Having a small staff with a busy schedule usually means that everyone thinks it’s someone else’s job to track your online traffic and to use that information to plan a communication strategy. Yet there are little steps you can take to manage your social media posts and learn what is most engaging to your existing audience while attracting potential new members.
Identify your objectives
If you can clarify the reasons you’re sharing information in the first place, it will be much easier to manage your daily and weekly updates.
Consider the following:
When you post to LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or any social media site are your communications aimed at prompting a specific reaction from your reader?
Is your purpose to interact with existing members and build community, to generate leads or to promote an event?
What about all those emails? Are you sending an email update to educate your reader or do you want them to do something specific, like register for an upcoming convention?
You may be sharing for all the above reasons and more, but knowing your intentions for each helps you set your objectives and purposefully reach your goals.
Smaller links = more data
Once you’ve defined your objectives and know that you’re sharing information that is specifically targeted at reaching each of those objectives, you’ll need a way to measure the response you’re getting from your audience. URL shorteners offer an easy way to measure this response without requiring you to have any background in analytics.
There are dozens of URL shortening utilities available online, and most of us have had some experience with them, especially if you have an account with Twitter. The true value in having a shortened links is not that it allows you to get more characters into your tweet, but that most link shortening utilities provide reporting on the activity associated with the shortened links.
In order to see some of the benefits of using these services, let’s explore Google’s URL Shortener (available at: http://goo.gl) in detail.
The URL Shortener page contains a simple form to paste your long URL into which will then convert it to a shorter URL that you can copy and paste into your post or email. (Example: goo.gl/v0nupM)
Once you have shortened your URL you will be able to see the date it was created, what the long URL was and how many times it has been clicked (initially this will be zero).
Note: If you don’t have a Google account or you are not logged in when you shorten a link, you’ll have to fill out a Captcha in order to shorten the URL. You also won’t be able to see any additional information about the URL—but you can access the analytics on your shortened URL by typing it into your browser’s address bar and appending “.info” to the end of the it (as in goo.gl/v0nupM.info).
Please note that anyone can access the analytics for a URL shortened this way, so keep that in mind if for some reason you wouldn’t want this information to be public.
Beyond the number of clicks, there will also be a link to “Details,” which when clicked will show you a world of information about the activity surrounding your link.
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In addition to how many clicks your link received, you’ll see a graph with the days and times the link was clicked, a chart showing the different browsers and platforms the link was accessed from, and even a map showing what country the user was in when they clicked. There is also an area called “Referrers” that shows you what website the click came from.
Identify your metrics
All of this information is great but the bottom line here is that what we’re able to measure is clicks. Other tangible metrics that you’ll eventually want to track will require a dedicated analytics program, and we’ll discuss that in future posts.
Offline- to-online conversions
One of the unique things about the Google URL Shortener is that it will automatically create a QR code for you for each of your shortened links. You can save the QR codes as images and then use them on your print campaigns to try to generate online traffic from your flyers, brochures and magazines or even include them on business cards or print ads. Here’s a short video to show you how easy it is.
Another nice feature of the Google URL Shortener page is that if you are signed into your Google account when you create a shortened URL, then later when you access the page you will see a list of all the links you’ve created. This allows you to continue to check the progress of your links over the lifetime of your campaign.
One other thing to consider is that if you have several different campaigns that all click-through to the same URL it will be difficult to tell them apart. There’s a best practice for keeping campaigns straight that will also help you know where the link was posted, which is to tag your URLs for each campaign and platform.
The concept of tagging a URL may seem foreign, but the reasons to do so are the same as you would when you tag a post by category, or a Twitter post by hashtag. If you’d like to learn more about how to tag your URLs, please leave a comment after this post.
In conclusion, you can more easily manage your marketing and communications challenges by identifying your objectives and deciding which metrics you are able to track.
By turning each interaction into a validated learning experience you can begin to measure what works best for your association and why.
Tamara Groom is a marketing specialist with Naylor, LLC, and a subject-matter expert about SEO and digital advertising platforms.