Social Media Results: Lessons from social media optimisation in practice

Social media is increasing in popularity for business as well as private use. What would be a better way to see how we can achieve results from social media than by administering a survey that targeted social media users around 31 European countries? The aim for our survey was to get at least 50 responses from each country – 35 from students and 15 from small and medium enterprises (SMEs). So, overall we aimed to achieve 1550 responses to an online survey.

With internet penetration in European Countries being over 63% of the estimated 821 million people, and over 250 million estimated users of Facebook alone (Source Internet World Stats surely it can’t be that difficult to reach at least 1550 responses to a survey which asks them to share their views on social media usage and etiquette. Our survey was designed to be as short as possible and electronic, allowing participants the flexibility for filling it in when it is convenient for them.

Social media optimisation – networks selection

We developed a project Twitter account [] and a Facebook page [] with a plan to regularly post project related updates and develop a community of interested people in the project and its results. LinkedIn was also considered but since there are so many different professional networks which exist for professional networking in Europe and the consequent lack of access from members for example in Xing in Germany and Vladeo in France it was dropped. Additionally, both Facebook and Twitter allow members to see the message without having to sign up to the service thus making it more accessible to our target audiences of the project. Similar considerations would be applicable to any SME considering engagement on social networks in Europe unless you are targeting a specific country and community of members.

Social media strategy

Our initial strategy was simple – identify the relevant networks and post messages on these networks to ask for the survey participation. We have soon realised that this simple strategy did not work. For example when using Twitter and speaking to anyone who is talking about #Estonia to signify that we are contributing to the conversation on Estonia we did not get many replies. So we had to change the strategy. We realized that it was essential to develop first the relationship with individuals in that country and then to ask them for help. This was simply done by re-tweeting some else’s comments about their country and speaking to them directly about a topic that was of interest to them. For example if we identified someone who contributed to the #Estonia hash tag we then addressed the twitter account directly using their @name to get their attention. By using someone’s user name did get results. People were engaging with us back and asking for more information about the project. Once the lead was created via Twitter we have then taken the conversation to email and through email and were necessary using Skype and Telephone to clarify any points needed.

Social media strategy results

So, the lessons from our project when you are considering your social media results are as follows:

  1. Be clear what you want to achieve as a result of your social media engagement (in our case it was to raise awareness of our project and gain responses to an online survey)
  2. Select the social networks which your target audience are likely to use (beware that in Europe there is a variety of specialist networks don’t just expect all to use Twitter and Facebook!)
  3. Engage in conversations with others first to establish a relationship – reply to others questions, contribute to the topics that they are interested in – develop your social capital with them. People are more likely to help you once you have helped them.
  4. Use networks specific community building techniques – for example on Twitter – Re-tweet tweets of others, create lists of people, follow people and tweet them directly using their @name
  5. Only once you have established a relationship and understand who the other social media user is ask them for help – in our case it was to fill in an online survey. In your case it would be develop a business opportunity etc.
  6. Thank and recognise people for the help you receive – we have a list of voluntary advisory board members as well as three Amazon vouchers which were used as a “Thank you” to randomly selected volunteers who have helped us in the project –

The key finding which is perhaps not surprising after all is that our results show that in countries where no personal networks of the research team were present there was a complete lack of response, suggesting that there is a need to develop networks initially before meaningful information exchange can commence. The project was successful in attaining more that the set target of 1550 responses but the 50 responses per country were difficult to achieve.

Read more about this project and the results of the survey in this article – Aaltonen , S, Kakderi, C, Hausmann, V and Heinze , A Social media in Europe : lessons from an online survey , in: 18th UKAIS Annual Conference: Social Information Systems, 19-20 March 2013, Worcester College, Oxford, UK.

You could read the article also in Italian.