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Grow Your Business Social Media

How to Measure Social Media Marketing ROI

image for Nopparat Khokthong/Shutterstock
Nopparat Khokthong/Shutterstock
  • There is no one way to determine if your social media is successful, but a variety of tools and a good strategy can help you track your progress.
  • You need to know how you will track and use your analytics.
  • Focus on engagement, not vanity metrics.

"Are my social media efforts successful?"

It's a question we've asked ourselves since the advent of social media, but even now, more than a decade later, we're no closer to having a cut-and-dry answer. Because every business and every social platform is different, success has a different meaning for business professional and brand.

Social media has proven itself to be a mainstay of modern business, and so it is key that you have a strong, active online presence that engages with customers regularly.

And while there is no one way to know if you're "successful," there are plenty of ways to track your engagement rates, identify and fulfill your goals, and get a general idea of where you stand among your competition.

The first step in determining your success in social media marketing is developing a detailed plan that addresses the following:

  • What you want your social media to do for you
  • How you plan to accomplish your goals
  • How you plan to track engagement, i.e., which metrics you plan to use
  • How you plan to analyze your results

"I would recommend starting with the objective," said Aalap Shah, founder of 1o8 agency. "Is it brand awareness? Is the campaign meant to drive in-store retail? Based on that, pick awareness or conversion metrics."

To determine your metrics and how you will track them, there is a variety of media management and sentiment analysis tools available to help. Google Analytics is a comprehensive website tool that is easy to set up and use. Hootsuite Insights lets you track engagement and build custom reports, and Keyhole shows you when your users are most active and likely to engage. 

You can then flesh out your plan by determining which metrics you want to track – like engagement, audience, reach, engagement or sentiment – and how you will apply that information to your strategy.

Many organizations that report having difficulty measuring social media ROI have not defined specific, tangible goals. The first step in successfully measuring ROI is to establish these goals and then build your strategy to specifically accomplish those goals.

"Set a clear outline around the metrics you are tracking," said Dan Willis, founder of the Millennial Motivator. "Each marketing effort should have clear community growth that is dialed in on actual engagement and conversion."

Try the SMART method – Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, Timed – to set your goals, and decide how you are going to accomplish them. You should be looking to increase engagement (likes, shares, comments), website traffic, brand awareness or in-store traffic, for example.

"For small businesses, goals should be established based on short-term goals, and built out incrementally and scaled from there," said David Azar, co-founder and CEO of Outsmart Labs.

You can also look back at what your company has done previously to help determine your goals.

"How effective has social media been for your business?" said Ellen Borza, SEO and PR manager for Web Talent Marketing. "What can you learn? Take a deep dive to establish a baseline first. From there, you can define attainable but challenging goals.'

"One of the most common mistakes I see is that small businesses don't have a clear vision of how to measure the success of their social media marketing efforts," said Kaisa Suojanen, digital marketer at Upgrow.

As you set goals, have vision or end goal in mind that you want those smaller goals to work up to or achieve. This unifies your social media efforts.

Try to ensure that your end goal is in keeping with your business's branding and communications guidelines so that everything is uniform. You can also use your company's mission and vision statements to spark ideas for your social media strategy.

Willis cautioned against "vanity metrics," which are flashy analytics, like a high follower count or page views where none of your followers engage with your content. 

"The reality is [that] your reach, likes and followers are relatively insignificant if that community is not engaging and converting," said Willis. "Scrap the vanity metrics, and double down on engagement."

Commit to examining your analytics and understanding exactly what they mean. It takes time to learn what comprises a successful post. Monitor your social media over an extended period until you start to see trends. You should see what works, what doesn't and things like best times to post. 

"When it comes to organic strategy, it's about building up your brand image, cultivating relationships with your audience and proving yourself trustworthy," said Kiara Martilla, founder of Kiara Jennifer & Co. Marketing. "Your audience should feel comfortable enough to like, comment and DM you without being blasted with a sales pitch." 

When your followers feel that they have a relationship with you, they are more likely to engage with your content and follow through with a purchase or commitment to your business. 

In this age of consumers favoring authentic content, relationships are vital to your social media strategy. Respond to comments and messages, and offer frequent opportunities for followers to engage, like giveaways, asking for responses in the comments or featuring followers in your posts. 

Martilla said that staying true to the origins of social media – being social and making connections – helps you to stay authentic and avoid overdone posts that alienate followers.

"The more ways you can relate and connect, the more points of connections you can create with [your followers], the more they are going to feel drawn to you." 

"Many small businesses use social media to establish an online presence," said Borza. "And while that's a valid reason to use it, don't just post for the sake of posting. Low- quality posts lead to low reach and poor engagement. Instead, focus on creating engaging content, even if that means you're only posting once a week." 

Make it a part of your social media strategy to give good thought to and have a reason for every post. Your social media is there to serve your business and achieve a goal, not just to exist. Spend time considering your photo, caption and hashtags as is appropriate for each platform. Publishing tools like Hootsuite or Later help you set up and preview posts before they go live. 

"Don't be impatient," said Azar. "While it may be tempting to jump to conclusions about the success of your campaigns early on, patience is essential. Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither is a robust social media marketing strategy."

Kiely Kuligowski

Kiely is a staff writer based in New York City. She worked as a marketing copywriter after graduating with her bachelor’s in English from Miami University (OH) and is now embracing her hipster side as a new resident of Brooklyn. You can reach her on Twitter or by email.