When you type social media into Google you’re bombarded by reports. You’ll see lists on how to measure social media, advice on how to use it and statistic after statistic that proves something about social activity. With all these statistics and reports, how do you figure out which to follow?
Every report or statistic you find will claim to offer definitive answers or prove unarguable facts. In truth, not many people can really tell you how to operate social channels based on social media evaluation. Instead they can only provide guidelines.
Venture Beat provided a good example this week. They posted an infographic that analyzed small details like the character length of a post and the use of question marks and exclamation marks across Twitter and LinkedIn. The statistics quoted suggest that using question marks in posts is a bad idea for B2B companies and exclamation marks are more powerful on LinkedIn. When you read findings like that, you begin to question things. And most people start to think of the old phrase about proving anything with social media evaluation. Actually, I may have tweaked that slightly.
Don’t Just Dismiss It
The first reaction of a lot of people when they read that they should use fewer question marks is to blow a raspberry and move on. This could be a mistake, because the research is real. Marketing companies aren’t in the habit of inventing results and ninety-two percent of all statistics aren’t made up on the spot. It’s worth reading the results, because you might learn something from them.
Try To Understand
Conventional social media wisdom states that generating conversation is a good thing. So if this research found that question marks lead to less clicks, what does that mean for asking questions? You can draw a number of conclusions. You might decide that it’s not the question marks, it’s the questions. Maybe the companies evaluated asked bad questions. An alternative view is to move away from social media evaluation thinking and look at the practicalities. If I ask you a question on Twitter, where would you answer it? Probably on Twitter, so it’s unlikely that posts with questions would get clicks anyway. People would just @ reply instead. The learning may be that posting content with a question is less likely to be successful than content posted with a headline or affirmative statement.
Test, But Don’t Obsess
When you have analyzed a report, and take what learning you think you can from their social media evaluation, you should test it on your own market. If you think using question marks might actually be a mistake, test it. Drop the question marks for a period, then reverse it and see if it makes a difference. If it doesn’t, then stop testing. If it does, you may have gained valuable insight. Just don’t get caught up in the test.
Don’t Try to Prove/Disprove
If you do decide to test it, don’t start out assuming one angle will be correct. When you perform your own social media evaluation you should keep an open mind. Whenever you try to prove something, you often find that you can. Of course by the time you prove it, you may discover that another factor has affected your results. You need to be careful when testing someone else’s theory. If you don’t see results quickly, stop.
Think About Skews
Whenever you perform social media evaluation, whether you’re testing a theory or not, you should always consider skews. It’s easy to get bogged down by one piece of data. This study focused on the question mark and produced learning as though that was the only factor affecting these posts. If they dove deeper into the data they may have found other influencing factors. The posts with question marks that went up on a Monday might have been far more successful than similar posts on a Friday. Does that mean it’s the question marks or the days affecting the posts? Does it mean that posting question mark free content on a Monday is a social media silver bullet? Probably neither.
If it Works For You, It Works For You
With all of these kinds of social media evaluation, it’s important to keep one thing in mind. What works for you, works for you. If your successful posts were all three tweets long and contained four ampersands each, that’s what works for you. These studies can help you to understand how social channels work. They might help you to tweak your social activity for the better. But they are only learning tools. You should believe in your own social media evaluation first, before accepting someone else’s statistics. Remember; no third party can know your market better than you.