Using Analysis to Improve Social Media Practices

In the era of the social network, marketers find themselves with the ultimate double-edged sword with which to promote their brand or product. On the one hand, these services offer a place to connect your brand to over 750 million users, but on the other, these same users are notorious for being desultory and fickle, which, as analysis often shows, means plenty of people may visit your social media sites, but actually spend little time on them and rarely engage with your content.

A recent study by the research company Resonate showed that those who they considered to be "heavy" social media users, despite their frequent visits to and time spent on social networking sites, didn't necessarily produce more of the desired behaviors than any other users. Those who analyze their social media profiles may find that while they may do well in traffic coming onto their pages, usually engagement with content and, especially, time spent on the page are considerably lower than what they would see on their normal website.

So then, what can a marketer do to improve both the amount of time a social media user spends on a brand's page and how much they interact with the content? The easiest answer is simply to pay attention to how and why these social networking sites are used.

- Time is Money: Yeah, okay, so maybe you work the prototypical 9-5 regular workweek, like many other people, but just because that may be the most convenient time for you to update your social media pages, doesn't mean it's the best time for everybody else. For instance, the peak times of use for Facebook are in the early morning (around 7 a.m. EST), after work (around 5 p.m. EST) and late night (11 p.m. EST). Obviously, none of these times conform to the standard workday. And though this isn't an accurate representation of the peaks of every industry or brand, as an average it shows that you have to be aware of your audience and approach your social media with them in mind. Use your analyses to decipher when your followers or fans are most active on your page and use a social media dashboard like Hoot Suite to publish your best and most marketable content at those times.

- Days of Our Lives: Another helpful measurement is which days have the most frequent visits. Again, on average, Sundays are by far the best days for social media engagement, while Fridays are typically the worst. Look at which days your followers or fans will usually gravitate towards and meet them there. Yes, it probably will be over the weekend, when you aren't working, but, as I said before, it isn't too hard to set a future publishing date for your work through a third-party app.

- Keep it Simple: Yes, it seems like it would make sense that long-form content would keep people on your profiles longer, because, hey, they have to read all of that stuff. But, in fact, it tends to limit time on site and engagement for one simple reason: too long, didn't read. If users feel overwhelmed with content as soon as they show up on your page, they'll likely just take off rather than try to wade through it all. That's why you should only post sparingly (save for maybe during those peak hours), in long intervals and in a concise, easy-to-read manner. This will increase the likelihood that users will stick around, skim your content and engage with your brand. Some studies show that posts between 1-80 characters will have, on average, about a 27 percent higher engagement rate than those with over 80 characters.

- Make 'Em Work for It: Encourage your visitors to engage with your page and content. Ask them to "Like" or follow you and comment on your material. The act of commenting alone will increase time on site and engagement, and if you can foster a dialogue on your page, you'll see both of those numbers rise dramatically.

In the end, though, the most important thing is that you do your own analysis. Much of the statistical data provided on this subject is based on larger brands or companies, or a combination of large and small, which may very well not accurately describe your followers or fans. What it all comes down to is your understanding of the habits of your users and your ability to capitalize on that. This is why analytics is such a crucial part of online marketing, and in the growing realm of social media, it can be just as powerful of a tool, so make sure you take full advantage of it.