Believe it or not, 2013 is drawing to a close, and while holiday madness grips the nation, we’re already looking forward to 2014. It’s never too early to start thinking about resolutions, so we’ll be running a series of posts on making strong resolutions for your association or nonprofit organization in 2014.Today’s topic? Measuring your online communications performance.
The end of the year provides a great opportunity to take stock of how your association is performing in various areas, including online communications. When was the last time you did a deep dive on your website analytics, for example? Are you regularly pulling insights from your social media platforms to determine where there are opportunities for optimization and growth? How frequently do you analyze the open and bounce rates from your email newsletters or other email programs?
Many organizations use this time of year to conduct performance evaluations of staffers—but shouldn’t you also turn that evaluation inward and check out areas where you could be doing a little better? No one is 100 percent perfect, and finding areas you can build on in the coming year to better serve your members is time well spent. Therefore, here are a couple of New Year’s Resolutions to take stock of, and hopefully improve, your online performance.
Your website is the first stop for anyone looking to learn about your organization. Most associations have at least a basic website up, and many have large, in-depth, multi-page sites with a lot of content. If you’ve laid all the proper groundwork with high quality content, search engine optimization (SEO), advertising, social media integration, and other forms of online marketing, you might even have a great deal of traffic. Great news, right?
Well, it depends on what happens next. Steady traffic arriving to your site is terrific, but you should have an analytics program in place to examine what’s happening with your site after visitors arrive. We strongly recommend using Google Analytics, a free tool, to look into certain key performance indicators. Where are your visitors coming from? If you are running any advertising, you can use Google Analytics to determine how these ads are performing, and where you might need to make adjustments. The same goes for your social media platforms—if you get a lot of links back to your site from Twitter, but hardly any from Facebook, it might be time to take a look at the type of content you’re pushing out on your Facebook page, and adjust accordingly.
Confused about where to start with Google Analytics? Luckily they’ve launched an online learning tool to help you get started—check it out here!
Social Media Impact
The fun with analytics doesn’t stop at your website, of course. Social media is now a major component of all online communications plans, and while it is trickier to measure in tangible terms, there are still numerous metrics you can pull using the simple, free analytics tools available. For example, Facebook offers fairly in-depth analytics service, known as “Insights” for page administrators. While you should be regularly examining these reports for information on your Facebook fans and how they engage with your content, it’s also a smart idea to do a comprehensive year-end report. You can examine patterns of activity; take note of which stories performed the best on your page, and which were overlooked. You can even make decisions about the best times of day to post and the types of Facebook follower most likely to interact.
Additionally, if you’re doing any Facebook advertising, use the reporting function to look at how advertising performed. Use this information to tweak your messaging and determine your upcoming social advertising strategy for 2014. In addition to Facebook, there are numerous free tools available both within other platforms (such as YouTube and LinkedIn) and from third parties (we recommend Hootsuite for looking at metrics available from Twitter). With all this information organized from 2013, your 2014 online communications planning will go that much more smoothly.
With modern online communications evolving in real time, email sometimes feels almost like a quaint relic. Even so, it is still among the most powerful tools in your arsenal when it comes to communicating with your members. Therefore, it is another area you should be sure to examine when you conduct year-end evaluations of your marketing efforts. Similar to Google Analytics, most email management and newsletter programs offer some free metrics and reporting. Look beyond the simplest of these, like open rates, and watch for patterns based on the type of communication, who receives it, what time of day or day of week it goes out. Based on these measurements, you should be able to make adjustments in your outbound marketing planning that will help you achieve greater success in the coming year.
Don’t forget, you can also attach tracking codes from Google Analytics to any links to your website you’ve inserted into email communications. Using these codes, you’ll be able to track the post-click activities of those who click through from emails, and find out even more about what type of information resonates most with your members.
We’ve only just scratched the surface—what are some of your hottest measurement and analytics tips for 2014? Why not share them in the comments.