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How Testing can Turbocharge Your Social Media Marketing

Rohan Ayyar

In the past three years, we have seen the rise and rise of conversion rate optimization. Popular blogs such as Unbounce and Conversion XL explain every nuance of how testing various elements on websites and landing pages help improve CTRs, page views and conversions. Tools like Optimizely or Visual Website Optimizer have helped make A/B tests, multivariate tests and usability tests become part of a digital marketer’s everyday life.

Similarly, email marketing has improved at every step to increase ROI and conversions. Thanks to email marketing software like GetResponse, you can now test everything from subject lines, day and time of sending, button placements, forms and entire email layouts to landing pages that your emails lead to.

Unfortunately, this exacting level of science that has been applied to improving the efficiency of website design or email marketing does not seem to be applied to social media marketing. Just because we all have personal social media accounts that we eat, live and breathe, we simply tend to believe we know all there is to creating winning social media posts.

As a result, the numbers speak for themselves. In comparison to search, PPC or email marketing, social media marketing has the lowest ROI. What can we do?


 Source: Monetate Ecommerce Quarterly

We can test.

As marketers, we collectively spend huge time and budgets behind social media marketing. Then why is it that we shy away from ensuring that content we put up on social media is actually worth anything at all? Is testing even possible on social media? (Yes).

The same tests that we perform on websites and their user friendliness can be used to check how our social media content will perform before posting it online. You can confirm the efficacy of your social content and strategy with tests, like:

  • A/B tests
  • Multivariate tests
  • Group discussions
  • Anonymous online polls

Testing for social media does not refer to just testing the content. It means testing the whole deal — your overall strategy, what approach will work best, what content will work best with your target audience, which tactics will get you the best long-term ROI and so on.

Here’s a look at the most important things to test that no social media marketer should skip.

1. Which Social Media Platform Would Work Best For Your Brand?

Before you start conjuring up interesting post ideas in your head, understand which social media platform works best for your brand.

In most cases, your line of business will decide the platforms you should go with, but sometimes it’s not that straightforward. Some platforms, long disdained as "only for women" or "professionals" (yes, that’s Pinterest and LinkedIn, respectively) offer much higher referrals and ROI as compared to the old favorites Facebook and Twitter in many cases.

You can’t carry out an A/B test for this fundamental question, but you can definitely conduct a short online survey among your target audience asking them about their social media habits. Pick a representative sample of your existing customers and get face-to-face with them to understand what they prefer to surf for on social media. Check what the most successful brands in your industry are doing and learn from them too.

Put together your quantitative and qualitative data to finally decide which networks to settle upon.

2. Putting Social Sharing in the Focus on Your Site

Your website is the online destination that you want to drive traffic and visibility to. Social media is a means to this end.

A social sharing button is like a CTA asking users to share your website content on social media. Leverage the power of social sharing by picking the most strategic locations for your social media buttons.

They could be placed alongside key products that you sell, next to popular or important blog posts you’ve made, or even on informative how-to guides.

Many e-commerce sites have social sharing buttons (such as Pin buttons) next to or even on top of product images to ensure maximum visibility for their products.

Content-driven sites like publishing houses or news websites place social buttons near article headlines, at the end of the article and on floating bars on the side of the screen.

Don’t blindly ape what others do. Your website is unique in its design, layout and the products it offers. What works best for your brand and products is something you’ll discover only through permutations and combinations that are put through rigorous A/B tests.

3. Getting Your Brand Page Just Right

Just as your website is the face of your brand online, your social media profile page is the face of your brand on social media. Spend some time figuring out the best possible representation of your brand.

A/B test cover images, profile images, brand descriptions on your business page, or even entire profile page layouts to arrive at the one that is most popular with your users. With more and more social networks becoming image driven, an attractive page with the right combination of images and copy is of utmost importance. The idea is to create a destination that fans like coming back to over and over again.

In an interesting switch about three years back, Wizard of Moz Rand Fishkin grew his Twitter follower rate by simply changing his profile picture to one with a more professional look.

4. What Type of Content to Post

The most interesting bit of them all — discovering what content works best.

With the variety of content that social media managers have at their disposal, it’s a good idea to check what works and what does not, to ensure quantity does not overshadow quality in terms of social media content for your brand.

Images or no images? Images are in the news right now with even the original 140 character messaging service Twitter jumping into the fray with large images on users’ newsfeeds. But does it make sense to invest in high quality, striking images to adorn your social media timelines?

Brittany Leaning explains in detail how Hubspot carried out a series of A/B Tests on Twitter images for their own Twitter feed. Hubspot found that tweets with images offered 41% more retweets, 31% increase in visits and 55% increase in leads vis-à-vis tweets without any images.

Besides images, you must also A/B test

  • Videos
  • Memes, quotes, cartoons
  • Informative content, e-books, how-to guides
  • Coupons
  • Product updates, sneak previews

5. When to Post

Apps like Hootsuite, Buffer and SproutSocial help you schedule your tweets beforehand and choose what content you publish, at what time, and on which social platform.

Having this ability without knowing the best times to post is like having a fancy car with no gas in it.

Study the analytics from your various social media platforms and figure out the patterns in shares, likes, tweets and pins. Look for specific times of the day or week when user activity is high and periods when everything is slack.

Tools like Crowdbooster help you predict when your specific audience is online and post on social media at those times. Use A/B tests to check the best time of day for important posts after narrowing the time period down using social analytics.

Wrapping It Up

With the amount of data that we collect on an everyday basis, it’s criminal to not apply it to improve the quality of our content and the efficacy of our marketing. A/B tests are a scientific yet simple way to test exactly what works and what does not work with your social media campaigns.

Don’t get rattled by how complicated the whole process sounds. Take it one test at a time and slowly you will start seeing the cumulative effects of a well-planned, strategic social media plan.

Rohan Ayyar

Asks great questions and provides brilliant answers.

Rohan is the go-to guy for SEMrush in India. You will probably run into him at marketing meetups and conferences happening anywhere across India.

Rohan is an experienced digital marketer who has worked both agency and in-house, developing data-driven strategies for SEO, PPC, social media and content marketing. He is also an avid business and tech blogger, with insights featured on publications like Fast Company, Business World, Search Engine Journal and Adweek.
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