545653437_5a1b7b17c0_mWondering how your marketing is performing is not unique to any facet of what you might be doing. Companies always want to know what their marketing is actually doing for them, whether they are investing in print advertisements, television spots, or social media marketing. For some reason, however, it seems like evaluating social media marketing is harder than any other type of tactic. Perhaps it is because soft metrics like “likes” and “shares” interfere with how we normally discuss marketing performance. Perhaps it’s the infusion of that relationship business. Whatever the reason, companies often seem at a loss as to how to determine whether their social media marketing is working for them.

To assist, we have three questions that we suggest companies ask to help determine whether their online work is paying off.

1. What is your objective?

Often times, marketing is only hard to evaluate because there is no defined goal for which the company is striving. If you are constantly wondering whether social media is “working” the problem might not be your implementation. Rather, the problem could be that you don’t have specific goals that you can work towards. Ideally, whether you are working on social media in-house or whether you are partnering with another company, your objectives will be defined before anything is posted online. If that is not the case, however, don’t panic. Simply take a step back, look at what you are doing online at this point, and try to set objectives for this point and moving forward. If your goal is to increase sales, your strategy may change considerably if all of your content is objective and non-promotional. If your objective is to increase traffic to your website, you may want to pull back on Instagram a little and use sites like Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

2. How are you tracking your success?

Question number two is much easier to answer if you have an answer to the first question. Trying to measure success without an objective in mind is kind of like trying to run a race with no idea where the finish line is. If your objective is to increase sales, you will want to create a system to help capture and then nurture leads. An easy way to do this is to establish customized landing pages to which your social media efforts will drive traffic. On your landing pages, include something like a sample request form or an RFQ form so that you have a way to qualify these leads. Your CRM software can take it from there. If you are simply trying to increase brand awareness, make sure you don’t get caught up in things like the number of fans or followers you have. Rather, you want to make sure you are focusing on things like shares, comments, retweets, and other types of interaction. Fans and followers can be spam, but legitimate interaction is the real deal.

3. If it’s not working, what will you change?

After evaluating your social media marketing against the objectives you are trying to reach, you need to determine what you will do if the results are unsatisfactory. The answer should never be to abandon your efforts as so many companies have done in the past. If you aren’t getting the kind of engagement you want, it may be time to do a brief survey of your audience to find out what kinds of information they want and what platforms they prefer to use. If your sales aren’t increasing the way you were hoping, you may need to change the content you are sharing, or perhaps you need to emphasize different platforms. Again, hopefully you have a plan before you post anything online so that you can pivot with ease, but don’t panic or give up if that is not the case. Carefully analyze where you are versus where you want to be and move forward from there. Make sure everyone in the company is aware of any changes you are making in your strategy so that everyone can be on the same page.

We cannot reiterate enough that the best way to make sure your social media marketing will work is to create a full plan before anything is executed online. However, if you are already mid-stream in your efforts, simply take time now to ask the questions above and see where you are.