by Diane S. Thieke
In the early days, social media was revered because unlike other forms of marketing, it was “free.” Or so people thought. Gradually, executives began to notice that their marketers were spending a lot of time working with social media, but they weren’t quite sure whether all this work was creating new revenue for their businesses.
As we’ve come to find out, social media isn’t free. It now costs both money and resources to do it well. Like any other marketing activity, it needs to earn its keep, and so it has to be measured. In some ways, this is very easy. We can measure the number of likes and followers and we can track click-through to websites. But the larger question is: What does it mean?
What Does it Mean?
What does it mean to have 30,000 followers on Twitter or to know that 30% of your website traffic comes from Facebook? To be frank, the only question that matters to your CEO is: How many of those followers have bought our product in the last year? How many Facebook users contacted a salesperson after arriving on our website?
I see social media as a mix of marketing, public relations, and customer service. It can drive new sales, but often it’s more important for customer retention and reputation management. And reputation and brand are a bit harder to measure than sales, though not impossible.
But because of its digital nature, there’s more opportunity with social media to measure the intangible. You can evaluate the success of public relations in managing a crisis in social media by the number of positive comments from people who support you. You can follow a digital breadcrumb trail from a social media marketing campaign to a sale.
How to Measure Social Media Success
Here are 4 tips for measuring social media and reporting your success to your CEO:
Tip #1: Tie social media objectives to business objectives. This one is critical. Don't start any social media program without understanding how it supports the broader organizational objectives. Yes, everyone must be in social media today, but there are many ways to do it. Just make sure it makes sense for your business.
Tip #2: Track sales. Nothing says success faster than revenue. Unlike PR, which has an indirect impact on sales, you can establish a direct connection between social media and sales. One way to do this is to use a call to action linked to a form on a landing page.
Tip #3: Track opinion. Mine your conversations for opinions and suggestions about your products and services. This is a form of market research, and sometimes it's even better than that, especially if customers uncover an unknown problem.
Tip #4: Track customer complaints. If you’re using social media primarily as a customer service tool, track the number of customer help requests v. the number that are resolved. Compare this to other methods of customer service, such as the phone or email. Nielsen’s latest Social Media Report shows that one in three social media users prefer to get customer support this way rather than by phone. And most of them are under the age of 34.
The more you can link social media activities to tangible results, the more support – and budget – you’ll get from your CEO to continue your social media operations.
Diane S. Thieke is the president and founder of Simply Talk Media, a digital media marketing consultancy. With more than 25 years in digital media and technology, she helps clients build stronger relationships with their customers and communities, using both social and traditional channels. Follow her on Twitter at @thiekeds or visit her blog at www.simplytalkmedia.com/blog.
Social Media photo from Shutterstock.