With all the newest feature announcements from Facebook at F8 this week (you can watch my recap of that here), it got me and my friend Mike Allton (from The Social Media Hat) thinking about trying new things on social media. (This 30-day challenge and blog post is being done in conjunction with Mike.)
If you're wondering whether a particular social network is a good fit for you and your business - Give it 30 days!
Even if you’re not wondering… even if you’re happy with the networks you’re on, but people keep telling you to try this or that network. Make it an experiment! The only way for sure that you’ll know whether a social network will work for you is to test it.
To try this 30-day challenge, we want to encourage you to start a NEW social media network, revitalize one you don't really use anymore, or try a new aspect of an existing platform (Facebook Groups, Messenger Bots, Instagram Stories, Live videos, etc.).
You need to experiment with the kind of content and format a network prefers to see if it suits you. You need to test to see if there’s a new audience you can connect with. You need to discover whether your business can benefit even more from focusing on a different channel.
But, like any solid, scientific experiment, we need to make sure that we have procedures in place and a way in which to actually measure our success and reach a conclusion.
To help you, I’m going to give you some rules to follow. Well, they’re more like guidelines, really.
Rules Guidelines For Testing Social Networks
Number One: Only Test One Social Network At A Time
I don’t care how many people tell you to try some other network, or how popular a particular platform or technique appears to be. If you’re in the midst of a test, stick with it, and consider queuing up that other shiny object for a future test.
Not only will this help you keep your focus on the network in question, it will also save you a tremendous amount of time!
New social networks are born all the time. Far more than you realize. And most of them die off just as quickly. Tsu. Meerkat. Ello. Which means not only do you risk distracting yourself with these new platforms, that time spent might be a total waste of time if the platform itself fails to survive.
So keep your concentration centered on the network you’ve decided to test, and avoid even considering brand-new social networks until they’ve demonstrated some staying power.
Number Two: Run A Dedicated Test For 30 Days
Don’t skimp out on this one. Just because you don’t see success after a few days, doesn’t mean you get to quit and move on. You have to give each network a solid, dedicated effort for the same amount of time so that you can truly gauge your success.
By the same token, if you fall in love with a network in the first week and are seeing all kinds of success, keep at it. If nothing else, that full 30 days of unparalleled success will set an unbeatable bar. But it will also be a fair comparison when you’re through reviewing all of your selected channels.
Number Three: No Money Down
While there are many different growth tools and advertising options, particularly for Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter, this needs to be a Zero Investment Experiment. I think there are great and legitimate uses for growth tools, and I have no problem with investing ad dollars in leading new audiences into your content.
But that’s not what this experiment is about, and would introduce uncertain variables into the test.
The fact is, few platforms can compete with Facebook’s robust advertising platform. Spend $20 on a Facebook Ad and you might get your content in front of thousands and thousands of interested readers. Post engagement can be had for mere pennies. LinkedIn, by comparison, is incredibly more expensive.
Instead, focus on using each platform natively, without tools or paid advertising, and see what happens.
Number Four: Measure Everything
While new accounts are largely going to be measured by the amount of new fans brought in, there’s quite a bit more to examine:
- Impressions (reach)
- Engagement (likes, comments, shares) per post
- Engagement Ratio (engagement / fans)
- Number of Posts
- Types of Posts (text, link, image, video, GIF)
- Referral Traffic
- Leads / Sales
Once you’ve settled on the network(s) you’re going to use you can use a tool like Agorapulse (affiliate link) or Tailwind to track performance, but don’t sign up for any tools until you’ve completed your tests and are ready to commit to one or more networks.
Instead, use a Google Sheet to measure performance. Set up columns for each of those metrics and then use a row for each post. Record a descriptive name for the post, the date and time you posted it, and the results. For most networks, after about 48 hours, the post will have achieved the bulk of its social signals.
It’s a manual process for recording progress, but remarkably effective! Not only will you have a full month of data at your fingertips, the act of recording that data will help bring to you a granular level of understanding for how you did.
You’ll know that last week’s posts didn’t perform too well, while this week’s posts are off to a great start, because you took the time to look up each post and record how many likes and comments and shares it received.
Number Five: Start Fresh
If at all possible, avoid using an existing social profile or pulling in existing contacts. If you’ve already got 500 connections, or if you invite all of your friends to Like your new Facebook Page, it will skew the results. The point here is to determine whether or not you can begin to connect with new audience members on a particular network. If it goes well, you can rope in your existing contacts later.
Number Six: Ask Questions
The one difference that this challenge has from a real experiment is that we’re not forced to operate in isolation.
You can join my Facebook Group and walk alongside other business owners just like yourself, and ask whatever questions you need answered. We are running this challenge inside my Facebook group specifically to help you, to give you some accountability, to have people to help answer your questions (and have you answer questions for others!).
There’s a wealth of information in blog posts and other communities which you should avail yourself of. You have full permission to talk to folks and get the help and encouragement you need.
Number Seven: Be Consistent
The final guideline is one of the most important ones, and that is to be consistent in your activity. Both on a day-to-day perspective, and also in comparison with your other tests. Don’t post 15 times a day to Twitter one month and just once a week to Facebook the next. There’s no way that you’ll get comparable results that way.
Before your first month’s test, take the time to think about what you are going to post about during that month and roughly how often. Each network will support different frequencies, and that’s OK. But your activity shouldn’t be wildly different.
And know that it’s also OK if you are still learning what works and what doesn’t for a network, and end up shifting strategies and tactics mid-stream.
From an experiment perspective, you’ll simply need to consider whether the month’s results would have been dramatically different had you been using the new tactics from the start. In that event, you can choose to either extrapolate a full month’s results, or run the test again another time.
That’s it! The idea here is to keep this as simple as possible.
Pick a network that you want to start testing first and just keep these guidelines in mind to make sure that your test results are as comparable as possible. You might want to try something you've never done before (like Snapchat) or reinvigorate a dormant or quiet account (like LinkedIn). Or maybe you want to do something new within an existing platform - like staring a Facebook group that you can link to your Facebook page or using Instagram Stories in addition to Instagram.
Don’t be afraid or anxious about how you use each network. There is no wrong way because everything that you do will be part of your learning experience.
When you’re done, you’ll feel more confident about the time you’re investing in the “winning” network!
Don't forget to join us in the Facebook group if you want more support along the way. I wish you a ton of success in learning more about your audience and your social media strategy.