Social media continues to dominate the marketing landscape: 21% of marketers say that social media has become more important to their company over the past six months, and there is every reason for this figure to increase throughout 2013 and beyond.
Most businesses are clear that they need to use social media – if only because their customers expect them to – but what is less transparent is how to measure their return on investment. A staggering 53% of social media marketers don’t measure their success at all, and 52% cite difficulties in measuring ROI as their biggest source of frustration in social media marketing.
Social ROI can certainly be tricky to pinpoint, but it’s not impossible – it’s all about choosing the correct metrics, setting SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound) goals, and using effective content to achieve them.
Here are six metrics you could use to measure your social media – which ones you prioritise will ultimately depend on what you want to achieve:
First, let us just say that the number of followers you have is not necessarily the best indicator of success (particularly when it’s not paired with engagement – more on that later). However, seeing a significant rise in the number of fans and followers is usually an indicator that you’re doing something right. People won’t just come to you – you have to win fans and followers with the right mix of engaging content, good customer interaction and, ultimately, a great product or service. Set achievable short term goals for the number of fans or followers you’d like to reach, and use this combination of elements to hit those targets. It’s not the be all and end all, but monitoring follower numbers is certainly a very good start.
Okay, so you’re getting followers – now it’s time to look at why they’re sticking around. Track your likes, comments, re-tweets and shares, and hopefully you’ll be able to identify a positive increase in each of these areas. Tracking your engagement level offers another benefit too: you’ll be able to discover which pieces of content are getting the best response rates – invaluable information for helping you fine-tune your editorial strategy.
3. Website traffic
A rise in website traffic is another great signifier that your social efforts are paying off. The obvious way to measure this is to install Google Analytics so you can track the amount of referral traffic you’re generating from your social media profiles. It’s important to remember that social media can generate traffic beyond people directly clicking on links within your social profiles: a customer could see your brand name on Twitter, for example, and then Google it to arrive at your website that way. It’s also increasingly the case that Google’s algorithm takes social signals into account when determining where to place your website in the search results for relevant keywords: in other words, being active on Twitter and especially Google+ can raise the visibility of your website in the search results. For this reason, we recommend benchmarking and tracking your organic, as well as your referral, traffic.
4. PR opportunities
Social media – particularly Twitter – provides a great opportunity to reach out to journalists and give them the information and expertise they desperately need in order to meet their deadlines. Two things: 1) if you’re not already doing this, start doing it, and 2) if you are already doing it and getting results, it’s an extremely valid social metric. Online PR is a fantastic way of raising brand awareness and establishing your organisation as an expert in its field. Keep track of every time you’ve gained press exposure or a guest blogging opportunity as a result of your social media activity.
5. Leads and sales
If you can track leads or sales back to social media interactions, this is clearly a strong indicator of success. An encouraging finding from Hubspot reveals that social media lead conversion rates are 13% higher than average! Leads and sales do of course come from cumulative exposure to your brand’s activities both on and offline, but social media is undoubtedly a great way of boosting their frequency, and keeping your brand on your prospects’ radars. One of the best ways to identify your social leads and sales is simply to ask every prospect where they came from: you can include this as question within your online enquiry form, but if it’s practical to do so it’s better to call every new prospect and learn as much as you can about who or what brought them to you. If you can do this, you’ll unearth some very valuable data about the pathways your customers take to get to you.
Ah, profit – the ultimate goal of any company. If you haven’t started using social media yet, the easiest way to track its impending impact on your bottom line is to run a benchmarking exercise, where you note your monthly or quarterly turnover, plus your gross and net margins. You should also tally all of your marketing spend in the same period. Next, look at what you are about to spend on your social media marketing (it’s never free, because it requires an investment of your time, if nothing else, so make sure you account for this). Offset these costs against any savings you’ll be making by reducing your spend on PR, advertising and other forms of traditional marketing. Over the coming months and quarters, you can track your social media marketing against your profit margin.
Our own experience at Write My Site
Something very important to bear in mind for points 5 and 6 is that, most of the time, social media is a slow burn. Quick wins are possible, but if you’re using leads, sales and profit as your key metrics you need to take a long term view. We’ve been using social media at Write My Site since 2009, and our sales via social media are a really interesting mix of people who’ve discovered us for the first time and have made contact immediately, and those who’ve been following us for months (and, in one recent case, years) before getting in touch to request a quote. It’s perfectly reasonable to want to look at what impact social media is having on your bottom line, but you won’t get the full picture straightaway.
The real point is that social media marketing should add value to your business in lots of different ways – not just the numbers on your P&L account – and you should select the most appropriate metrics from the list above to set goals, measure your results, and grow your business.