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May 28th, 2013

Holding a Yardstick up to Social Media: How do you Measure its Success?

by Vicki Vasil

With the number of social platforms out there, and the differences in use and users from one to the other, how do you make sense of it all? There is incredibly intelligent social media data at arm’s reach. But if you don’t know how to use it, and you can’t figure out what it’s doing for your brand, how can you leverage these interactions? And how do you turn it into ROI?

Go by feel.
First and foremost, social media is about brand awareness. Before the days of the internet an ad agency didn’t know if an ad truly increased sales or if it was another factor, but one thing we could count on was that the message was being seen. And even the most fundamental reports from your social media platforms will show you not just that it’s being seen, but that it’s engaging people. It’s up to you to have a conversation, whether that language is through photos, shares or six-second videos. Line graphs and pie charts aside, you can get a feel of your community’s level of commitment to your brand. And the more you interact and respond to them with a natural conversation, the more connected they’ll become.

Limit yourself to very specific data.
Just because there are metrics for every digital move your followers make doesn’t mean you have to comb through all of it. It’s more important that you establish a baseline and reference it regularly—weekly, monthly and/or quarterly, depending on the size of your online community and conversions. While it might be difficult to prove 100% which online traffic is driving sales (though Google keeps getting closer and closer with things like their multi-channel funneling), by comparing month over month, for example, you can really gauge your social network’s influence on web traffic and sales. By looking at the reporting tools each platform provides you should be able to identify some key performance indicators which will guide your posts in the future. For example:

• Best time to post
• Most popular type of post
• Hottest post topics
• Most engaged followers

Assign a value to each of your followers.
If you’re really looking to monetize your social community – and you should—there was a great article put out by Mashable recently that explores “cost per like” on Facebook, and how to determine the value of a fan. It’s a really interesting concept that you should be able to apply to your own business. If you can track your Facebook followers’ purchase behavior and divide it by your number of Facebook fans, you can get a rough estimate to measure from month to month. But don’t confuse “value per like” with “cost per acquisition.” Remember that the overwhelming purpose for social media is to establish your brand. Even if your followers don’t convert now, the longer they continue to interact with your brand, the more likely they are to purchase in the future.

Don’t blend your findings.
Each social platform will serve your business differently. The frequency, time and level of engagement vary from network to work and some take longer than others to develop a devout following. Treat each one like a separate vehicle, with its own post schedule, ad buys and content. Just be sure to keep the branding consistent.