Measuring social media marketing success

Social media has changed the marketing landscape almost beyond recognition. Businesses of every size can now connect with their customers, competitors and peers in a way that was unimaginable just a couple of years ago.

But social media marketing remains a pretty confused (and confusing) field. Many firms are entering the realm of social media simply because they feel like they should – without having formulated any coherent way of measuring its performance.

It can be difficult to put a sterling value on social media marketing efforts. But here are some ways that you can measure, improve and quantify the success your social media activities.

Identify your metrics

Fans, friends and favourites
This is perhaps the most obvious range of metrics to measure. Twitter followers, Facebook fans, Digg links and so on constitute the bedrock on which many social media campaigns are built.

Referrals
Many marketers measure the success of a social media campaign by looking at the number of page views generated. This is obviously a particularly useful metric for informational, rather than transactional websites.

Interaction
Social media marketing is useless if you are simply talking to yourself. So, you might also choose to measure levels of interaction. For example, how many times are you retweeted, and how frequently do users share your posts on Facebook? How many comments do your blog posts generate? This is also a useful way of determining the quality of your output on your chosen social media channels; users will generally only share content that is of particular interest or of particularly high quality – so the higher your levels of interaction, the more successful your efforts.

Influencers
Of course, not all followers are of equal importance. Consider retweets on Twitter. While every retweet is welcome, some are more valuable than others. A retweet from a user with 1,000 followers obviously seems more valuable than one from a user with 10 followers. The user with 1,000 followers is likely to be more of an influence within their own network.

But numbers aren’t necessarily everything. Those 1,000 followers might be in a field completely different to yours. In these cases, a retweet from a user with 100 followers, each with interests similar to yours, may actually be more valuable.

Influence is therefore very difficult to measure, but is an important concept that should be at the forefront of your social media efforts.

Conversions
If you are selling something tangible, you will also probably want to measure conversions. Can you see a sales increase concurrent with a social media campaign? Do certain products perform better than others? Do you see an increase in leads but no improvement in your conversion rate? All of these observations can help you improve your campaigns.

Customer attrition
Social media can also help you maintain existing customers. Building your brand through social media can encourage a sense of loyalty amongst your customer base – and, in turn, reduce customer churn. You may therefore want to measure your customer retention rates.

Benchmark and monitor

It is important to remember that ‘snapshots’ of these metrics are not useful on their own. You can only measure performance by continually monitoring these figures over an extended period of time. This will help you to identify trends, and determine the impact of your campaigns.

You should also consider benchmarking your social media performance against your other marketing channels. This will help you to determine which marketing channels yield the best results for your business.

Remember SEO

The impact of social media on SEO is often overlooked. Imagine the situation: you share a link to your site on Twitter, and it is retweeted a few dozen times. The link is seen by a blogger, who writes about it. The blog entry appears in the RSS feeds of other bloggers and social media users, who in turn share it or blog about it. In this way you have begun to generate links that are not just generating visits – they are also bolstering your PageRank.

Think about PR

‘Conventional’ media outlets are increasingly turning to social media in an effort to dig up stories. Generate a big enough buzz on social media, and you stand a pretty good chance of having your story picked up offline.

But social media has also changed the PR landscape rather more fundamentally. Through social media, businesses can connect with existing and potential customers in an increasingly direct way. At the same time, though, bad news spreads much faster; just think about the Paperchase Twitter fiasco earlier this year. Social media has the power to do great damage to your brand, so it is vital that you keep track of what is being said about you online.

Social media is gradually transforming the way businesses interact with their customers. Its potential is almost limitless. But, if you are to make the most of these tools, you must ensure that you are measuring your performance effectively.