The Three A's of Social Media Evaluation

Article 4 min
Evaluating a single post is often intuitive and easily completed: How many likes did the post get? How many retweets? What was the sentiment of the comments? Did the message resonate with the audience? But what about evaluating your social media or communication strategy as a whole?

A thorough evaluation of your entire strategy requires using the three A's of evaluation: analytics, analysis and assessment.

Analytics, analysis and assessment are three distinct phases of the evaluation process that are often mistakenly used and discussed interchangeably. Knowing the difference, what to do for each phase and who should conduct each phase creates a more cohesive and thorough evaluation of your social media strategy and overall communication strategy.

Infographic depicting that evaluating social media strategies is a cyclical process composed of these phases: 1.Analytics, 2. Analysis and 3. Assessment.
Infographic depicting that evaluating social media strategies is a cyclical process composed of these phases: 1.Analytics, 2. Analysis and 3. Assessment.
VIRIN: 201209-D-PA656-0001

1. Analytics

Analytics is the systematic computation or compilation of raw data or metrics. This phase involves gathering and visualizing data to show trends and patterns. The analytics phase should be happening continuously because data on social media is constantly being collected. Knowing where to look and how to keep track of the data is the key to conducting this phase effectively.

Analytics can be found through social media monitoring programs or embedded platform tools, such as Facebook insights. Using tools and programs can be helpful but it still takes a person to look at the data more than just once every now and then. The person(s) in charge of the analytics phase should:

  • have time set aside daily to look at the numbers and reactions
  • have platform knowledge to know what they're looking at, the audience the data is coming from and what to do with the data
  • have statistical skill and proficiency in big data tools
  • understand that when a commander asks for analytics they should be looking for hard numbers, visualizations and calculations of key performance indicators (KPIs), such as the penetration rate, the engagement rate, the conversation sentiment, the number of impressions
  • be able to communicate value and the limitations of what they're able to convey

Analytics, when done properly, is a representation of how your social media strategy is working.

Applied Example

Here's what some raw data might look like for metrics on two hashtag campaigns to gain social media attention for PAVILION.

Example of social media related analytics collected for two hashtag campaigns for PAVILION. Photo by DINFOS PAVILION Team
Example of social media related analytics collected for two hashtag campaigns for PAVILION.
Example of social media related analytics collected for two hashtag campaigns for PAVILION.
VIRIN: 201209-D-PA656-0002

2. Analysis

The analysis phase involves asking and answering questions to understand what's working, what's not and where your audience stands. Analysis requires going across platforms and campaigns and stepping outside of your own posts to see trends in hashtag use, post reactions and general commentary. Then see how these insights link to the knowledge, attitudes and behaviors you're trying to track and change amongst your audience.

Social media analysis should be conducted by the social media manager or someone with in-depth knowledge of social media and the command's mission. This person must be able to:

  • ask meaningful questions
  • draw conclusions based on the exploration of the analytics
  • communicate insights to the Public Affairs Officer or Communication Strategy Officer

Analysis should be happening frequently; decide what that means for your office: weekly, biweekly or monthly.

Applied Example

Based on the raw data above, here's what some simple questions to begin the analysis process might look like:

  • Why is the audience in Japan the second largest for both hashtags?
  • What about video keeps the audience engaged?
  • Why does using #onestopPAVILION and #KnowYourWhy in the same post lead to more or less reach with the audience?

3. Assessment

The assessment phase takes the conclusions from analysis and improves the overarching strategy and plan to affect the knowledge, attitude and behaviors of the publics. Assessment should be holistic, looking at all of the pieces of the communication plan and adjusting them accordingly to meet the command's mission. Remember, social media is just one piece of the communication plan puzzle.

The Public Affairs Officer or Communication Strategy Officer should have an understanding of the social media strategy being used and how it fits in with the communication plan as a whole. Using their operational experience, digital listening, context, media evaluations and insights from the team, they'll make a judgment on how to improve upon all parts of the communication plan, including the social media strategy. Decide how frequently this takes place: quarterly, bi-annually or annually.

Applied Example

With the questions and insights provided by the social media manager and the site manager, the PAVILION PAO has noticed patterns and trends between social media and the site itself. By looking at all analysis from their team, the PAO has decided that:

  • With the increased following out of Japan on social media and the site itself, we need to create and promote more learning resources for PAVILION that cover environmental disasters in Japan to provide more resources to this part of the PA/VI community and increase our following in that area of the world
  • After a video is posted onto PAVILION's social media, there is an increase in visitation to PAVILION, the site. Because of this:
    • Update the social media content calendar to increase the number of learning resources that include videos
    • Increase budget to produce more learning resources that include a video

Big Data and The Three A's

Big data can play an important role in all three phases of the evaluation process. Big data is defined as extremely large data sets that may be analyzed computationally to reveal patterns, trends and associations, especially relating to human behavior and interactions.

In the analytics phase, big data helps you understand how well your strategy is working. During the analysis phase, these analytics can be used to answer the questions posed during the analysis phase. Assessment leverages the insight of multiple big data sets to provide a robust and holistic view of your social media strategy.

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