Here's a daunting fact from social media certification firm Social Media Marketing University:
"In new research released March 14, 2014, 64.9 percent of marketer respondents agree that Twitter is an effective marketing tool. Yet 45.1 percent report that measuring the ROI results of their Twitter endeavors continues to be their primary challenge -- topping obvious goals of building audience (42.1 percent) and securing engagement (36.8 percent)."
While this report looked only at Twitter, it is a fair assumption that the challenges for marketing efforts on Facebook, Google+, and YouTube are roughly the same. The long and the short of it: Executives recognize the value of social media. And to a degree that they are funding social media efforts and allowing employees to participate in the programs without knowing the ROI of their efforts and at present, without the means to find out.
In other words, organizations are driving the social media vehicle without a clear destination or the means of even assessing the cost of the car. Would we be so bold -- or foolish -- with any other marketing decision than this? Clearly the answer is no.
What then are the ways to measure social media activities, and what are the metrics that matter most in assessing results? In ascending order of priority, here are the four key measurement metrics you should care about most.
First and foremost, track the number of direct leads to your company that originate from social media. Even more than this, determine the platforms and networks that are producing the most. Most conveniently, the social media platform you use should be able to make this distinction. But as a fallback, companies should track the incoming source of their product inquiries to assess the number of leads that emerge from each platform. A caveat: Certain social media activities such as a limited time offer on Facebook can reliably generate a predictable number of leads. For some smaller companies or retailers this activity may even serve as the crux of their incoming sales. For example, a coupon offer on Monday via Facebook and email can reliably produce an incoming level of customer traffic by the end of the week. However, social media offers (particularly on a platform such as Facebook) are viewed primarily by current customers and followers. This makes the activity inefficient as a way to expand the company's visibility to a new and broader customer base. Furthermore, limited time offers can be viewed by the company's followers long after the program's deadline is done. There is little that's more disheartening to a loyal customer than seeing the details of a bargain price they've just missed. However, the measurement of leads is a distinct and accurate assessment of direct ROI.
Many software platforms offer the ability to track the traffic that comes to a company's site. Basic analytics from Google Analytics can give an overall picture of the traffic and the click through that comes from various social media platforms. However, even better, a growing number of social media platforms can also measure the traffic and clicks that emerge from employee shared content, and can even tell you which employees (or outside advocates) are producing the most. In either case, the amount of traffic and the number of clicks are clear metrics that companies can use to measure improvement over time, as well as to estimate with the help of conversion rate metrics to determine the amount of revenue and business that is being produced.
Increasingly, new platforms are gaining the ability to view the number of retweets, re-shares, favorites, and comments the company's social media content receives. This is valuable information that can give a clearer picture of the content's true value, as well as an indication of which topics and pieces of information engage and inspire readers and viewers the most.
Tools such as Bitly and Topsy are valuable for providing a clearer picture of the company's truest social media reach. The ability to integrate these tools into the company's platform for social media shares is more valuable still, as it becomes more reasonable and viable to use these tools as a trustworthy metric on the actual level of social media shares. At a minimum, these four metrics are available in at least broad strokes to every organization. With more sophistication, it's also becoming increasingly possible to see which topics, which content, and which employees and advocates are most proactive and productive in generating revenue and business from the company's social media news -- especially important as companies are increasingly putting employee advocacy programs to work.
In addition to these four metrics, it is interesting to examine the activity level of social media followers for each platform -- the ratio of active members vs. inactive followers -- and to measure the increasing level of activity and engagement over time. The least important metrics: total number of "likes" on Facebook, and followers on Twitter and YouTube, etc. Savvy marketers are realizing the level of activity and engagement matters far more.
In every case, every organization should consider 2014 the opening of the era of social media metrics. From this moment forward, it's no longer acceptable to drive the social media vehicle without directing or measuring the results or the cost of the car.
Eric Roach is co-founder and CEO at EveryoneSocial.
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