious, sometimes boring, but completely rewarding analysis.

You need to know where you are, before you can decide where you are headed. A good place to start is looking into the “who” and “why” aspects of your social media marketing.

2. Knowing your target audience and key marketing objectives

There is no magical, one-size-fits-all social media content marketing solution. Each circumstance varies, based on a number of different factors. For example, consider what industry you work in. A manufacturer of widgets will likely want to convey a different message on social media than a retailer that sells toys and games would. The audiences are completely different, so each would need a different message and tone to communicate with their target audiences.

The popular quote from Field of Dreams — “If you build it they will come” — just doesn’t work here. It’s important to take some serious time and really dig down deep to discover who it is you are trying to reach, and what the objectives are that you want to achieve. Start by auditing your current understanding of your audience. Have you effectively pinpointed the right audience, or have you got it all wrong?

Once you have developed an awareness of your audience members, then you need to think about what it is you want them to do. What are the key objectives you have in mind for each of your social media content channels? Do you want to use your social channels to increase visits to your website? To increase sales on your site? Increase overall brand awareness? Grow your company as the leading expert in your industry? Achieving any one of these goals will require a unique strategy — and thus, a distinct approach for your social media content.

Arm yourself with this information, and keep it front-of-mind as you conduct your audit. This will help you determine whether you already have the necessary content pieces and perspectives in place to reach your goals, or if you need to add or change your social media content plan in order to increase your chances of finding success.

3. Knowing where your business exists in the socialsphere

This may seem like an easy one, but trust me it’s not always as simple as may appear on the surface. For example, one of my company’s clients was surprised to find out just how many social media pages existed on their brand. They hadn’t put a strong organization-wide social media policy or strategy in place, so various teams and departments built a lot of profiles on sites that the rest of the company wasn’t aware of.

The client came to us with a list of 12 sites that they wanted us to audit. But before we started, we decided to do a little digging of our own and discovered that there were actually more than 30 sites branded as being associated with the organization, its various departments, its services, niche groups of its peers. Simply put, it was an absolute mess: Different messages were being sent; audience engagement was low or nonexistent — the entire scene resembled the free-for-all attitude of the Wild West.

I’m not saying that you will discover this type of situation, but you never know what social conversations on your business are happening out there until you actively seek them all out. Including this research as part of your audit will help you eliminate unnecessary efforts and build more focused, effective social media content marketing campaigns. If you are active on too many platforms, or through too many accounts on those platforms, you risk diluting your key messages, neglecting followers who only engage on certain pages, and creating confusion among your various audiences and prospects. The social media content audit can help you narrow your presence, so that you can concentrate on delivering content on the platforms where your audience is most likely to engage — and where you can dedicate sufficient resources to the task of managing your conversations.

4. Identifying and analyzing the value of your available resources

Do you have an entire department devoted to managing your social media efforts, or are just one or two people responsible for your entire digital presence? Maybe you have hired an agency that takes care of your social media content marketing. No matter what your company’s situation might be, it is important to develop a full understanding of where you stand.

Make note of who is in charge of each channel/page. Add this to your audit documentation. It will help you determine whether the current setup can handle your current social media presence — as well as who to contact if you need to make changes or address a concern.

The four issues discussed above are just a few of the preliminary items that need to be considered in order for your audit to be a successful one. Once you are aware of their importance, it’s time to shift the focus of your audit to your actual social media pages and the content you publish there. 

5. Understanding what content you have in place, and how it’s working

Though it’s beyond the scope of this post to give a super detailed explanation for each different channel, there are a number of common elements that you should be targeting when conducting your social media content audit. Here are a few important areas your audit should focus on:

  • About/general info: Virtually all social media channels enable you to add static content with important information like your website URLs, company description, contact details, product information, etc. Devote a column in your audit spreadsheet to note what general company info you include on each of your channels.
  • Profile pictures/headers: First, do you even have one? Seems silly, but many companies neglect this. For each channel, note whether you include one, or both, of these features, what they consist of, the style and tone you use in them, etc.
  • Posts: Do they contain links? Do you include images and, if so, are they visually appealing and aligned with your other branding? Does the copy follow a consistent style and tone set forth in your brand style guide? (If you don’t have a style guide… well, that’s a conversation for another post…)
  • Engagement: Hopefully your followers have left comments on your social media pages; but if not, make sure you note this in your audit spreadsheet. It’s important to be honest in your evaluation — how else will you know what you need to fix when it comes time to update your strategy and tactics? Equally as important (maybe even more so) is noting whether or not you are responding to any comments on your page, and the level of insight in the conversations that are taking place on each social media site.
  • Branding: Are your branding elements consistent across the various social media content channels that you employ? For example, are the right color schemes in place? Are your messages clear and recognizable as coming from your brand? While each channel does not have to be a clone of the other, there should be some branding details that flow through all of your outposts, so that each social media page is very clearly recognized as belonging to your business.
  • Editorial calendar: If you don’t have an editorial calendar in place for where, what, and when you deliver content on your social media channels, the auditing period is the perfect time to start building one and putting it into play as part of your content plan. If you are already working off an editorial calendar, note in your audit where your social media content is in alignment with it, and/or where and how it diverges.
  • Performance: Utilize the analytics platforms available within many of the top social media channels to gain insight into demographics, post performance, follower behavior, and other indicators of user engagement. Then, use Google Analytics to gather stats about how your social media channels are impacting your website. If you have some budget to throw around, feel free to spend money on paid analytics programs and services, but the free tools that are available will likely provide sufficient insight to show you where you are achieving success and where you need to make changes.
  • Benchmark: Compare your pages to what you know about the pages of your competition. Also, take a look at any known standards and best practices set for your industry. You can learn a lot from auditing what other companies are doing and how their efforts compare to your own.

The benefits of a social media content audit

While working through all of these steps has likely caused some mental fatigue, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel: When you’ve finished the process, you will have a strong foundation on which to build a social media content strategy that will help your business achieve its marketing objectives.

Social media is such an excellent tool to help amplify your content marketing. It provides a lot of added value and it deserves an extra dose of love and attention. Take the same time to conduct a social media content audit that you took to conduct your content audit. The insight that you will receive is priceless.

What other factors do you think should be considered when conducting a social media content audit? We would love to hear from you in the comments.

Want more instruction on how to manage the key processes that are essential to content marketing success? Sign up for our new Content Marketing Institute Online Training and Certification program. Access over 35 courses, taught by experts from Google, Mashable, SAP, and more.

Cover image via Bigstock

Author: Anthony Gaenzle

As Director of Marketing for EVG, Anthony Gaenzle is responsible for developing an overarching marketing plan that will help the company expand its reach and carve out a solid position within the content marketing industry. He orchestrates the company's own content marketing efforts, and assists with content and social media audits and strategies for the company's clients as well. Anthony has a MS in Marketing from the University of South Florida and is currently pursuing an MBA from Clemson University. Follow Anthony on Twitter.

Other posts by Anthony Gaenzle

  • http://www.spinsucks.com/ Clay Morgan

    I laughed when I read your comments on the spreadsheets. I know EXACTLY how you feel. Unfortunately (or fortunately) a well prepared and filled out spreadsheet sure can be helpful in assimilating data and spotting trends.

    • http://www.enveritasgroup.com anthonygaenzle

      Obviously, I share your love-hate feelings toward spreadsheets! They are highly useful tools, but the process of creating them and compiling info can be very tedious work. They are a necessary evil in our field.

  • http://merryrichter.tumblr.com/ Merry Richter

    Any samples of these dreaded spreadsheets would be welcome! ;-)

    • http://www.enveritasgroup.com anthonygaenzle

      Hey Merry. There are tons of free examples on the web. Here is one I found that you might want to check out for inspiration. http://www.deirdrebreakenridge.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Screen-shot-2011-03-17-at-4.13.13-PM.png

      Don’t settle for just one example, though. This is a good one, but I think it could use a few more categories. We break it down even further and add info about various sections like info sections, tabs, etc. We also audit elements like post content (links, image, etc), as well as branding, imagery and more.

      So set up the spreadsheet however it suits your purposes, but make sure you cover the entire scope. There is a lot going on on each of your pages!

      • http://merryrichter.tumblr.com/ Merry Richter

        Thanks so much for sharing this. I agree there are tons of examples on the web – and therein lies the problem. Information overload! Thanks for acting as a great filter and sharing this example. :-)

        • http://www.enveritasgroup.com anthonygaenzle

          Agreed completely Merry! Information overload can be a definite issue. In order to break through the noise, take something like the above spreadsheet and then go offline for a minute and think strategically. Come up with your own version of it and add or subtract fields, columns, and rows as necessary. Let it become your own creation and suit your own needs. Then, once you get something completed, offer it up online to the masses and add to the noise : )

  • Storewars News

    Really informative article. Read this recently: Woolworths Holdings would dress up David Jones with private labels. Check it here: http://on.fb.me/1eHZkVb

  • http://www.zagoumenov.com/ Alex Zagoumenov

    Anthony, thank you for the informative and positive article. Spreadsheets are a necessary evil, 100% agree! Thanks for the content calendar example in the comments.