Social Media Experiments: What You Can Learn by Testing

illustrated image of a purple background with a woman in blue sitting on a phone screen using her own smartphone
illustrated image of a purple background with a woman in blue sitting on a phone screen using her own smartphone

It’s easy to get tunnel vision as a marketer or business owner.

You’ve got lots of things on your plate, and only so many hours in the day to get everything done. So, you put your head down and focus on what you know, especially when it comes to social media marketing. If you’re in need of some social media ideas, or are simply looking to switch things up, we've got you covered.

Here are the top lessons you can learn from social media experiments, plus how to run low-risk, low-budget experiments of your own to improve results.

A Framework for Social Media Experiments

Before you get started with your own experiments, it's important to establish a loose framework for what you'd like to accomplish.

Social media experiments are not perfect or entirely scientific. Many factors are out of your control, like organic reach as it is often determined by unique social media algorithms. But that doesn’t mean you can't generate meaningful social media results and learnings.

Ask yourself or your team: What would we like to achieve with your experiments? How will we know if the experiment is successful? There are a few simple data points to choose from!

  • Increase Reach (or impressions)
  • Increase Engagement (likes, comments, and shares)
  • Traffic from social media
  • Leads from social media

Now, let's cover what you can learn!

Testing Messaging and Copy

One of the easiest things to test is your messaging and copy, depending on the social media platform. If your messaging and copy are generating the same results, it may be time to experiment.

Here are a few easy ideas to create engaging copy that boosts your reach and engagement:

  • Experiment with post length
  • Ask a question
  • Ask your audience to tag a friend
  • Create lists
  • Include an emoji
  • Use humor
  • Share stats, facts, and data
  • Change the tone of voice
  • Include a call-to-action (CTA)

Beauty brand amika is constantly testing different messaging and copy across their social media accounts. For example, on Twitter, amika has landed on short, snappy copy:

This is our favorite thing on social media rn....
TikTok by @ bekahbrantley

— amika (@love_amika) April 26, 2020

While on Facebook, they tend to lean toward just slightly longer copy with a more "friendly" tone: 

Split testing messaging and copy is one of the best methods available for improving social media ROI by optimizing your approach with each channel. You'd be surprised how changing your copy, tone, and message can generate wildly different results based on even the smallest changes.

Don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and let your brand's voice shine.

Creating Unique Content for Each Platform

Creating a unique voice and sharing content with a message targeted to the right audience on the right platform can make a huge difference in the amount of engagement your posts receive.

Facebook is often an ideal platform to share more in-depth stories about your brand or your audience. While Twitter, on the other hand, is an ideal place to showcase your brand's witty side with short Tweets, photos, or videos. Instagram remains the top platform for sharing eye-catching visual content.

Mizzen+Main, for example, shares deep, personal posts on Facebook about how they are supporting their community and customers, while simultaneously posting more light-hearted content Twitter. On Instagram, they are focus on sharing fun, high-quality photos of their products.

View this post on Instagram

Anybody else's coworkers a lot hairier than last week?

A post shared by Mizzen+Main (@mizzenandmain) on

Again, A/B testing your content depending on the specific social media platform can help you immediately increase results.

Running Targeted Ads (on a Budget)

Many big brands spend millions on social media advertising, while others find tremendous success on a small budget. Whatever amount you have to spend, it's important to spend your advertising dollars wisely.

Before running your first campaign, take some time to get to know your target audience through a few low-cost experiments. For example, when testing Facebook ads, you can try segmenting by location, age, gender, device, platform, or interests. The more granular you can get with your targeting, the more personalized you can make your ad and the more successful it will be.

Once you have a good idea of who your audience is, it's time to experiment with what kind of content they might like. Regardless of the advertising platform, testing different content with a targeted audience is the easiest way to quickly improve results. Here are a few quick steps:

  1. Start by advertising with content you already know your audience loves (blog posts, Tweets, videos, etc).
  2. Run split tests with a couple of ads with identical copy and different images.
  3. Try the same ads with identical images and varying copy.
  4. Once you've found a winning combination of visual, copy, and CTA, double down on what's working.

Whether your social media experiments were successful experiment or not, the key is to learn something new and have fun with it.

Test, analyze, and repeat!