We're all too well aware of how social media has changed the marketing landscape over the past decade. People can now interact with brands in multiple ways, across multiple devices, and through multiple channels.
But while the social media transformation - and larger digital one - has added new opportunities for brands, it has also created unrivaled complexity and increased demand for attribution and measurement.
As a result of these changes, marketers need to adjust the way they approach social media and measurement. Here are some of the ways that top marketers are embracing change to drive results and return on social media investment.
1. A growth mindset
To start, success - and ultimately social media ROI - isn't driven by ingenious revelations or the latest technology; it's driven by mindset. Top marketers realize that constant change, evolution, and a vision are needed to generate results.
A growth mindset requires the desire to always want more, not settle, find ways to optimize, and continually advance - along with a willingness to embrace the constantly evolving social media landscape and use it to their advantage.
Desire and drive can't be taught, but a growth mindset can be honed to help marketers identify real opportunities and innovate for marketing growth.
2. A documented strategy
A growth mindset is a driving force behind results, but it alone cannot generate success.
Consequently, a written and established strategic framework - that establishes what success looks like, competitive white space, key audiences, opportunities for growth, and a plan for how to reach these - is essential.
As the Content Marketing Institute notes in its 2016 B2C content marketing trends study:
"In general, compared with B2C marketers who have a verbal-only strategy, B2C marketers who have a documented content marketing strategy get better results with the tactics, social media platforms, and paid advertising methods they use."
Those who are effective at generating social media ROI understand the need to have such a structure in place to align and guide decisions and tactics.
3. Always experimenting
Experimentation is the foundation of growth and driving results. As Sean Ellis has said:
"If you're not running experiments, you're probably not growing."
Additionally, "top marketers are more than twice as likely to conduct strategic experiments than the mainstream," a joint Econsultancy and Google study recently found.
Simply, a culture of testing and experimentation helps social media marketers answer strategic questions, enact relevant optimization, and find new opportunities.
Building an agile culture and process that's flexible to strategic experimentation allows for constant testing - small bets that can be replicated and implemented iteratively if effective - which is the basis for developing actionable insights and driving success.
4. Not losing sight of business goals
The top marketers show ROI on their social media efforts by first understanding what really matters and what feeds results, which means they know how social media contributes to overall business objectives.
When developing a social media strategy, the top marketers establish bottom line goals that contribute to and align with overall business goals.
After these objectives are established, the key social media results or marketing objectives that ladder up to the business objectives provide the numeric goals to drive toward and inform social media marketing tactics.
Popularized by Google, this style of measurement and goal setting is known as OKRs (Objectives and Key Results), and is a structure I regularly employ.
Due to such a structure, social media ROI can be determined and allows the top marketers to understand which social media tactics, channels, and campaigns are driving the greatest business impact.
Referencing the Econsultancy and Google study again, "95% of the study's respondents agree that to truly matter, marketing analytics' KPIs must be tied to broader business goals."
Ultimately though, the top marketers know the difference between their marketing and business objectives and metrics, how the groups are connected, and never lose focus of needing to drive real business outcomes.
5. Making measurement essential
Along with a documented strategy, top marketers establish a consistent measurement and reporting system. All of the aforementioned components aren't possible without having access to the associated data that's needed.
Furthermore, the top social media marketers make reporting consistent to isolate trends, opportunities, and optimizations. They also put a premium on data and measurement by maintaining such a structure and seeing it as the center of everything they do.
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of Social Tools & Best Practices.