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How to Measure Social Media Marketing: Return on Your Investment

It’s 2pm. Do you know where your market is right now?

If they’re like 91% of other adults online, they’re probably checking their social media. Once considered “Millennials-only” territory, social media is now being used by everybody from your kids’ babysitter to your 90-year old great-uncle Henry.

No matter who your target buyers are, they’re using social media, making it more important than ever to develop an effective social media marketing program.

How can you know if it is effective, though? Developing an effective social media presence takes time, effort and expertise. Are you getting a return on your investment? And how can you get the solid numbers to back that up?

As with any other marketing initiative, setting performance goals lets you know if your efforts are bearing fruit or if you’re just spinning your wheels.

Social Marketing Metrics: What to Measure and Why

Your first step in determining your metrics is to identify your business goals.

Social media marketing should always be conducted through the lens of overarching corporate objectives. These are business marketing activities, not fluff, and should be treated as such. Every activity you measure should directly connect to a specific goal, allowing you to clearly define and measure social media success.

Three social marketing metrics you can easily link to your business goals are reach, engagement, and conversions.

  • Reach: Reach indicates how far your message is spreading. How many people have seen your message? What new audiences are connecting with your message? Are these new connections sustainable, or is this a flash in the pan? Reach measures how well you’re extending your brand recognition and successfully getting your company’s name in front of new markets.
  • Engagement: This metric covers the reactions you generate with your efforts. Are people responding? Are your posts being shared? Are links in your posts being clicked on? Or is your message falling flat? By measuring engagement, you gain important insights into what your market wants and what their pain points are.
  • Conversions: This metric provides a clear link between your campaign and incremental revenue, making it crucial to master. Contests, content offers and free trials are excellent opportunities to bring new leads onto your subscriber list and into your sales funnel.

Understand, too, that you might not always place the same priority on each metric for every campaign. It all depends on your business goals and on the campaign in question. Some campaigns may be intended to drive brand awareness, in which case you’ll place greater weight on reach and engagement. Other campaigns may be designed to support a product launch, in which case tracking conversions will be job number one.

What Not to Measure and Why

It’s easy to get caught up on every social media metric out there, but not every metric reflects your social marketing success.

Many businesses focus on measuring followers and likes ­– but in truth, neither of these metrics provide the insight decision makers need to properly gauge the ROI of their efforts. Here’s why:

  • Followers: It’s tempting to think that the more followers you have, the better. However, the big-picture numbers can be misleading. For example, you may have 20,000 followers on Twitter, but if none of them engage with you, then you’ve achieved nothing. (Moreover, odds are that a high percentage of them are spam bots and trolls, rather than actual target personas). It’s infinitely better to have 500 engaged and active followers who love and share your content than 20,000 who ignore you.
  • Likes: Measuring your “likes” might feel good, but it’s a shallow, short-term metric that yields few real insights. The problem lies in the fact that “likes” are too easy to obtain. Someone can “like” 100 posts in a matter of minutes, without ever clicking on a link or truly connecting with a message. Instead, a better measure of genuine engagement is behavior that requires a bit more effort for a fan to take, such as shares, comments, and time spent on a web page.

What Does Social Marketing Success Look Like?

Now that you’ve identified the metrics you’re tracking and those you’re setting aside, your next challenge is to step back and assess the big picture. Has your campaign achieved social marketing success?

Again, the precise answer will depend on your goals. However, overall success tends to share some (or all) of these characteristics:

  • An engaged and growing network of followers.
  • Plenty of shares and comments on your posts and content.
  • Social testimonials, where your followers are singing your praises to their own networks.
  • An increase in traffic to your site and lowered bounce rates.
  • An increase in leads and email subscribers.

The best part? All of those can be measured and linked back to your business objectives. And with focused, goal-driven metrics, you’ll have your social media marketing program’s ROI measurements down to a science.

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