According to a recent survey, companies that established an extensive social media presence reported a return on investment that was more than four times that of companies with little or no social network activity.

Among B2B companies marketing via social media, LinkedIn was judged most effective in generating sales leads, followed by company blogs, Facebook, and Twitter.

The average cost of generating a lead via inbound marketing is estimated to be about half the average for outbound marketing. B2B marketing via social media is therefore definitely effective and often produces a handsome return on investment. The question, however, is how can we measure it?

Calculating ROI via traditional B2B marketing methods is fairly simple. Just divide returns by initial investment and calculate a percentage. For example, a $250,000 net profit divided by a $1,000,000 investment = 25% ROI. With social media, however, the means of dispersal and marketing mix is simply too complex for such easy calculations. It’s no wonder that more than half of online businesses that use social media don’t even bother trying to measure ROI. Many even claim measuring it can’t be done.

Of those that do measure social ROI, most use the simplest statistics – measuring number of fans, likes, released-tweets, traffic and mentions. More than half say that the biggest problem in measuring social ROI is the inability to monetize and connect it to real business results. Businesses are mostly concerned with website visits, newsletter subscribers, calls and sales.

Most social media platforms know companies need to measure performance, so they provide users with metrics for tracking engagement. For example, there are Facebook Insights, LinkedIn Company Page Insights, and Pinterest Web Analytics. These tools are very good for measuring performance within the particular platform, but they don’t help much in determining how much traffic is being driven to your own website, conversions and, most importantly, lead generation.

One way to generate and measure leads from social media is to create gated content that can only be accessed by providing contact details. White papers, case studies and webinars are all examples of the type of valuable content you can provide, that in turn will entice a potential lead to fill out their information.

Leads generated from gated content are “soft-leads” – meaning they require a good deal of nurturing, and will most likely not generate a sale immediately.

Hard leads can be generated as well, but the ability to measure these leads is even more difficult. You could post content on your social networks that are overtly promotional, and link directly to a sign-up page for your product or service. However, this goes against the entire philosophy behind Content Marketing – that is, providing valuable, non-promotional content. In order to generate and measure hard leads, you need to have a robust system in place.

Put plainly, the goal of every B2B marketing strategy is to generate leads. Soft leads, hard leads – any sort of leads. These leads can then be turned into to sales, either by nurturing, or a simple phone call from a competent sales person. But how does one measure the ROI of social media?

Unfortunately, neither Facebook, nor Twitter, nor any other social network for that matter, provides you with the hard metrics you need to establish ROI for your social media marketing.

Having a system in place to be able to measure the leads you have generated, as well as rich data on how, and from where, they were generated, is a monumental task. Doing this on your own requires more time and man-power than most companies can afford.

Utilizing a system like Oktopost, which incorporates “Lead Capture Technology” gives companies the ability to see the actual ROI of their social media, and powerful granular level metrics. Whenever a lead is generated from an Oktopost link, the platform will be able to show you exactly which post, social profile and LinkedIn discussion group they came from.

Being able to have a list of leads generated from social media is one of the greatest tools in a social media marketers arsenal to be able to prove that social media has real business value. Even more so, when a marketer can show the exact details of where a lead was generated from, this kind of information will leave no doubt that social media marketing is a worthwhile investment for any business.