UX approach to building a social media strategy

4-week experimentation with product thinking and research

Luke Manimala
Design Warp

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Three instances of the same post, on instagram, facebook, and twitter, each showing reach and engagement rates.

A few weeks ago I wrote an article explaining objectives and key results (OKRs) as a method of setting goals and maintaining a path towards a product vision. This week, I’m discussing some social media experimentation I did with regard to the social marketing OKRs I established for myself.

From OKRs to opportunities and solutions

In that post, I explained the uses of the OKR framework and created a number of them for my social media content product. Now that we’re past the strategy and OKRs, it’s time to talk about how UX designers can find and test solutions that generate these outcomes that PMs are striving for.

A data tree with Key result, opportunity, idea, solution
This diagram shows how the UX design process can achieve OKR success

OKRs, or objectives and key results, are related to solutions through the UX design process. Key results are aspirational outcomes that would indicate if an organization is on its way to achieving a specific goal. We could then explore opportunities for making the outcome a reality. If we had a lemonade stand, and our key result was to sell 100 more lemonades in the month of September, an opportunity may be to improve the stand’s visibility. This opportunity, of increasing the lemonade stand’s visibility, could be achieved by a number of ideas. We could A) build a large sign for our stand or B) optimize the location of our stand. We would then test each of these ideas to see if they are indeed solutions. If increasing the sign size didn’t make a difference in sales, but moving locations made a big difference, we could consider location optimization as a solution to improving the lemonade stand’s visibility to traffic. From here, we run several experiments to iteratively improve the solution we just created.

Taking this same approach with my Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages, I’ve devised a similar objective tree.

opportunity tree with objective, key results, opportunities, and ideas discussed in article
This opportunity tree shows my social media OKRs at the top and untested ideas at the bottom

Here, I’ve outlined two objectives. Objective one is to increase brand awareness. The key result was to create ~20% more impressions per week by week 4 of the study. One opportunity to achieving this outcome was that I could increase my post consistency. In order to capitalize on this opportunity of consistency, I tested three different ideas. Those ideas were to create typographic product knowledge posts, share blog articles on social media, and share design challenges that I create during my visual studies.

Objective two is to increase brand engagement across social channels. My key result outcome in support of that objective was to increase my average engagement rate across all channels by ~40% by the end of the study. The main opportunity I found was to create content that is relevant to my users AKA followers.

Once I outlined these four ideas for testing on my social media networks, I got into content creation mode. I also redeemed a free month at Sprout Social because I knew keeping track of and collecting this data would be challenging. One month of Sprout Social typically costs $99 and I can’t say no to free stuff.

Testing my social media ideas

To give some background on myself and my existing social media strategy, it’s important to give some context. My three professional endeavors in life are to create music, design product, and tell mythology. I went into this study with a hypothesis that I could tie all of these elements together on social media by posting product design insights I’ve found in my music, digital product, and mythology telling journeys. My social media strategy was to synthesize my presence so that it represented all three areas of my professional interest.

Opportunity: Increase content post consistency

Since I’m not a very consistent poster on social media, I developed a number of ideas for new types of content that I could produce regularly.

Idea #1: Create typographic product knowledge posts

I created three unique typographic posts and posted each one of them to all three social media networks. The posts were related to specific product design or management concepts and generally contained some sort of definition or connection to my world. I tested these posts with stock photo cover images, text cover images, and a personal photo cover image.

Three instances of the same post, on instagram, facebook, and twitter, each showing reach and engagement rates.
One example of a typographic knowledge post on voice and tone. These posts were tested on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

I rated the effectiveness of the post by engagement rate. The engagement rate gives the percentage of people that engage with the post after seeing it. These findings reflect my own personal media followings, which differ quite a bit across the social networks. The Sprout engagement data suggested:

  • Instagram and users found carousels with photo-based covers more engaging
  • Facebook users are more likely to engage with carousels that have text on the cover
  • There’s likely a correlation between user engagement and cute puppies 🐶

To synthesize these points into an actionable takeaway, I note that I should continue using photo-rich covers on Instagram and Twitter carousels, but that my Facebook users are more likely to engage with a text-only cover. And also take more puppy photos.

Idea #2: Share blog articles on social media

My next idea in support of being able to post content more consistently was to share and repost my blog articles on all of my social media channels.

Three different blog posts on different networks shown with social media stats.
Three examples of reposted blogs, the best with 4.7% engagement

I learned in testing this idea, that plain old blog reposts, even if they’re blogs I’ve written, are not really engaging for my social media followers. Adding another assumption:

  • My social media users are generally not on social media to read articles, especially not a nerdy one like this.

Idea #3: Share design challenges

My third idea for increasing content consistency was to begin sharing the visual design challenges I completed over the weeks.

Four different skills challenge posts across multiple social networks with engagement rates across.
Two different design challenges across different networks

By looking at the engagement rates and cross-referencing the devices typically used to visit my Facebook page, I built the following hypothesis regarding product design challenge posts.

  • Product designs that are designed in mobile portrait orientation may perform better on Instagram and Twitter. This may be due to users viewing mobile designs on a mobile device.

I also compared posts on my Dribbble page which include a variety of skill challenges that all took roughly the same amount of time to build.

Design challenge social media posts on Dribbble
The interaction rate on Dribbble was 1.14% for a high-fi screen, 0.41% for an interaction design, and 0.63% for a hi-fi wireframe flow

I adopted the following hypothesis regarding the community on Dribble.

  • Single page designs with a high level of visual polish may perform better than multi-page interaction designs, or UX flows of a similar effort

Opportunity: Create content relevant to my followers

The final opportunity I tried to leverage for increasing post engagement was creating relevant content for my followers. The first idea I created was to determine which topics are relevant to my followers as well as myself.

Idea #4: Test for follower interests

To determine if my content was relevant to my users, I created an Instagram poll. Using a story, I asked my followers if they are interested in any of the same topics as me; namely music, product design, and mythology.

Three instagram polls. 98% users interested in music, 71% interested in product design, 67% interested in mythology.
This Instagram poll showed that 98% of my IG users are interested in music, 71% in product design, and 67% in mythology

When I read these poll results I realized I had made a fundamentally flawed assumption when developed my initial social media strategy of maintaining a synthesized social marketing brand.**

  • Just because a person is interested in music, product design, or mythology does not mean they’re interested in any of the other topics 🤯

Due to bias, I did not even consider that most people are not interested in music AND product design AND mythology. If I try to have a unified social media strategy for all three endeavors, I will have to continue feeding people information that they’re not interested in. Force-feeding users content which they’re not interested in is generally not a good experience. Ultimately my social media followers come to me because they want to consume interesting content.

Conclusion

All the while I was testing a number of social media ideas to improve the consistency of my social posts and increase brand awareness, I neglected to test my opportunity for improving content relevance with the goal of increasing brand interaction. I weighted being seen over providing a valuable UX (rookie mistake). This brings me to my final assumption and solution to test:

  • Create separate brands and social media channels for my Music, Design, and Myth Storytelling practices.

Instead of trying to combine all of my pursuits into one social media brand, I need to begin building separate social media networks for each of these three topics.

This isn’t to say that these four weeks of work were for nothing. Each of the first three ideas I tested yielded valuable insights about content that I can use moving forward on my separate social brands. And note to self when considering your user: always remember that people are not fundamentally just like you.

This article first appeared at lukemanimala.com. For article sources and related content please visit the original article post.

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Luke Manimala
Design Warp

Chicago-based product designer. I am working to find the story and value in every product through thoughtful execution and innovative design.