Social Savvy: How to measure social success - Aug/Sep 18

By Christine B. Whittemore

In June, I discussed how to listen socially. This approach monitors what is being said on social networks by real people about your company, your brand, your people and your industry. But are you now wondering how to measure social media success? How do you know if what you are doing is working?

As with any social networking, it can get complicated. However, there are ways to make sense of it. To illustrate, I’ll explore specific situations and determine how you might measure social success. I’ll even address doing nothing.

Remember-as I advised previously-to start by establishing your goals so you can consistently tie your social activities back to them. If you can’t, you need to reconsider the business resources being allocated to social media. From a big picture perspective, you’re looking to determine whether the resources you put into social media-the cost associated with time spent and/or social advertising-generate benefits for the business. Those benefits can relate to revenue from products sold, leads generated, increased efficiency (less time spent addressing service issues), improved customer satisfaction, greater awareness of your business or even a competitive advantage.

Ideally, the benefits outweigh the investment, making the return on your investment (ROI) positive. As easy as it is to quantify the investment, though, it’s more challenging to do so with the benefits. Why? Because some of them are less tangible, and you have to make assumptions to come up with equivalent dollars.

Each social network offers different types of measurements. Measurements such as follows, likes, shares and RTs (retweets) are considered vanity metrics. They look good, they make you feel loved, yet they tend not to signify much for the business, although they can offer social proof. Others, such as public comments and interactions, visits to your website, reviews and one-to-one private interactions about specific questions, indicate a level of qualified interest in your business. The ultimate in the hierarchy are those that lead directly to a sale: obtaining contact information, selling something online or visits to your physical location.

Whereas results associated with a sale will have a distinct dollar value associated with them, vanity metrics will have a low value. So, if you decide that an additional Facebook like is worth one dollar and capturing an email address is worth $10, you’ll be better able to evaluate whether to spend advertising dollars on more likes or more email addresses. The toughest to associate values with are the ones in the middle-not the vanity metrics at the top of the marketing funnel nor the metrics, at the other end, associated with a sale, but those relating to, for instance, capturing email addresses and visits to your website. Don’t skip them, though. They matter. Sometimes, they are worth more because of the vanity metrics.

Lastly, don’t forget to quantify negative results, as in what happens when you do nothing.

All social networking platforms provide you with insights about your audience. As you review the data, remember that it relates to the platform and not your business. Social networks are about themselves; they want to keep people captive and immersed. When people are in social-mode, they prefer to remain in the platform, being social.

For that reason, beware of what social metrics tell you. More likes, greater reach and additional impressions may be good, but they tend to do little for keeping your company in business. So, as you review the information, ask questions and try to relate what you see with desired changes in behavior, including visits to your website.

As you analyze your social investments, be sure to track what role that social network plays in generating traffic referrals to your site. Check your analytics tool. Look at the detail. Your top social post may not necessarily be the same as what drives website traffic and generates sales. Let’s explore different scenarios.

Goal: Do nothing on social media. When you are inactive or absent on social media, by default that is your goal. Although you’re making no investment, your return isn’t positive or neutral. Quite the opposite. With no presence on social networks, you don’t hear what customers and competitors are saying about you, and you miss opportunities to develop relationships, improve your reputation and even generate business. These lost opportunities represent negative value.

Goal: Develop a sales pipeline. Perhaps your business is about connecting with general contractors so you can generate specific sales leads. You decide that your ideal prospects hang out on LinkedIn. You create a daily schedule for monitoring your network and conversations in the industry groups you belong to. You’re looking for industry news, sales intelligence and other events that offer you an opportunity to start conversations with your prospects. (For those of you familiar with the movie Working Girl, this is the digital equivalent of Melanie Griffith’s daily newspaper research.) You also make sure to regularly interact and share updates and insights relevant to your audience, including posting content related to your company-links to blog articles, events, news-that offer value.

Goal: Generate sales leads. Perhaps you’re a tile installation contractor or interior designer and you decide that Instagram is the ideal visual medium for communicating your talent to prospective customers or clients. You develop a weekly schedule for posting images of your projects-completed ones, before and after images and works-in-progress. You identify the hashtags relevant for your industry, location and types of projects. You regularly interact with your community to acknowledge comments, broaden your reach and learn.

Goal: Increase brand awareness. Perhaps your business isn’t well known, and you want to increase awareness of your brand. You decide to promote it through your company page on Facebook using Facebook advertising, which allows you to customize your reach by geography as well as specific demographics and interests. You can select the timeframe for the promotion as well as the budget. When you create your advertisement, you will have several options in terms of goals. If you’ve never advertised before with Facebook, you may prefer to test the different options to determine which is best for you. Keep in mind that building the number of page followers may help extend awareness of your brand with your next promotion. For that reason, think about what kind of change in behavior you can expect as a result of your investment.

Goal: Provide customer service. Perhaps your business is one where customers have lots of questions. Whereas addressing those questions on the phone takes a quarter of an hour for each resolution, doing so on Twitter or Facebook takes only minutes. Furthermore, you can respond to inquiries more quickly and dedicate phone support to more complex interactions.

Goal: Manage your brand reputation. Social networks can be particularly effective for managing a brand’s reputation. If you travel for business, you’ve probably been asked at least once to leave a hotel review on Travelocity, for example. For retail businesses, Google reviews are similarly critical, and proactively requesting them is an easy way to keep that process evergreen (regularly updated). Beyond that, depending on your product or service, you may want to regularly monitor mentions of your brand in Facebook groups and public forums. In addition to listening, you’ll want to participate in conversations directly and indirectly related to your product or service to build goodwill and address issues.

An added benefit is that you can gather content ideas to develop on your website and blog and share via social networks, reinforcing your brand’s commitment to the industry.

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