Hard to believe as it is, 2019 is beyond the halfway mark, and that means it’s time to take a deep look at our social media efforts since the start of the year. Twice throughout the year — once in June and once in January — I craft together a more comprehensive look at our team’s performance to see where we stand amongst our competitors and our past performance.
Let’s take a look at the most recent report, focusing on data from January 2019 – June 2019. I’ll provide context and analysis, but please reach out with any direct questions or suggestions for improvement: firstname.lastname@example.org
Across our major platforms, our total follower count surpasses half a million users, and Instagram continues to grow at a more rapid rate than our other platforms. However, growth rates have stagnated a bit compared to previous bi-annual reports. This could mean that we are approaching a point of saturation with our follower base. It also means that no single platform is demanding more attention than the others, such as in the past when Instagram or Snapchat were experiencing extreme growth and we knew that we needed to shift more energy and resources toward those platforms.
Recommendation: No need to focus on any particular platform over the others, based on a similar rate of growth across the board. Find opportunities to create content that generates shares more than likes and comments, as this could lead to exposure beyond our immediate networks and should result in new followers.
The top three Facebook posts since the beginning of the year were all videos with an underlying emotional component, reiterating the need for content that is rooted in a high-arousal emotion. The post with the most reach was about a dog named Amelia who was adopted after being treated at the CSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital. The next two posts contained elements of awe and inspiration, both high-arousal emotions, demonstrating how women associated with Colorado State University are spurring change throughout the world.
Our engagement has become more evenly distributed among age ranges: 21% for 18-24; 21% for 25-34; 15% for 35-44; 19% for 45-54; and 12% for 55-64. This suggests that the content we are publishing is not catering to one dominant age category. Rather, we are finding ways to connect with current students, young alumni, parents, and community members with diverse content.
I like to break down the average reach (monthly average) by post type, because it helps us understand — and justify — the impact of not only investing time and energy toward creating video content but also toward the equipment that we purchase with our team budget. Videos simply outperform photos and links. That may be old news, but it helps to have the data to back it up.
Thanks to TrackMaven, we’re able to glean insight regarding where we stand in comparison to other institutions of higher education. For the below chart, I pull three categories of data for one visual. It can seem overwhelming at first glance, so here’s the rundown. The size of the circle indicates the number of followers that page has (in relation to the other pages). The x-axis is a normalized engagement metric, meaning that we’re examining how much engagement these pages are receiving per post if each page had only 1,000 followers. This simplifies the way we look at engagement and helps us understand if we’re producing content that our audience responds to. The y-axis on the chart indicates the number of posts each page has published in the half-year timeframe. I like to examine engagement versus content volume, because this chart appears to suggest that there is a relationship between the two. Pages receiving low engagement tend to post 300 times or more during this period, while the pages receiving the most engagement post fewer than 250 times.
After several periods of looking at this ranking, it was time to illustrate the rankings in a bump chart as a way to examine changes in ranking over time. I went back to Jan. ’16 – June ’16 and analyzed the engagement rankings over seven consecutive periods. The chart displays how pages vary in engagement over time, and I discovered that our Facebook page has the highest average ranking since January 2016, ranking #2.43 over the span. This helps to uncover which peer pages should be on our radar for inspiration, such as Michigan State’s recent rise from #7 to #1.
Twitter & Instagram
Nothing out of the ordinary came from an analysis of Twitter and Instagram content. On Twitter, posts generated 3.8+ million impressions and drove 8,616 link clicks. The top posts were an April Fools joke and a snow day announcement. Fairly typical.
Engagement rate is less variable on Twitter than it is on other platforms, with most of the universities receiving somewhere between 0.5 and 2.0 interactions per tweet (per 1,000 followers). The fast-paced nature of the platform makes it difficult to produce an engagement rate higher than the threshold of 2.0.
In reviewing the top nine most-liked photos on Instagram, we recognize that pets, landscapes, and memes are all popular themes. Timeliness is also a major component. Blood moons, holidays, and snow days are all examples of how a strong visual paired with a trending topic often results in a highly popular post.
I’ve been tossing around the idea of conducting a content analysis for some time now, so this report contains the very first iteration of what could potentially become a much larger, much more valuable project. While browsing the most engaging content from other universities, I started noticing that consistent themes were emerging. So I wrote them down, and I began to keep track of three data points for the most engaging piece of content from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for each school: University name, platform, and the theme of the content. This is a subjective data collection technique, because some posts could be placed in two separate categories, with valid arguments for both. But I stuck to asking myself which factor really drove the content to become so engaging — typically one theme was more of a driving factor than the other.
The resulting visualization is an Alluvial diagram that illustrates the flow of content from university to theme, and from theme to platform. The three nodes coming from the university names represent Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram’s most engaging posts. The important thing to notice is the themes that are populated with the most nodes — athletics, commencement, holidays, and weather being the top four. After getting a hold on the themes that most often generate engagement, it’s important to follow the nodes to the platform on which the content was posted. From here, we can make useful observations about which platforms are the best environments for various themes. Athletics content, for example, clearly performs better on Facebook than it does on Instagram on Twitter. Instagram is a prime environment for content related to commencement, campus scenes, and animals. Pop culture and weather thrive on Twitter.