Don’t be alarmed! While the word “audit” is often an alarming term to most businesses, it need not be. It refers to any situation where a company takes stock of its assets, including its intellectual property. A traditional IP audit covers trademarks, domain names, copyrights, patents and trade secrets. A modern audit should also include an evaluation of a company’s online presence, or social media footprint, via pages and profiles on social media platforms. This article provides key steps for elevating your social media audit.

Let’s look at two examples of social media platforms widely used by businesses: Facebook and Twitter. A Facebook page contains a public profile of information, including the business name, address, phone number, and photos. If users “like” a page, they will see updates from the page.

A Twitter profile has a Twitter handle, profile picture, bio, header image, and pinned tweet. A Twitter handle is in the format “@business or other name” and can have up to 15 characters. The profile photo is typically a visual representation of the business or brand, and is the icon displayed in every tweet that is posted. The bio can have up to 160 characters, and typically includes information about the business, location, hours or a link to a website. The header image appears behind the profile picture and is used to promote news or events. The pinned tweet is the first tweet you see when visiting the profile. 

5 Key Steps in Evaluating a Social Media Footprint

1. Conduct a Search

The company should maintain a comprehensive list of its key social media information for each platform: link, handle, owner, administrator, password, and content (profile photos and bios). Locating the links should be easy if the company’s social media is already integrated into its marketing strategy. Links to Facebook and Twitter may already be on the company’s homepage.

Other platforms that counsel should check are Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, LinkedIn, Yelp, Tumblr, and Snapchat. A company may want to conduct an Internet search to identify all relevant platforms. Such a search may uncover forgotten accounts, or platforms where the company should have a presence but does not. The company should maintain a record of who has access to and manages each platform, and should evaluate if the proper individuals or employees are managing each account. The company can then correct the situation if necessary. If businesses have not controlled who owns or has access to user names and passwords, they may find out who those people are the hard way when an employee is terminated. 

2. Identify Unauthorized Profiles

Unfortunately, the search may also reveal unauthorized or even fake accounts in the company’s name or for its brands. If there are any accounts that are not recognized or look suspicious, now is the time to investigate and determine if they belong to the company or not. If they do not, the general advice is to make note of these profiles and take action to either acquire them or shut them down as appropriate. Sending the creator or owner of the account a message may be all that is needed in some cases. However, sometimes a business will need assistance from the platform. In such instances, a review the platform’s terms of service, FAQs and help sections will set forth the options and how best to proceed. Keep in mind that “fan sites” and “gripe sites” will often require special consideration.

3. Check Each Profile

After the search, visit each platform directly and review for completion and consistency. Platforms do vary in the amount of information a business can list. For example, Yelp has identifiable fields for business hours and locations that other platforms may not. It is important to include all the information possible so customers can recognize the page and find the information they need. A business would generally want to make sure every input option or field is completed. Also note that some platforms may vary depending on which device they are viewed. Mobile versions and desktop versions are not always presented the same and so that should be taken into consideration.

Check the content of each profile and make sure it is consistent with the overall marketing strategy of the business. It is important that logos and brand names be the same across all profiles, and that colors be consistent with the company’s other branding. Images, videos or other content should generally relate to each other, but you will still want to ensure that the unique aspects of each platform is utilized. Certain content may also be more compatible with different platforms. For example, short videos should be on the Facebook page and the longer videos should be on YouTube. In addition, having some unique content of each site provides a reason to follow all of a company’s profiles. Messages and communications should be the same unless it is platform-specific. For example, a Twitter post will need to comply with parameters that are not required for a LinkedIn post.

4. Consider Demographics

Certain demographics gravitate towards different platforms. For example, Snapchat is more popular with teens, and teens think that Facebook is “for old people.” As to gender, it is estimated that of the 175 million Pinterest users, somewhere between 70 to 95 percent are female. It is also estimated that two million Pinterest users move pins to their shopping board every day. Look at the demographics of each social media platform to evaluate how to best utilize each platform in marketing your business or its brands. 

5. Consider Goals

Evaluate which platforms are most important to the business. Track how frequently each profile is updated, and evaluate how often viewers and followers respond to posts or make posts. Examine the reactions to posted content. What are the tone and content of the comments? Are they complimentary, or are customers unhappy? Online issues are very important because they can be viewed by many customers and potential customers. They should be dealt with as quickly as possible.

With over 70 percent of Americans using social media, a company’s social media footprint needs to be in line with its overall marketing. A social media audit can determine if this is true. It can also give the company an opportunity to correct it if it is not. These key steps will help elevate your social media audit.

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Reprinted with the permission of the Orange County Business Journal