Optimizing social media performance


Understanding how your brand’s paid, owned, and earned social media activities work together is critical if you are to optimize investment in digital. Theo Johnson explains how to make your social channels work harder.

Investment in digital shows no signs of slowing down. Many consumer brands are spending 30–50 percent of their budgets on digital media advertising, content, and engagement. Researchers eMarketer have estimated that, in 2015, the UK will be the first market where half of all spend is digital. A significant proportion of investment is allocated to paid, owned, and earned social media.

The rush to invest in digital and social has not been matched by efforts to properly evaluate efficiency and effectiveness, nor do many brand owners understand how their social activity is performing compared with competitors. To ensure investment in social is working, there are four steps every brand owner should take.

Understand how people behave online 

Consumers build up an understanding of brands from everything they see and hear, across multiple channels. To analyze paid, owned, and earned social separately – a fair description of typical current practice – is like trying to appreciate the performance of an orchestra by listening to one section at a time: first brass, then strings, then woodwind. Analysis should reflect how consumers receive messages, across multiple channels simultaneously.

“The rush to invest in digital and social has not been matched by efforts to properly evaluate efficiency and effectiveness.”

Adopt the right principles

Social media analytics need to be simple – easy to understand, to communicate, to share. They should be consistent – with the same metrics and reporting templates across brands and channels: paid, owned, and earned. They need to be objective – interpreting the facts and data underlying social media performance, not hunches and opinions. They must be contextual – assessing performance against competitors, not in isolation or out of context. And they must be bespoke – taking the dynamics of individual markets into account in every analysis.

“What matters is the degree of engagement social media properties generate relative to key competitors or peers in market.”

Choose the right metrics

There are five elements of social media performance that matter, with the interplay between paid, owned, and earned crucial to the analysis:

  1. Strategy and messaging – understanding the messages that brands deploy, and how budgets are allocated.
  2. Sentiment – making sense of what customers and influencers think and say. Manually.
  3. Engagement – how messaging engages people; how responsive they are to messaging.
  4. Growth – how the number of followers and fans is growing, and what it is that stimulates growth (see chart).
  5. Response rate – how quick brands are at responding to users’ queries.


Compare performance against key competitors

Absolute numbers of fans, likes, or retweets are irrelevant, whether they’re low hundreds or hundreds of thousands. What matters is the degree of engagement social media properties generate relative to key competitors or peers in market. Too often, brands choose to assess activity against their own performance, period-on- period, and fail to invest in contrasting brand performance with competitors.

Although social and digital media spend is already coming to dominate total spend, we are still only in the adolescence of digital. To help usher in digital adulthood, brand custodians need to take not just measurement but also evaluation seriously, earmarking meaningful budgets for this task.


About Author

Account Manager

Theo is an account manager in the Ebiquity digital team. He has nearly 10 years’ experience in digital marketing [8 if we’re being precise] both client and agency side at all levels from UK startups to established international brands. He working in the Ebiquity digital team to ensure clients are driving the best performance possible for their campaigns across all online marketing channels

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