Track Your Facebook Investment With Data or Keep Wasting Time

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As a social media manager, you know the ins and outs of your social media profiles. The constant commenters. The all-stars who like everything. And you know that sinking feeling when a network’s audience has moved on.

But how do you convince other stakeholders in your organization to (gulp) pull the plug?

With data. Thanks to EverTrue, I was able to win a BIG victory for my advancement office and make things a lot easier for our alumni.

Facebook Pages Galore

When I arrived at Boston College (BC) in January 2013, I took stock of the current social media situation within the BC Office of University Advancement.

I was now responsible for the following:

  • The official BC Alumni page and its then 1,034 fans
  • The GOLD (Graduates Of Last Decade) page and its estimated 2,800 fans
  • Facebook pages for almost every alumni class from Boston College (1964 – 2012).

Yes, just about every class had a page—and nothing was happening on any of them. Keep in mind, since they were pages, it was up to the administrator (now me) to post on them. If others posted, it would be small and on the left side of the page, just like with any other business page when a customer posts on the wall. No one could quickly see what their classmates were saying, and all the “big” announcements came from the alumni office. Not ideal.

Moreover, these were my responsibilities solely on Facebook. I also had to manage BC’s Twitter, LinkedIn group, Instagram, and YouTube channel. (And while I was there, I created Pinterest, Tumblr, Storify, and Google+ pages. Apparently I don’t like to sleep.)

The class Facebook pages were the first major hurdle to conquer. In October 2013, I was able to get enough stakeholders and higher-ups on board to retire those pages and replace them with individual class groups. There, alumni could post messages to their classmates (without it always being from the administrator). It also helped them organize reunions, as they flocked to the pages to plan carpools, coordinate reunion flights, and chat about whatever else they wanted.

With the help of the alumni association, we emailed classes and let them know about the change. Most alumni made a smooth transition—especially the GOLD classes.

 

Within a few weeks of creating the groups, many GOLD class groups had surpassed 500 members. Even the classes from the 1960s got into the action—and it was adorable to see old friends find each other in these groups.

Houston, We Have a Problem…

You might be reading this and thinking, “Cool story, Steph…” but what does this have to do with EverTrue?

Despite the awesome progress we made creating groups for each class (and retiring the existing pages), the success created a potential problem for the GOLD Facebook page.

GOLD was king when I arrived. A dominant force, it had the most fans of any page. But by the end of 2013, that changed. The BC Alumni page was closing in on 5,000 fans (it reached the milestone January 3, 2014) whereas the GOLD page only gained around 500 new fans, bringing its total to about 3,300.

There was a new sheriff in Facebook town.

Based on those numbers—and the fact the new Facebook groups were doing really well—my manager and I began discussing a solution: retiring the GOLD page, which was easier said than done.

The GOLD community was—and still is—a dominant force at BC. GOLD alumni at the time were leading the way in BC’s Light the World campaign, with more alumni giving from the GOLD community than many of the other age brackets. GOLD also had an incredible in-house team, which led a group of devoted volunteers. Why would you take away something associated with such a successful group?

I began to ask my friends if they visited the GOLD page recently. Many of them said no. Many of them mentioned the fact they visit the BC Alumni page more. (I did a small victory dance whenever I heard this.)

 

Those offhand comments weren’t going to get me the “approval” to take down that page. I had to find something else. And that’s when I turned to EverTrue.

Do You Know Who Your Fans Are?

I knew I had to prove two things:

  1. People were more engaged in the Facebook groups.
  2. The GOLD page didn’t necessarily attract GOLD alumni anymore.

 

To prove the first point, I began to use UTM codes to track clicks on links that I posted to the Facebook groups and pages. UTM codes are really easy to use through Google Analytics, and you can go here to make your own.

Pro tip: When you use UTM codes, make sure that everything is in lowercase, and don’t use spaces. (If you have to, use the _ key to show it.) Otherwise, it won’t work.

Around this time, the alumni association was organizing a bus down to Gillette Stadium for a football game. I was able to differentiate the campaign source (goldfacebookgroups vs. goldfacebookpage) so I could see which links were getting more clicks. The results were obvious: More clicks came from the GOLD class groups than from the GOLD Facebook page.

GOLD Bus – Facebook class groups on August 9:

vs.

GOLD Bus – GOLD page on August 9:


I’d proven my first point: More people were engaged in the class groups than the GOLD page.

I now had to prove that GOLD alumni weren’t on the Facebook page anymore—meaning that the fans who “liked” the page had now graduated out of GOLD. Keep in mind that the GOLD constituents were the Graduates of the Last Decade, which in 2014 meant 2005-2014. That was it.

If fans were from other classes, we were posting news and events that no longer applied to them. How would you feel if you saw a really cool event, RSVP’ed, and then learned that the class of 2002 wasn’t actually invited?

Facebook makes it extremely difficult to determine who your fans are on a page—they don’t show you everyone, only the most recent likes. On top of that, it takes a lot of time to figure out who your most engaged fans are; there’s no easy way to do it.

After getting an EverTrue newsletter in my email, a lightbulb went off in my head. Could they be my Superman and save the day?

In a very heroic style of counting likes (leaping from building to building is overrated), engagements, and whatever other trickery happens at their headquarters, I received two Excel sheets from them: our top 100 engaged users on the GOLD Facebook page and our top 100 on the BC Alumni Facebook page. (Go here to get a free Facebook page analysis from EverTrue.)

Using our database, I looked up all the top “likers” on the GOLD page and discovered this staggering number:

Of the 100 top engaged users on the Boston College GOLD page, 45 of them are not GOLD alumni.

Think about this: 45 of your top 100 Facebook all-stars can’t attend the events you post. Can’t participate in the giving challenges.

That’s not good.

EverTrue provided me with even more data:

 

To help my argument, I calculated the percent of engagement on both pages to see where we stood:

  • 735 of the 3397 fans on the GOLD page are engaged: 21.6%
  • 6954 of the 7105 fans on the BC Alumni page are engaged: 97.8%

When I presented this data to the GOLD team, the choice was clear: Retire the GOLD page.

We weren’t reaching the right alumni, and users were now more active on the BC Alumni page. When it came to GOLD news, more alumni were clicking links in their respective Facebook groups than on the GOLD page.

In the world of social media where data can be tricky to calculate, it’s essential that you find ways to track it. Whether you use UTM codes, EverTrue, or your own algorithm, remember this: A social media manager who has data to back up arguments is one hard person to argue with when people ask, “So what’s the value of a like?”

Want a free analysis of your institution’s Facebook page? Get one here

Stephanie St. Martin is the Marketing Content Manager at The Ariel Group. Prior to this, she was the Social Media Manager for Boston College University Advancement, i.e. the person behind @BCAlumni on social media. When she’s not in the digital marketing trenches, Steph can be found writing, playing/hosting trivia, and driving around the USA in hopes of seeing all 50 state capitol buildings. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter if you dare.

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