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Are your social media efforts paying off?

It’s easy to get started on social media. Your company probably has a social media presence, and maybe you’ve run a few social media campaigns already. But, how can you tell if your social media efforts are paying off?

Like anything else in business, being successful at social media requires hard work, patience, and diligence. An experience and understanding of people, technology, and marketing is key. Having a strategy is also necessary. To create a one, you must learn to understand your audience’s needs through analytics, and then implement a process that drives measurable return on investment. With this strategy, you can plan out social media initiatives. Ensure that they are successful by planning appropriately and implementing flawlessly. If you’re running a social media program but you don’t know what you’re planning to accomplish, or don’t know how to measure its success, you are doing it wrong. Don’t let the strategy end with the execution. Refinement is equally important.

So, how can you advance your social media efforts?

Measure ROI

To measure the ROI of you social media marketing efforts, you need to look at the following:

  • Reach
  • Engagement
  • Sentiment

Reach – the amount of people who see any given post on your social media. This will vary by platform, but is generally linked to the number of followers you have.

Engagement – the number of times people interact with your content and is easily measurable on all platforms. Engagement encompasses:

  • Blog comments and shares
  • Facebook status likes, comments and shares
  • Google+ +1s, shares and comments
  • Twitter replies and retweets
  • Pinterest repins and likes
  • YouTube video views

A good way to measure the effectiveness of each post is to track the link and see which headlines cause your customers to click the link the most. It’s a good idea to experiment and test with several different links to the same URL in many campaigns to see what works and what doesn’t. A good post should be made at a time when you have the most viewers online, information that can be accessed via many platforms or through third-party services.

Sentiment – the number of online mentions you receive, and whether those mentions are positive or negative. This includes reviews, comments, links and mentions. For example, if you look at the Facebook page or Twitter mentions for any major brand, you will likely see a mixture of positive and negative comments. If the company happens to have a high dissatisfaction rating nationwide, their sentiment rating will be fairly negative. However, a company that has a lot of brand loyalty will have a more positive sentiment. As social media is customer service at its core, there will be a notable difference between companies and how they treat their social media communities.

To help measure your ROI, use basic analytic tools like Facebook Insights (which is free), Buffer for Business analytics, Tweetreach, or Hootsuite’sl link tracking to understand what your customers really respond to. Notice which posts seem to generate the most likes, clicks, and reach. With these tools you’ll be able to refine your social media plans to optimize timing your posts and tracking formatting preferences (such as video, visual, or text). It’s important to base your strategy on what your customers prefer.

Monitor the competition

Social media is a powerful portal whereby you can identify potential allies as well as identify your competition. Use tools like Followerwonk.com to find and interact with key influencers who are driving the conversation in your industry.

Work with other departments

Social media marketing is most efficient and effective when it’s coordinated with your company’s branding team, email marketing team, advertising team, and other various marketing departments. For instance, your web marketing team can help drive your social media communities’ growth by linking back to your company’s social networks. Alternatively, you can gain potential leads that can convert into sales by driving traffic back to the website through content marketing.

Build relationships and listen

Social media is all about relationships: driving engagement, encouraging brand advocacy, and keeping customers happy. To build these key relationships you must listen to your customers’ needs. If you treat them right, they may even do some of the social media work for you, by contributing original content and retweeting and reposting your own content. Find out WHY people like your business and build your community around that.

While difficult to pinpoint the precise benefits of a social media strategy using an outdated measure of ROI such as revenue-per-customer, it IS possible to measure many aspects of social media ROI to get an idea of the quantitative impact that social media is having on businesses as a whole. It’s also wise to remember that the benefit of growing your brand and building a loyal following is not always measurable through mere numbers, but is highly important all the same.