You spend a good proportion of your digital marketing budget on social media, harnessing the most relevant networks, those where your audience is most likely to spend time.

How to measure the value of your social media marketing

You make an effort to develop a suitable tone of voice, connect with the right people in the right way, stay on-brand, fulfil people’s expectations and engage with them appropriately in all sorts of different circumstances. It’s all great stuff. But do you know whether or not your efforts are bearing fruit?

It’s a question an alarming number of digital marketers and social network marketers can’t answer. You’re investing in a marketing medium, which means you should know what financial impact and other impacts you’re making. For all you know you might be losing cash or driving your audience away.

Most companies do social media because they feel they should, or because everyone else seems to be doing it. More often than not it’s a whisper in a remarkably noisy world. So how do you measure whether what you’re doing is worth the time, effort and money? If you want to know the real results your social media marketing campaigns are delivering, whether it’s an engagement thing, a bottom line thing or a customer care thing, here’s how to get the insight you need.

Knowing the value of your social media marketing

First, a quick look at so-called ‘vanity metrics’, things like ‘likes’, comments and followers. Just like the number of website visitors you get, they give you a broad overview of how you’re doing. But at the end of the day they don’t mean a whole lot. You don’t know whether those likes and follows translate into responses or sales, or indeed into any other marketing metric you have in mind.

Your first step is to pin down your expectations by formalising the business objectives that lie behind your social media work. You can’t know if you’re succeeding unless you have first mapped out what success looks like. It might mean a better, broader awareness of your brand or product. It may involve driving 50 fresh leads a day, or a week, to your landing page, and converting 5% of those people. or it might mean making a better job of customer service, gathering feedback about a new product or service, getting people to download a .pdf or fill in a form, or simply generating more money from sales than you’ve invested in social networking.

6 steps to professional social media marketing

  1. Decide what you want to find out, and know why it matters
  2. Pin down your expectations as regards the amount of money, engagement or  whatever else you want to generate
  3. Find a way to accurately track and measure what’s happening
  4. Carry out rigorous analysis to establish whether you’ve achieved your goals
  5. Keep an eye open for key data-driven insights along the way
  6. Use what you’ve learned to do a better job next time

What to measure?

  • Firstly, to measure ROI, use this simple calculation: ROI = (return – investment) / investment
  • To measure increases in awareness, note how many people are in your community, and keep measuring it every week to see how many more people you’ve attracted. You want a healthy, growing community who are having a good volume of conversations about you and your products
  • To measure your share of voice, check how many conversations focus on your brand or products in comparison with your competitors, and with the total number of conversations being had about the subject
  • You need to attribute lead generation accurately so you can see exactly how many leads are generated by a particular network, or a particular campaign. The same goes for sales conversion. Most good marketers use attributable links to track things back. More about that later.
  • Cost per user is often an important metric, established by dividing the campaign cost by the leads or sales you’ve generated. Again, you need to make sure you can actually track responses back to a campaign or network
  • ou can measure improvements in customer service and support in various ways, for example measuring how the number of people using Twitter support handles compares with the number of people calling your support department the old-school way. Better social media support should mean you get fewer support calls
  • Product innovation is something else you can measure, by collecting feedback and insights, identifying pain points, and establishing which new features matter most
  • Targeting, segmenting and A/B testing is often the best and simplest way to find out which approach of several works best. Additionally, do posts about one product frequently outperform posts about another? If so, what does that tell you?

A few words about tagging

If you want to know how social media activity translates into increased traffic, campaign tagging is probably the best way. It involves using special links that you then track to watch customer behaviour. It includes things like engaging with your content, commenting on your content, visiting your website and buying from you. You can also use content classification to find out which type of content helps you achieve various business goals.

Tracking using analytics and tools

You can track website sales, downloads, signups in Google Analytics simply enough, by setting goals and event tracking. You can track social media interactions like shares, likes and follows in Buffer. Using tools like SimplyMeasured and True Social Metrics, as well as tools provided by the networks themselves, you can measure the real-world impact of conversations you’re having on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and more.