As Easy as A,B…Testing

How Social Media Test & Learns Can Help Brands Grow

In today’s landscape of unobstructed information, data is merely a click away. With the abundance of resources available, social marketers often receive carte blanche to immediately throw their full support behind the tactic they have deduced to be the best. Is this abnormal? Not at all—in many cases, this is the best-case scenario. However, appreciation for a tried-and-true tactic has come back to the forefront of the digital landscape: the “Let’s try it and see!” approach, more tactfully called a Test and Learn.

For many marketers, the path forward can often appear linear. A problem is presented, solutions are sought out and examined, and then a strategic decision on which solution will effectively address the problem is made. Simple enough. However, as any social strategist will tell you, opportunity areas within the social space are nuanced. The best way to address nuances? Exploration.

These nuances, and the tactics to address them, can be explored effectively through Test and Learns. Whether it’s messaging, visuals, or overall media strategy, performing a Test and Learn allows social marketers to vet multiple solutions and lean on data and performance to determine the best path forward to achieving the goal.

The variety of test types and ways to execute them are expansive, however, they can be compiled succinctly into five key steps as identified by Sprout Social:  

  1. Decide what you want to test and determine your hypothesis.
  2. Choose the type of test: A/B, multivariable, etc.
  3. Determine the duration of the test, the platform you want to test on, and any variables that need to be controlled (i.e., when, where, and how).
  4. Execute the test.
  5. Analyze and share the results.

A Test and Learn approach provides results that are regimented and measurable—shining light on a path forward. Can the test flop? Yes it can, and it may. Not only does testing allow the freedom to fail, but it also enables failures to happen quickly. Testing a hypothesis provides an opportunity to pivot, improve, and dive back in with greater foresight to forge ahead, which is what would (or should) normally take place at the end of a campaign.

After each smaller Test and Learn, data can be analyzed and appropriate optimizations made prior to the next campaign. Testing allows social marketers to seek out optimizations before and during a campaign run, so if something fails there’s no need to wait for an extended period of time (or until the whole campaign wraps) to change course.

Will this constant optimization slow down performance? No—quite the opposite. Direction is far more important than speed. Taking time to Test and Learn at the beginning of a campaign can seem daunting at first. However, the benefits will far exceed any loss of time and/or resourcing. By testing, campaigns (and sales) actually gain traction to go the distance.

An important caveat to note is that not everything can (nor should) be tested at once. As Kohavi and Thomke point out, “Though the business world glorifies big, disruptive ideas, in reality most progress is achieved by implementing hundreds or thousands of minor improvements.”

Prioritizing the hypothesized variable will make significant impact on results and will provide regimented learnings to further build upon as testing and campaigns continue.

Influential variables to consider include:

  • Does one message resonate with the core demographic over another?
  • Does a particular CTA incite a higher click-through rate (e.g., “Order Now” vs. “Now Available”)?
  • Which visual performs better for the brand, lifestyle or product?

The barriers in the digital space can seem endless, but so are the opportunities. By prioritizing testing, social marketers can build and optimize a strategy that is rooted in data but is still driven by a vision and hypothesis. Ask the questions, perform the tests, and move forward based on results—also known as “Let’s try it and see!”

Contributed by: Terrance Coleman, Social Media Manager, Integer Denver
Image Source: Unsplash