Published: 8 June 2012

Strength in Numbers

There is not much to be sure about in the times we live in. Greece, Spain and the Eurozone are in crisis. France now has a socialist president, straining the relationship between France and Germany.

There’s also been another seemingly crazy story recently. Facebook completed its stock market launch, with shares available for $38 dollars a piece, valuing the social network at over $100 billion just 8 years after it first launched.

To put that into context, that makes Facebook worth more than Ford and about the same value as GlaxoSmithKline.

Social media’s vanishing acts

So when you put Facebook’s $1 billion acquisition of Instagram into context, it seems like small change. Instagram is the hot new photo sharing app that captured millions of users through its simple and easy functionality.

The same attributes point to why Pinterest – another hot new social network – is now the third largest in terms of users, behind Facebook and Twitter. Pinterest is essentially an online moodboard for the social media generation that allows easy posting and sharing of visual content.

But there are already signs that user signups on Pinterest are slowing radically or even declining. Pinterest could be another example of a social media vanishing act: unstoppable one minute and gone the next according to the whims of its users.

With all this uncertainty – especially in a rapidly moving world – how can communicators be sure they are communicating their messages to the right people at the right time and on the right channels? How can we keep up with the latest tools, trends and best practises? Should we even try to keep up in the first place?

Focus on channels you own

One approach is to focus your communications activity on features you can be sure of: the communications tools you own.

This includes your brand, your website, newsletters, advertising, PR, search engine optimisation (SEO) and more. With these channels, you control the message. You control how often the message is sent out, when and to whom.

By concentrating on these channels we are in control and suffer less from a feeling of uncertainty than when following the latest social media fashions.

But the most effective campaigns come about when these owned channels work together to create an integrated communications package.

Integration is key. And what is the key feature of these owned channels that allows them – and your team – to work together as effectively as possible?

Numbers reveal what’s working

Using the numbers flowing through all your communications channels – and through the wider organisation – you can find out what means are getting you the most returns for your objectives. From finding out why someone makes a donation to what makes someone take action on a cause you’re promoting, from what increases the lifetime value of a donor to what makes supporters stop supporting your organisation, data can help you understand all of the above and more.

And it’s easier to get started than you think.

Your website should have an analytics package that shows you how many people visited your website and where from. Take a look at the top 100 referrers (other websites that send traffic to your site). Where does Facebook feature here? Twitter? Google?

Are there any surprise drivers of traffic? Any articles in the media that lots of people clicked through to? Any forums or sites you weren’t aware of?

You can even go further and drill down to individual pages, such as looking at where users came from who visited your donation page and made a donation on your website.

Then turn this data to your advantage: can we communicate more effectively online on sites where more donations come from? Can we replicate this strategy elsewhere, on other sites we’re aware of or control?

Other ideas for how to use data to strengthen your campaigns:

  • Use bit.ly to shorten urls for Twitter and Facebook, then follow up by tracking who clicked what, when and where from.
  • Use Facebook Insights to see where likes come from – is it from a like button on your website? Through ads? Or direct on the page?
  • Mailchimp and other newsletter distribution services can track who shares your newsletter on Twitter, Facebook and through email. Do you know who does this the most with your newsletters? Are you engaged with them on Twitter and Facebook?
  • Use followerwonk to analyse your Twitter community. Who has the most influence? Who tweets about your organisation the most? Who else should you be engaging with?

Of course, the harder part comes from using these insights to instigate change in the way your organisation communicates and even operates.

But you have strength in your numbers. They’re something you can be sure of. It’s time you started using them to your advantage.