We’ve all had that conversation. The one about the value of social media. On quantifying success. Defining metrics and measuring ROI.

It’s one that’s played out time and time again, in companies both big and small, client-side and within agencies.

Social media has been part of our lives for over a decade. But for many established brands, it’s been something of an afterthought, with assets simply reused or repurposed from other channels. But not anymore!

Progressive brands are putting social at the heart of their strategy. And that means new resources and budget reallocation. So if we want to keep up, we’re all going to have to get better at measuring ROI, or those awkward conversations will keep on coming.

#1 Define the purpose and work backwards

We all know intuitively that social media is a must. But ask yourself why? What does your business hope to achieve? Define the purpose of social media for your brand, and to an extent the metrics will fall out of that.

Social media strategy is not a one-size-fits-all affair. Brand awareness is a perfectly good reason to invest in social. Some businesses put more emphasis on customer service and community building, whereas others are more focussed on social selling. It really comes down to the priorities of each brand.

Don’t just keep this purpose in your head either, document it in some way. Otherwise you’ll forever be at the mercy of people, not purpose. Everyone has a view on what metrics matter. One of your colleagues may look for engagement, the next may prefer conversions. Get them to agree on your strategic vision.

#2 Set goals and align with business objectives

Identify your KPIs. Then set actionable and attainable goals. Be strict and don’t put up with vague statements of intent. It’s not enough just to agree on brand awareness. You need to be clear on what that means. For social, that might be brand mentions, impressions or reach.

Think about the bigger picture. Social media won’t work for your brand in isolation. It has to feed into the wider marketing, and support your business objectives. If you do that, social will be meaningful and measurable. Not just for you, but also for your colleagues and boss, and that could aid your career.

#3 Map social media into the buying journey

Do this and you’ll win friends internally. Just think, no more talk of vanity metrics or ‘engagement for the sake of engagement’. The number one criticism of social media is that it doesn’t contribute to the bottom line, or can’t be quantified. Show that it can and you’ll find new advocates for social across the business.

Think in terms of the key stages in the customer journey. Awareness, consideration, conversion. Pick metrics that align with these, and report on them regularly. Use pixels and conversion tracking to keep tabs on actions outside of social, and setup UTM codes to capture traffic from influencers.

Your metrics should reflect the buying journey, and so too should your content. Sync the two. Make them thematic, or campaign specific. Posts for mass appeal and engagement, and dark social for conversion ads. Then join the dots between them. Retarget users who have previously engaged with content.

#4 Consider your attribution model for ROI

Last click attribution is a huge issue when it comes to assessing ROI from social. Facebook has a maximum attribution window of just 28-days, whilst Google Analytics also tracks the last touchpoint. It’s ok if your business is Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG), but not so great if you’ve got a longer buying cycle.

Added to that, social media isn’t known for being a conversion channel. It’s far better for awareness and consideration. Digital vs. offline sales attribution can be a minefield too. There are two solutions. Either, create a shared attribution model and duke it out for share of conversions, or focus on the top level metrics.

#5 Prioritising what to measure and report on

Meaningful metrics should be what you’re aiming for. Don’t be dazzled by data, or drawn into tracking an endless list of things. Less is more. That means trimming your performance reports and distilling them down to what’s important. This will give clarity and purpose to your social activity.

Tier your metrics and apply a weighting to each category. It’s about finding a balance, and using this as a yardstick for measuring success. Don’t just fall back on engagement, that’s the default option that everyone goes with. Identify and prioritise a set of metrics that truly align with your own business goals.

Key Takeaways

  • Define and document what social media is about for your brand or business.
  • Social metrics are about the bigger picture and need to align with your marketing/business goals.
  • Think about how social contributes to the buying journey. Don’t just look at engagement.
  • Less is more. Figure out what’s important and prioritise the metrics that matter.
  • Attributing your company’s share of sales to social media is notoriously tricky.

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