Start your engines

There’s been a lot written about whether or not it’s possible to truly measure the return on investment (ROI) of a business’s social media efforts – especially with a limited marketing budget.

Meanwhile, many marketers argue that the impact of social media transcends the hard numbers or conversions that they are currently able to analyze.

“We know that there are many qualitative benefits that are difficult to measure effectively,” says Alyssa Richard, founder and CEO of, a Canadian mortgage rate comparison startup.

Still, companies continue to invest time and resources into social media. To find out more, I recently spoke with a few Canadian startup founders and CEOs to find out what they’ve learned as they’ve built their brand online with limited resources, using social media as an essential ingredient in their marketing mix.

Below are some of their tips and tricks for measuring success.

Experiment and Set Benchmarks

“It’s all trial and error at the end of the day,” says Kelly Fallis, CEO of Remote Stylist – an online service, based out of Toronto and NYC, that offers free help from their designers, less-than-retail furniture prices and $1 shipping to Canada and the USA. “We set benchmarks for each of our programs and then measure against them. However, it doesn’t always work out the way we want. So, we have to adjust.”

“At RateHub, we set targets like reaching 5,000 Twitter followers by Christmas. Then, we work back what we’re going to do daily, weekly, etc. to get there,” says Richard. “We know that reaching that number will help us with more than just traffic to the website. It also has an impact on who advertises with us, as they know [with more followers] that we’re able to get their message out to more people through our social media channels.”

“We had no marketing budget when we launched,” says Matthew Slutsky, co-founder of BuzzBuzzHome, a Canadian destination for listings of new construction homes which just expanded into New York City. “So, we tried all sorts of content marketing strategies like question and answer discussions on Facebook and viral YouTube videos to see what would drive the most inbound links back to our website – both from social media and from traditional media sources. One of the most impactful ways that we’ve driven traffic to our site is through the development of infographics that raise questions and controversy.”

A recent infographic that BuzzBuzzHome created pitted Toronto real estate developer Brad Lamb against Donald Trump and sparked an online discussion around whether Lamb is the “Trump of Toronto.” Ultimately, this drove more traffic to their website.

Measure community engagement with content

All three business owners measure the value of their community and the impact of their content online.

Slutsky suggests that the measurement of community participation with social media content can be referred to as “‘proof of engagement.’ One of our biggest goals for BuzzBuzzHome is to build a community around real estate development – our user growth depends on it. So, if we get zero comments on a post on Facebook or Twitter, we know that we did something wrong and that the community wasn’t engaged.”

Richard’s team learns from their web analytics platforms (by looking at the most popular blog post categories and keywords that refer traffic to to determine future content marketing topics.

“We use Facebook Insights and CrowdBooster to look at community engagement (through comments, likes, shares and more) with the content that we post on various social media platforms,” says Richard. “We also use Google Analytics and a Jetpack plugin for WordPress to measure the engagement and popularity of the posts on our blog.”

Let audience feedback influence your brand and product development

Pinterest has proven to be a great resource for the Remote Stylist team to not only to drive traffic back to their website (an important metric for the company) but also to gauge audience interest in trending styles, designs and furniture that they should source for their customers.

“Pinterest helps us gather intelligence on what kind of furniture our customers are after,” says Fallis. “Most of what we pin on our Pinterest inspiration boards is in our furniture database of over 500,000 items. When users pin design photos to their boards, we’re able to pass that information on to our designers to source designs that resonate with our target market. By showing us who they are, we can ensure greater results for the customer.”

“We often crowdsource photo captions and designs from our community for our ‘Leonard the Bee’ brand mascot,” says Slutsky. By involving their audience in the evolution of their brand, BuzzBuzzHome is able to increase customer loyalty, engagement and drive repeat website visits.

These examples are just some of the ways startups are measuring the impact of social media on website traffic, engagement and product development. Do you have a tactic that works well for your business? Please share in the comments section below.