How to A/B Test on Social Media

Building and optimising social media presence doesn't come easy, so how can you make the most out of your budget? One way to achieve success is by performing regular A/B tests. A well-defined marketing strategy serves as a basis for everything you do, and A/B testing is an important element to it. Continue reading to learn how to A/B test on social media with this article!


What is A/B Testing?

A/B testing is a traditional tactic also known as split testing or conversion optimisation allowing you to refine your social media strategy in real-time. This method enables to test small variations to understand which is the most effective with the particular audience. The ultimate goal is to make data-driven decisions and gain insights into what works best for each of your social media platforms.


How to A/B test on Social Media?


You start by creating two slightly different versions of a social campaign and send it out to a small percentage of your target audience. Half of the people get to see version A and the other half is shown version B. The winner is chosen based on the campaign's objectives such as reach, engagement or conversion rate (keep reading to discover more about setting key objectives.)


Some of the common questions you'll try to answer with A/B testing are:


  • WHY is your social media campaign success/failure?
  • WHAT social channels should you focus on?
  • WHAT kind of content and message resonates the most with your audience?
  • WHEN is the best time of the day to share the content?
  • WHICH ad formats generate the highest conversions?


The Winning Strategy

A/B testing thrives on social media because it’s flexible and efficient by nature. With a good split testing strategy, you’ll start seeing results soon and will be on track to produce better content with time. After gaining enough feedback about what doesn't work, you can identify problems and create a winning strategy - one that teaches you something new every single time.


What Are the Main Elements of a Successful Strategy?


1. Find your target audience and get the necessary information about the buyer persona. This should include the following: demographics, their goals, interests, behaviours and pain points. Demographics is especially important as it involves a few key characteristics you can't ignore. 

These are a location (very effective for small businesses), age, gender, professional title and education. On the other hand, interests and behaviours give you a chance to reach the right people based on the things they do and like.


2. Identify the most important KPIs to know what you are testing for. The social metrics map below by sproutsocial is a fantastic source of all of the relevant key performance indicators. For example, if you test posts for awareness, your metrics will be your impressions, reach and cost-per-impression. This way, you can measure how your efforts to generate brand awareness link up with reality.


Social Metrics Map showing all of the relevant key performance indicators for A/B Testing


3. Form a hypothesis about what content you want to post and what elements you'll be testing. Based on the understanding of your buyer persona and the social media objectives, you should be able to come up with some conclusions. These will help you to figure out which content might potentially do well and what will work for your audience. After that, create two identical versions different in one element.


4. Run the tests, document what you've learned and optimise the content accordingly. After running the tests, it's important to sit down and document what you were testing and the results you got. This will allow you to choose the winner, create new hypotheses and run more tests to meet your objectives and eventually deliver the best content for your customers.


What Can You Test?

  • Social Media Content: The headlines and link previews are highly visible and therefore important to test. Your post's length, tone of voice, punctuation, hashtags and style all impact how the audience will react to your social content. And calls to action are the part where you ask readers to engage, so be sure to run tests to understand the small details.


  • Layout: This is where the differences between social media channels come into play. Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn all have different ad formats from which you can choose the one that's most suitable. For example, as a small business in the B2C segment, using Instagram photo ads, carousel ads and eventually Instagram stories ads while testing various calls to action might be a good place to start.


  • Image/Video: While it's no secret that the posts with images perform better, it's important to test this in practice. What types of images generate the best results? Unique content stands out. But do you want to focus more on being educational with graphs and infographics or choose entertaining videos and photos with people and products?


Tip: Remember, split testing is only used to test one variation at a time. If you want to test a couple of different headlines, calls to action or images, you have to run multiple tests.


After you have a solid strategy in place and you know which elements to test, you can finally start with the testing. Good luck!


BIAS is a triple-award winning digital agency that does social media for you. We consider A/B testing as a crucial part of any social media marketing strategy. Our focus is on building brand relevance through a careful social audit, creation of highly engaging content and continuous monitoring and optimisation. Need help with an upcoming campaign? Let's chat.



BY Paul Sullivan



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