To some companies, social media is just one more way push their latest content or products into the already-crowded newstreams of their users. Let's be clear: these are the companies that are wrong. Instead, the most effective use of social platforms revolves around building relationships, getting involved with customer conversations, and listening to industry trends.
Unfortunately, it is extraordinarily difficult to measure a relationship. It's not as if you can sit down and have "the talk" with your social platforms to determine where things are going. This is why so many organizations rely on the easily trackable metrics like "follows" and "likes" to figure out exactly what kind of impact their campaign is having.
While it's important to know these numbers and use them to set baselines and goals, they may not be enough to really determine what's working and what's not. When your social media efforts are devoted to building a community (as they should be), it can be pretty hard to attribute revenue directly to it. Having said that, there are still plenty of things you can do to make sure you are getting results that really benefit your long-term plans.
A Definition of Success
The thing is, every company will (and should) have different goals for their social media campaign. For some organizations, an ever increasing number of follows may be enough because it represents a larger pool of potential customers. On the other hand, a company may be more interested in generating more interaction, so they won't consider something a success unless they see a lot of comments, retweets, and shares.
This is where you need to start - if you take revenue out of the picture, what elements of a social campaign will be the most beneficial for you?
Once you can settle on this part of your strategy, you'll know which metrics you can track, and which ones infer the behaviors you need to see.
Understand Your Metrics
It's not enough to track and report on simple numbers. Likes, follows, shares, and even clicks all mean different things. So once you've got your goals set, you need to categorize these numbers to determine what kind of impact you are really having. Start by dividing your metrics up to match different phases of the customer thought processes.
Awareness - What kind of exposure is your message getting? Are new people finding out about your organization? This can be determined by:
- Brand mentions
- Page Views
Engagement - Have they found your message valuable enough to go the next step? There are a few ways you can tell.
- Contest entry
Customer conversion - Do they have reason to choose you over the competition? What do you consider a conversion?
- Newsletter subscriptions
- Content downloads
- Requests for information
- Phone calls
Advocate - Many companies stop at the customer conversion level, but there is still another step. These will be the most difficult metrics to quantify, but this is where a real community is formed, and when your real fans will do a lot of the work for you. This might include:
- Brand defense
- Social campaigning
- New influencers
The Right Tools for the Job
In some cases, the social media platforms will offer a range of analytical tools that will help you monitor and track your efforts. Sometimes, though, these aren't sufficient for your needs, and you may have to turn to third party tools or, if you're really technologically savvy, build something using the platform's API.
Many of these tools work in real-time, so the option you use should be set up in advance to track your progress. After your campaign begins is not the time to try and make things work. Set your goals and decide which metrics are most relevant to them, and then you can use these tools to keep track of your progress and determine when and how to change your strategies.
Having a Real Social Impact
Measuring your social media efforts should be more than an exercise in gathering some numbers to bulk up a report. If that's all you've got, you're probably missing out on some real potential.
Whatever tools and methods you use to track your activities on your social networks, it all needs to be done in a way that will support your future decisions. Then, when you commit to continuing the same strategies or taking some new initiatives, you'll have a strong foundation on which to build your campaign.
When you use your social media effectively, it can have a real impact on your bottom line. More than that, though, you can start to build a community of brand advocates who will support your business and help you grow.