In recent posts, I have taught our readers how to grasp the basic concepts required for monitoring and managing social media so they can be more effective in marketing their businesses on these channels. As the last in my three-part series, this post discusses how to measure the information received through the first two processes to provide actionable insight required to carry out successful, long-term social media strategies.

In earlier posts, I explained how to develop a social media strategy and carry it through and how to track social media efforts and reach your benchmarks. Your strategy should include your social media goals, determined by analyzing your business to decide what you want and are able to achieve through social media and what you are able to offer your audiences as well as other businesses to understand what they are doing successfully so you can compete. You can also look at reports and other key benchmarking data, provided by organizations such as MarketingSherpa, MarketingProfs and Forrester. Your strategy should also include your plan for measuring success, laying out your key performance metrics and how you will collect and analyze the data. I suggest you read these posts first to provide you with a good starting point for today’s discussion. This post will provide details on how to actually measure social media, including tools and measurement methods we employ.

Step one: Determine your goals

The first step to measurement is determining your qualitative and quantitative social media goals. Qualitative goals could include, but aren’t limited to, increased brand awareness, influence and engagement. Quantitative goals could include, but aren’t limited to, website traffic, sales and SEO ranking.

For example, at Francis Moran and Associates, we’re currently focused on increasing awareness of our new firm, which includes attracting people to our site, and establishing thought leadership through social media. We also use social media to uncover prospects and nurture relationships with current clients, prospects, industry thought leaders and media organizations and journalists. We track specific levels of activity, with objectives for actual results in terms of new leads and revenue set as longer-term goals. As mentioned previously, your goals should be outlined in detail in your social media strategy.

Step two: Set your benchmarks

Benchmarks are the standards against which all measurements and metrics are measured. They are required to determine if your social media strategy is successful over the long run.

After determining your social media goals, you’ve got to scrape together all the information you can to establish your starting point. Your social media strategy should lay out which channels you intend to use and how you indent to use them to engage with your audience. Where you engage is where you will pull your information. For example, we primarily use our blog, Twitter and LinkedIn. So, we pull our information from analytics tools associated with these channels. We use Google Analytics and Hootsuite Analytics primarily, as well as our own management methods to keep track of our weekly metrics. I discussed this process in my post on measurement.

Using a spreadsheet, track the information you need. If you are interested in increasing sales, mark how many prospects you received and how many were converted into sales each week. If you’re interested in engagement levels, mark community growth, mentions, shares and click-throughs etc. Everything is measureable. You just have to know what to measure, find the right tools and stick firmly to a tracking schedule. (I chose Fridays.) I’ve listed a number of tools for pulling information in my monitoring and measurement posts.

It is imperative that you treat social media as a long-term responsibility. It has been estimated that determining benchmarks requires at least six months to understand trends in your communities. (In my experience, three months provides some actionable insight.) Plotting your progress each week over this course of time will provide you with the information you need to set realistic goals for the future. Because goals vary dramatically among various organizations, it is challenging (arguably impossible) to set standard metrics. You’ve got to determine these for yourself, using the information available to you, which can include studies conducted by industry analysis firms.

Step three: Make sense of it

The purpose of measurement is to make sense of the information received through your monitoring and management efforts to determine if your social media strategy is successful. You’ve got to identify trends in data. For example, if you use a combination of traditional and social media, can you spot a correlation between stories being published or aired and tweets being posted about the subject? The reason why we keep both weekly and monthly reports is so we can track minute changes and massive shifts. And remember, quality of information matters. For example, while you should track your Twitter followers, you also need to determine if they are relevant to you.

Categorizing your data can help you understand major trends. Jeremiah Owyang did a great job in creating a method for segmenting data. According to Owyang, there are seven elements of social data. These are: Demographic, product, psychographic, behavioural, referral, location and intention. I suggest you read his post on the subject to understand how you could use this method to organize your data.

Step four: Determine ROI – Correlations and Anecdotes

In his post on measurement, Jay Baer states that there is only one way to calculate ROI (return on investment). “It’s sales minus expenses, divided by expenses, expressed as a percentage. There is no other formula.” However, he explains that it is difficult sometimes to get a true ROI in social media. In these instances, he says you might opt to “examine how social media success ties to business success over the long haul, and make correlation studies about that relationship.” What you want to see, he says, is “a situation where business success increased in lock step with social success (or slightly trailing social success).” Baer also says that anecdotes can be used in social media measurement. For example, you can ask around for instances where you “turned lemons into lemonade, delighted a customer or just did something awesome with social media.” Keep track of all these occasions in spreadsheets as proof that social media is successful at your organization.

Was this post helpful? Did I miss any key points? Do you need any further information? How are you measuring social media success at your organization?

Francis Moran and Associates is an associated team of seasoned practitioners of a number of different marketing disciplines, all of whom share a passion for technology and a proven record of driving revenue growth in markets across the globe. We work with B2B technology companies of all sizes and at every life stage and can engage as individuals or as a full team to provide quick counsel, a complete marketing strategy or the ongoing hands-on input of a virtual chief marketing officer.

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