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This past weekend I spoke on a panel at the DC Science Writers Association conference about measuring return on investment for social media. It’s definitely a hot topic. With all of the time and resources organizations are pouring into in social media, they’re naturally asking — how do we know if it’s all worth it?
There’s no shortcut to getting an accurate picture of your ROI. It takes planning, consistency, and ongoing engagement. But don’t get too worried, here are four steps to help you start assessing your social media ROI.
1. Create goals
The truth is, it’s impossible to measure social media ROI without first understanding your goals. How can you judge you success if you don’t know what you’re trying to achieve. In some industries, goals are transactional and/or sales-based. But other organizations (including many in the science community) are not trying to complete a traditional sale. For these types of organizations, goals might include:
- Generating discussions on specific articles or topics
- Sharing information with a wider audience
- Attracting more people/entrants to a competition
- Increasing awareness of programs
- Selling tickets to an exhibit or event
- Disseminating educational materials to teachers
Once your goals are explicitly defined, you can see how your social media efforts will support them and how you will measure success.
2. Monitoring your Activity
Once you have goals set for your social media activities, you need to monitor your efforts. What you monitor and measure should reflect your goals. If the success of the campaign is being measured by an increase in your social media audience, then you should concentrate your efforts on, for example, increasing your number of Facebook followers (or likes).
Most social media platforms provide some level of statistics, and there are a variety of third party tools (ranging from free to very expensive) that you can use to maintain and monitor your social media accounts. Here are a few to consider:
If you are using Facebook, the Facebook Insights for Pages provides a wealth of information about:
Demographics of who is visiting your pages
- How many people are talking about your content
- How many people have viewed each tab on your page
- What external sites are referring visitors to your page
- Who is talking about and sharing your content
Twitter advanced search allows you to set geographic and even sentiment parameters around specific keywords. So you can create separate searches for positive, negative and neutral tweets about a particular topic and restrict that search to within 100 miles of the DC area in order to better coordinate your response. You can save these searches, so you only have to set them up once.
Third Party Tools
There are also a variety of third party tools that allow you to monitor multiple social media accounts, schedule activity in advance, monitor specific terms, assign team members to follow up on specific items, etc.
3. Measure Conversions
Each of your goals should match up with a specific, measurable conversion. Often people conflate “conversion” with “purchase.” That’s a mistake. Think of a conversion as any action you want your user to take. So, are your social media efforts aimed at getting a user to download a document? Watch a video? Provide an email address? Sign a petition? Each one of these actions can be tracked, measured, and counted as a conversion, which will in turn help you determine your true social media ROI.
Since, in many cases, your social media efforts are driving users back to a website, you can analyze your web statistics to determine your conversion rate. If, like most organizations we work with, you are using Google Analytics, you can set goals to track your conversions.
There are three types of goals in Google Analytics:
- A specific URL (like a thank you page) when people submit a form or an email address
- Time on Site
- Pages per visit
If you want to measure video views or document downloads you can use Event Tracking. You can even use Event Tracking to track how long people watch a video, when they stop and start it. Using the goal funnel, you can see how many people started the process, where they went, if they left the site completely, how many continued on to the next step.
4. Report your Success
Any report on social media should take into account a combination of factors, including conversions, engagement and sentiment. We generally use the following measures:
- How much traffic social media drove to the site & conversions – what actions they took when they got to the site
- Fan base – followers, likes, subscribers (YouTube channel, blog RSS readers, etc.)
- Engagement – retweets, conversations (Facebooks # are talking about), shares, blog comments
- Demographics of your audience
By incorporating all of these factors and applying them back to your business goals, you can determine the effectiveness of your social media campaign, and in turn your ROI.
Need help making your social media campaigns more effective? The Innate social team can help. Contact us for a consultation.
[Photo credit: Sean MacEntee, Flickr Creative Commons]