Social media marketing is no longer a novelty; companies are finally taking the strategy seriously, and countless brands have found tremendous success in building communities and driving leads and traffic through social campaigns. Unfortunately, there’s still one problem preventing newcomers from investing in the strategy; it’s notoriously hard to accurately measure your results (and therefore, your return on investment, or ROI).
So how can you tell if your social media strategy is working?
First, you need to define what you mean by “working,”because a social media strategy that works for you may not work for someone else. That’s because social media marketing can hypothetically address many goals at the same time, and you may favour one of those goals over another.
In other words, success is subjective, but usually, relates to one of these key ideas:
- Traffic. If your site is capable of generating revenue, any traffic you receive is inherently valuable. It’s therefore reasonable to tie your social media success to how much traffic it can generate for your site.
- Revenue. On the other hand, not all traffic you generate is going to make you money. If your social media traffic visits your site, but never takes meaningful action, it isn’t going to return any money to your brand. Accordingly, you might measure conversions that originated with a social media visit, and use that as a gauge of success.
- Visibility. Revenue is the ultimate bottom line for most companies, but it isn’t the only indication of success. Social media is an important channel for building a brand and increasing its visibility, which can lead to more loyal customer relationships and long-term purchasers, ultimately increasing your revenue more than just securing some short-term conversions.
- Followers. You might also be on social media specifically to get more followers, so you have a larger and more active base for distributing your content and promotions. This is an especially important metric for startups, who might need an initial audience more than an initial customer base.
The Common Traps
There are some common traps that prevent social media marketers from getting a good gauge of how their strategy is working overall. Usually, this comes in the form of zooming in too closely to a single metric, and ignoring the other aspects of your campaign. These are sometimes called vanity metrics:
- Followers. Followers can be a good thing; having more followers means having a wider sphere of influence, which instantly increases the potential reach of every piece of content you share. Follower counts can also make an impression with investors or partners, who might use your follower count as an informal gauge of your popularity, authority, or influence. However, follower numbers don’t tell you how active those followers are, whether they’re genuinely interested in your brand, or if they’re ever going to buy anything.
- Impressions. Some social media platforms give you insights to see how many impressions you’ve received for each post or piece of content you share. Again, this is somewhat valuable; it allows you to see how far you’ve been able to reach. But it doesn’t give you the whole picture since you don’t know what people are doing after they see your content.
- Traffic. Traffic is a valuable metric, but taken by itself, it doesn’t mean anything. If 1,000 people visit your website, but none of them buy anything or return to your site, you might as well have gotten 0 visitors. You need some qualitative measurement of your traffic in addition to your quantitative measurement.
So what better metrics can you use to gauge the health and effectiveness of your social media campaign?
- Conversions. First, you can measure conversions, or set up “goals” in Google Analytics to determine how many social media users, specifically, are taking a meaningful action on your website. You can define this “meaningful” action however you like, and even assign a value to it; what’s truly important is that you know what percentage of your social media traffic is actually taking that action, and how much value those actions are creating.
- Engagements. Instead of looking at how many followers you have, look at how many engagements you’re getting. Engagements include things like shares, likes, and comments, and shows that these people aren’t just passively seeing you post things—they’re actively interested in what you’re posting.
- Growth velocity. You can also get more meaningful information by comparing a variety of metrics to those same metrics in the past. How fast are you growing? Are your numbers in every dimension increasing? Where are they falling stagnant, or worse, declining? These are valuable pieces of information.
- On-site behaviour. Take a look at your social-specific traffic within Google Analytics. How is this traffic behaving on your site? What pages are they visiting, and how interested are they in your content? If they tend to bounce after a page or two, you might be targeting the wrong audience.
Social media marketing success can’t be defined by any one variable or any one metric, nor is it the same for every company. If you want to know whether your social media strategy is working, you first need to define what “working” means for you and then use a collection of different metrics to determine whether it’s working or not.
It’s a complex process, but it’s necessary if you want to accurately estimate your ROI and make improvements to improve your efficiency.
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