Social media marketing
Social media has pervaded nearly every corner of our lives. Sure you can avoid it, but doing so takes some serious effort. It’s become the subject matter of our favorite dystopian tv show, it’s impacting the way governments function, and it’s even becoming a method of payment.
One of the most dramatic embraces of social media we’ve seen is in the corporate world. Dig for a day and you’ll struggle to uncover one major corporation that doesn’t have a social media account. Companies are using it for everything from marketing and promotion to customer support.
Despite its ubiquity, you can’t say that companies have seen universal success in the social media strategies. Just take a look at these social media gaffes from last year.
But even if you avoid any downright debacles, it’s still no guarantee that social media marketing is a boon to business. Measuring its success can be quite a challenge, however, it’s not impossible.

Wait, does my business even need social media?

While it’s true that every large company probably needs some social media marketing strategy, it isn’t necessarily true for every business.
No matter your company, you should have at least a Facebook page that provides some information about your business and links to your website. The question you have to answer is—do I want to consistently commit resources to a social media marketing strategy?
Just about every business can benefit from social media marketing, but if you’re a small growing business, you need to worry about resource allocation. That means conducting a cost/benefit analysis of social media marketing.
There’s no one right way to go about this, but broadly speaking, here are the benefits of that social media marketing can provide:

    • Create a stronger bond with your existing customer base
    • Increase your brand awareness
    • Boost the performance of other marketing strategies, such as content marketing
    • Gain an understanding of what your audience thinks about you
  • Create another medium for which you can convert prospects into customers

These all sound like great benefits, and they are, but if you’re going to commit to a social media strategy (or if you already have), you need to develop a means to measure whether or not you’re actually realizing its benefits.

Develop your social media marketing goals

Just because so many companies are using social media doesn’t mean that they’re all using it the same way or for the same reason. There are several different things that you can get out of social media, so before you figure out how to measure your social media performance, you have to determine what you want to measure.
There’s no one right way to figure out what your goals should be and making that determination is no walk in the park.
Jessie Deschane, our social media manager here at ActiveCampaign, says “The most difficult thing is deciding which metrics mean those most to your company and your goals. Whether it’s engagement, impressions or growth, finding out what’s most important to your overall goals will help you decide what’s the best metric to measure success. I think as long as you know where you’d like to be improving, you’re in a good space.”
Think of your social media goals as high level. There will likely be several different metrics that contribute to one goal. The following are some common goals:

    • Increase conversions
    • Build your email list/leads
    • Increase your brand awareness
  • Boost audience engagement

With every goal you set, you need to make sure that it is measurable. It’s going to be impossible for you to say whether you’ve met your goal or not if it’s not measurable.
So, the goals listed above wouldn’t be sufficient. It’s not enough to say we want to increase our email list, you need to say how much. A better goal would be increase email list by 5% per quarter.
Some goals might be harder to put a number on. Building your email list is an easy one, but what about something like increasing brand awareness—there’s no brand awareness number, right?
That’s correct, but that doesn’t mean brand awareness isn’t measurable. There are plenty of metrics that contribute to brand awareness. To name a few, there’s followers, impressions, number of brand evangelists. So tie your goal to several metrics that roll up to that goal. Now you’ve turned an abstract goal into a measurable one.
It’s important to note that when you’re setting goals for the first time, there’s going to be a little guesswork involved. If you haven’t been tracking performance in the past, you’re probably not going to be able to effectively predict what’s to come.
Use the beginning of this process to set baselines, better understand current performance, and iterate going forward. In no time, you’ll be able to actively predict future performance and create goals that are the right mix of attainable and aspirational.

Tracking tactics

Since goals are so high level, looking at how you perform relative to a goal isn’t very helpful. Let’s say you want to increase your conversion rate and at the end of the quarter you’ve fallen short.
Well, if all you’re doing is tracking your conversion rate, you won’t really gain any insights into what was working and what wasn’t.
If you want to find out what works and what doesn’t and, ultimately, reach and surpass goals in the future, you need to track the performance of your individual tactics.
The first step here is to make a list of all of your tactics. There are countless social media marketing tactics, but as an example, here are five:

    • Content distribution
    • Replying to all (appropriate) mentions
    • Capitalize on trending topics
    • Run contests
  • Use Gifs in tweets

You need to understand why you are committing time and resources to each of your tactics, and then figure out how those tactics contribute to a specific goal. If a tactic isn’t contributing to a goal, it’s probably time to scrap it. If a tactic isn’t sufficiently contributing to a specific goal, it might be time to scrap that one too.
So, let’s continue with the example goal of trying to increase your conversion rate. We’ll assume one of the tactics you’re implementing is distributing more content. After a month of sharing more content on social media, you are seeing that the pieces you share on social are not only getting more views, but they’re also converting at a higher rate.
With this information, you can confidently say that social content distribution is linked to higher conversion rates. Now that you’re armed with this information, you can use it to inform your social strategy going forward.

Measure and refine

So you’ve determined your goals, you know which tactics roll up into which goals, now all you have to do is measure and refine.
You’re almost certainly going to need a tool to measure the metrics you want to. If you already have a social media management tool, it will have some measurement capabilities, but it’s crucial that your tool has the right capabilities.
If your current social media management software doesn’t have what you need from a performance management standpoint, go find the one that does and make the swap. Your tool shouldn’t be defining what you measure, you should.
Once that’s squared away create reports that provide all the info you need for all of your metrics. Remember that this is an ongoing process, not a set it and forget it situation.
You should be continuously evaluating your performance. If you are far-exceeding some of your goals, maybe aim higher and vice versa.
You’ll find that when you get into a groove and are effectively measuring your social performance, you’ll be able to be more calculated in your strategy, and ultimately get more return on your investment.