In my home, Sunday mornings are sacred. On Sundays, my partner and I get The Washington Post in print, a small indulgence that, after two years of Zoom meetings, feels like a joyful relic of a bygone era. As much as I love the texture of the paper and the ink smudges left on my fingers, the world is shifting to digital communications for a reason. Even I can’t ignore the clear benefits of this change.
Never before have communicators known so much about their audiences. With this knowledge, we’re able to communicate more efficiently and effectively. For us at Hattaway Communications, data drives EO Equals, a campaign that has turned the powerful but little-known concept of employee ownership into real opportunities for building financial stability in communities across the country. Since the campaign’s launch in October 2021, we’ve heard from hundreds of small business owners who want to learn more about how employee ownership can help their businesses.
Data analysis is critical to any digital communications strategy, but it can seem daunting. While expensive analytics software is helpful, there are a few free and easy steps that all communications teams can take to improve analytics and, in turn, communications impact.
See the end of this article for a glossary of definitions.
Step 1: Create UTM codes.
Urchin tracking modules, or UTM codes, help you understand your audience’s behaviors and habits. Free software develops a snippet of code that is added to the end of your website URL. That code clarifies where your web traffic is coming from, so you can easily track which campaign tactics are most successful.
The data derived from UTM codes can answer key strategic questions: Is your audience more engaged on social media or when they receive a newsletter? What imagery leads to higher click-through rates? Does one type of ad lead to a longer site visit?
With the EO Equals campaign, UTM codes allow us to understand if display, search, native, or video ads are leading to more site visits. When we saw that our video ads were delivering higher click-through rates, we invested more of our budget into creating an additional video asset.
Step 2: Set up a Google Analytics account.
Once you’ve set up UTM codes, you need a way to track them. That’s where Google Analytics comes in. Even if you are not running outreach campaigns, all communications teams should track their website visitors with a free Google Analytics account.
If you’re unsure of where to begin with analyzing this data, it’s helpful to start with just a few metrics.
- Traffic source and medium: Here’s where your UTM codes come into play. Source identifies where your users come from and medium tells you how they came. For EO Equals, LinkedIn is one of our source tags. By drilling down into the medium, we can tell if traffic came from a LinkedIn ad or an organic post. Note: If you’re not using UTM codes, Google will give its best guess here, but it’s not always accurate.
- Mobile: This one is aptly labeled—it shows the breakdown of users on mobile devices, desktops, or tablets. Don’t be surprised to see a high number of mobile users. For EO Equals, more than two-thirds of our users are on mobile devices. That means our content has to be optimized for mobile and displayed accurately on a smaller screen. Our content should also be designed for mobile viewing in the first place (think more videos and shorter articles).
-Bounce Rate: A bounce refers to when a user visits your site and immediately leaves, without clicking onto another page. Paid ads are a great campaign tool, but organic efforts lead to much longer site visits. Having read an op-ed or followed us on LinkedIn, an EO Equals website visitor is already primed and interested in the material. We’ve learned that our campaign should utilize both paid and organic efforts.
Step 3: Track the right social media analytics.
It’s been a question since the dawn of social media. Which analytic is a better judge of performance: impressions or engagement? The reality is that any performance metric should be developed based on your campaign goals. Are you trying to raise awareness of an issue? You probably want as many eyes on your content as possible (impressions). Are you trying to raise money in a capital campaign? You’ll need users to click on your social content to navigate to your donation page (engagement).
EO Equals aims to raise awareness of employee ownership, but we want to ensure that small business owners absorb the content on our website. While it’s important to grow our social media following, we don’t accomplish our campaign goal unless our followers click on our posts and visit our website. For EO Equals, high engagement is crucial.
Step 4: Edit your content accordingly.
Now it’s time to apply what you’ve learned to your strategy. On the EO Equals LinkedIn page, every post with a video receives higher engagement. As mentioned earlier, we are releasing a new video.
We’ve also learned that our paid ads receive more clicks when we show photography of people rather than illustrations. We now almost exclusively use photos of business owners.
Further, on LinkedIn, testimonials from small business owners perform best, so we are creating additional case studies to share with our audience.
Step 5: Keep trying new things.
The more content you test, the more data you’ll have, resulting in more educated decision-making. If you have multiple ideas, run an A/B test, which is a randomized test to compare two versions of campaign tactics. Try running different text or images and see what performs better, even after a day or two.
Whether you are promoting a webinar or running an 18-month campaign like EO Equals, data needs to be part of your campaign strategy. The data you collect will give you valuable insights on your audience’s preferences, leading to more meaningful long-term engagement.
A/B Test: Also called a split test, this is a randomized test to compare two versions of a campaign tactic to see which performs better.
Bounce rate: The percentage of users who visit your site and immediately leave, without clicking onto another page.
Click-through rate: The percentage of users who click on a hyperlink that leads to your website.
Display: A digital ad that utilizes text, images, and/or video. Banner ads are a good example.
Engagement: The definition differs based on social media platform, but it generally means that a user goes beyond looking at your content and takes action (click-throughs, likes, shares, comments, etc.). Engagement is usually defined as a percentage of your impressions.
Impressions: The number of times your content is displayed.
Organic: An unpaid social media post
Native: These ads drive traffic to your website and mimic the editorial content of the website they appear on. These ads are designed to blend into the page.
Search: Rather than appearing on other websites, these ads appear in search engine results.
Traffic medium: The method by which visitors come to your website (newsletter, social media, paid media).
Traffic source: Where your website visitors originate (Facebook, Twitter, other websites).
UTM code: Also known as an urchin tracking module, this is a snippet of code added to a URL to help track the effectiveness of campaign tactics.
Video: Usually videos themselves, these ads appear before, during, or after online video streams.