Even while social media has evolved into a critical marketing channel, measuring and quantifying social media marketing remains a challenge for most organizations. 91 percent of marketers have trouble determining the most effective social media tactics and 88 percent are not sure how to measure return on social media investment, according to Social Media Examiner’s 2015 Social Media Marketing Industry report.

In attempting to measure social media effectiveness, marketers struggle with the vast amount of social media data. While most traditional marketing metrics are well established, there is little consensus on social media metrics, partly due to the fragmented and proprietary nature of social media networks.

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As social media budgets grow in both absolute size and as a percentage of the total marketing budget, measuring the effectiveness of social media marketing has become crucial. Key questions are: What metrics are most important to your brand’s business objectives? What metrics deliver real insight on social media marketing success? Regrettably, there’s no “magic metric” for measuring social media campaigns. The metrics that matter depend on the organization’s objectives. Accumulating large numbers of likes or followers may have little value unless they impact larger marketing goals such as customer retention or conversions.

Four Simplest Social Media Metrics

Conversation. These include comments and replies, direct or indirect replies to social content. Conversation promotes audience interaction, creating goodwill or preventing bad will. Positive conversations also contribute to customer retention and development.

Applause. Likes and favorites. These actions indicate agreement, interest in, or empathy with the content being posted. Applause creates goodwill with a low barrier to entry, contributing to customer retention.

Amplification. Shares, retweets, or repins. These actions share content to a wider audience. Amplification is crucial for customer acquisition since these actions increase the reach of messages. It can directly or indirectly contribute to customer retention and development. Caution: Some amplifications can be negative in tone or message.

Consumption. Clicks or views. Consumption varies in impact depending on content. Direct calls-to-action generally impact customer development, product-related messages impact customer development and acquisition, and informational and general interest messages impact retention.

Follow these steps to formulate a measurement strategy.

  • Identify high-level marketing goals for the brand, market and campaign.
  • Establish a set of social media objectives that contribute to those goals.
  • Define a measurement strategy that can track performance against those goals.

Seeking Social Media ROI

Digital marketing consultant Shane Barker of Search Engine People highlights these metrics for measuring social media ROI, the ultimate metric.

Reach. Your number of social media followers, or the number of people who see your content.

Website referral traffic. Track the social media pages that send traffic to your website to find which networks benefit you most.

Quality leads. Learn how many individuals inquire about a product as a result of a social media interaction.

Customers. Track how many customers each social media campaign produces, the sales volume, and how many remain loyal customers.

Many companies attempt to translate the number of followers into their social media ROI. That’s a mistake. Determining the ROI involves tracking conversions, determining monetary value of conversions, and quantify overall social media benefits.

“No matter how difficult the process of measuring your ROI for social media may be, it’s helpful for knowing what is working for your site and what could use improvement,” Barker states.

Bottom Line: Although identifying and tracking the right social media metrics can be challenging, it’s imperative for marketers to measure their social media campaigns in order to quantify their contributions to the company’s bottom line and identify the most successful social media strategies.

Related Article: 7 Social Media Metrics You Forget to Measure