Tracking your ROI (return on investment) on social media can be tricky. Unlike its traditional “paid advertising” counterpart, it’s not entirely straightforward. Rather than simply entering investments and returns into a polished spreadsheet, calculating your return on organic social media efforts can require more subjective measurements.
Think about it: what’s the value of a “Like”? Or a new follower? Or a link click? Answering that question can be challenging for even the most savvy social media manager.
And how do you put a value on your social media investment (time, wages, photos, engagement), in order to gauge your return? The answer to all of the above lies in assigning values to your own action, and the actions of your followers, based on your big picture goals and outcomes.
While measuring the effectiveness of organic social media may not be as clear-cut as paid campaigns, it doesn’t mean it’s not worth your time and dedication. Instead, it means that determining the value of your efforts takes analytics, measurement, and maybe even a little creativity.
Long before you start developing your social media strategy or content, you’ll want to define your objectives. To be clear, these are not your social media goals (more likes, 100+ new followers, etc.). Rather, these are your broader marketing goals.
With organic social media marketing, do you want to:
If you are struggling to determine your brand’s social media objectives, think about your big-picture business goals first.
Hint: organic social media can offer new ways to reach your target audience, collaborate with partners, share less-formal news, highlight new services and so much more!
SMART goals are key in tracking ROI on organic social media. This approach to goal-setting is backed up by data, and is action-oriented. Most importantly, it gives a formula for determining if your social media efforts are worth the expense.
In case you aren’t familiar, SMART is an acronym for: "Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time sensitive"
Starting with each objective (from Step 1), put together a SMART goal to reach a desired benchmark. For instance, if one of your objectives is to “increase conference attendance,” a SMART goal might look like the following.
Marketing teams love SMART goals for showing the value of their actions. Setting up your goals with this formula is a great way to pinpoint which specific social media actions to take, and the insights that are going to help meet your brand's needs and bottom line.
The next step is determining how to track the data that is going to support your SMART goals. Ideally, your social media team will choose metrics that are easily trackable, and can show whether a particular campaign or piece of branded content was successful.
Each goal will have a different set of KPIs tied to it.
For example, if your goal is to boost community engagement, your KPIs might include shares, comments, and mentions. Conversely, your KPIs for generating new leads might include sales revenue, lead conversion rates, non-revenue conversions and email sign-ups.
Assigning KPI metrics that are tied back to your SMART goals means understanding what’s moving the needle in terms of your organic social media investment.
Many brands do the hard work of establishing social media goals and KPIs, but never revisit them. This is a huge missed opportunity. By neglecting to consistently review and modify your social media goals and objectives, one cannot accurately measure ROI.
After each campaign, it’s important to analyze what worked, what may have flopped, and the data collected against the metrics that were set. Did you reach your goals? How close were you? Where were the holes (if any) in the process?
Your SMART goals should continually evolve to reflect what your data is telling you. If your social media posts are getting more engagement with video, for example, then incorporate a strategy for collecting and posting more animated content.
By reviewing your goals often, you can easily adapt to changes and create templates for new campaigns, like perhaps the launch of a new product or service. We recommend adding regular social media reviews to your calendar, and also generating reports for ongoing tracking—month by month, campaign by campaign, or year by year.
The key to any great relationship is listening. It’s the root of human connection, and a core value of organic social media.
It’s a reality that your customers are talking about your brand, both positively and negatively, on online platforms. So it’s important to monitor your mentions, reviews, and shares, and respond to feedback genuinely and appropriately.
This ear-to-the-ground approach will help you to better understand and serve your customers. Some social-listening metrics to track may include:
When it comes to crafting a social media strategy that gets results, understanding the investment (whether it’s time, equipment, software, money, etc.) and probable return is key.
Social media is an excellent tool for building relationships, encouraging brand loyalists, and sharing up-to-date news with your follower base -- all things that can be challenging to measure. However, if you take the time to define your objectives, set SMART goals, and track your KPIs, you can collect actual data that helps you make informed decisions.
Organic social media is an excellent way to showcase your brand values and learn about the intimate pain points of your customers -- these are not meaningless endeavors. So it’s important to remember that while measuring your social media impact can take some energy and creativity, and it can absolutely be worth the additional effort.
Need help defining your goals and objectives? Want more tips on creating metrics that yield actionable data? We’re here to help. Contact our Harvest Media team to start crafting a branding and marketing plan that’s tailored to your unique business. We want to help you reach your big business goals, and we have a team with lots of ideas for getting you there.
Sarah is Director of Marketing at Harvest Media. She loves working with business owners and key decision makers who have a vision for the future and want to take their marketing strategy and business growth to the next level.