By Sean Makulowich
Social Media Manager at RapidAdvance
Social media is an effective marketing tool that allows businesses to build relationships with their target audience and promote products, services, and content to people they know are already – at least to some extent – interested in what they have to offer. However, just like any other marketing channel, it’s easy to go astray of your original goals and, either through too much or not enough attention, miss out on some great opportunities.
So the question becomes: how do you measure your business’s social media impact? How do you know all your efforts and interactions are paying off?
Many companies try to hold their social marketing efforts up against many of the traditional key performance indicators, and while this may work in some instances, the simple fact is that this new media requires a different approach. Companies need to set their KPIs, but they also need to understand which ones really have the most impact on the business’s performance and goals.
Why Social Media Is Different
Social media is a powerful promotional tool that can potentially drive a lot of traffic to your website, build awareness of your brand, and even create brand advocates. However, while it’s easy to measure the amount of traffic it generates, it’s a lot harder to nail down something like “awareness.”
Social media marketing is, in effect, an exercise in building communities. You are reaching out to people and sharing a message in one form or another. Ideally, this community will continue to grow and awareness of your brand will spread. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to measure the amount of revenue generated by the size of a community or the awareness that may or may not exist.
You can, however, measure engagement. This is a metric that can tell you a lot about your current customer relationships and the value of your social media campaign.
The real value in social media comes at different levels. At the first, most basic level, you have simple acknowledgement. This includes the likes, +1s, favorites, repins, etc. Many companies focus on these metrics as a sign of success, but the truth is that this is just the beginning. At this point, you’ve only asked your community to do the very minimum to acknowledge your presence. They don’t have to do anything more than click a button. It’s a good start, and it is an important metric, but that’s not where it ends – and it definitely shouldn’t be the only numbers you use to measure your success.
Think of these acknowledgements just like you would any other first meeting. There’s that moment when you’re looking at each other, prepared to accept the other’s presence, and willing to open yourself to a little more. Then again, you could walk away without looking back and it wouldn’t change much in the grand scheme of things. In other words, it’s an important first step, and the numbers are good indicators of where you’re going, but it’s the next level that is more important.
Engagement happens when those first likes and plusses turn into clickthroughs and shares. These metrics can give you a better impression of your community and how your brand is reaching people. Track the number of clickthroughs, shares, and the comments that are left on your updates (that aren’t spam). These are indicators that your efforts are succeeding, and are probably leading to more traffic and sales.
Of course, all of this doesn’t mean much if you can’t tie it to an improved ROI. Unfortunately, when it comes to social media, this can be hard to determine. It may be more helpful to move your definition of a successful campaign away from direct revenue generated and focus more on the acknowledgements, engagements, and interactions.
Where Do You Look?
There are two simple ways to start gathering the data you need to track your business’s social media performance. The first is to look at the analytics on your site. Google Analytics provides tools like Advanced Segments to explore your visitor data to determine where they came from and, more importantly, who is returning (since these are the people who will more likely become part of your community).
The other method is to use the analytics provided by the individual platforms. Twitter shows a number of stats, including the mentions, follows, and unfollows, along with stats for each individual Tweet.
Facebook Insights also provides a lot of useful data that shows how your community is interacting with your posts. It shows how each page did as far as reach and engagement as well as what tabs they’re looking at, how many mentions it gets, and when your fans are online. These numbers can help you streamline your efforts and engage with more of your customers.
Social media presents a lot of opportunities for small businesses, but that doesn’t mean it’s something that you can (or should) just jump into without a plan. Set your KPIs and make sure that you carefully track your progress to ensure that all your efforts are creating some kind of value for the company.
About the Author:
Sean Makulowich is the Social Media Manager at RapidAdvance, a leading alternative financing firm in Bethesda, MD. Sean is a passionate and creative entrepreneur with extensive expertise in all areas of social media, online marketing and branding. He is a sociable and outgoing tech-savvy geek with a lust for technology, an eye for design and a bright, bold vision of the perfect customer service and user experience. Connect with Sean on Google+