4 Tips for Measuring the True Value of Social Media

A 2014 McKinsey report found that C-suite leaders are increasingly getting involved in digital strategy, with more than 50% of executives involved in strategy when it’s used to drive new business. With that higher-level interest in social media comes increased expectations for quantifying impact – yet that continues to be a challenge for many organizations.

Vanity metrics (Likes, comments and followers) aren’t bad measurement tools, but senior leaders need to see how those likes and comments convert to sales or other key business objective before approving additional social media spending. To help with this, here are four tips to effectively measure the value of your social media marketing efforts.

1. Be Clear and Realistic About Program Objectives

Before starting any social media campaign, define the business objectives you intend to achieve. Some of the most common objectives brands use social media to support include:

  • Building awareness of your brand or product.
  • Driving lead generation, demand generation or sales.
  • Improving customer support.
  • Collecting feedback and insight to inform product development and innovation.

2. Choose Metrics Which Clearly Show the Impact of Social

Once objectives are defined, the next step is to set benchmarks – but be sure to tailor the metrics to the objective. The metrics will vary based on the objective. Based on the common business objectives outlined above, here are relevant metrics to use for benchmarks and campaign results:

  • Awareness: Focus not only on growth of the community and volume of conversations, but also sentiment and share of voice. Sentiment ensures that not only is the volume of conversations growing, but that the tone is congruent with business goals. Share of voice measurements how much of the relevant conversations are focused on your brand or product instead of your competitors. For example, if volume increases in line with the number of social conversations about your competitor, the increase is unlikely to move the needle or affect overall awareness.
  • Lead Generation, Demand Generation and Conversion: One of the most popular ways for brands to use social media is to drive sales or lead generation. Many times, sales and marketing teams will use special links to track customer behavior. But even more important than overall engagement is the cost-per-user, which is found by dividing the cost of the campaign by total leads or conversions generated by the campaign. Even if a high-profile campaign drives a large number of leads, the cost-per-user might still be a less efficient use of resources than more nimble activations.
  • Customer Support: Measuring the value of social media as a customer support tool is focused on cost savings in other areas. For Adobe, we measure how the volume of customers using community forums and customer support Twitter handles offsets call volume at call centers. In addition to measuring those correlations, social media also enables faster response times and makes responses searchable, allowing customers to troubleshoot tech problems using published resolutions. Measuring the speed to initial contact and speed to resolution are appropriate customer support metrics, too. Consider employing KPIs that measure the percentage of support inquiries that were contacted within 30 and then 60 minutes after the initial social post by the concerned customer.
  • Product Innovation: Brands can collect customer feedback and insights to inform the product development cycle. It’s a highly cost-effective way to understand customer pain points, identify bug fixes or inform which new features to prioritize for innovation. To measure the value, track the number of ideas submitted, how many of those ideas are implemented into a product release, as well as how many unique customers are actively submitting ideas.

3. Enable Your Web Analytics Tools to Track Clicks on Owned Content to Tie Content Performance with Onsite User Behavior

A great way to track how social media content translates into increased traffic or lead generation is to use campaign tags with specialized links that Web analytics tools can measure and track. This allows social media managers to see customer behavior, such as engaging with social content, visiting the brand website and then making a purchase.

Adobe started to use this method a few years ago when brands were still using social media as a somewhat experimental marketing tactic. We found that customers who engaged with us on social media are twice as likely to make a purchase on the Adobe.com site. For our team, this proved the value of social as a marketing and sales function to senior leaders, and soon we looked for ways to leverage social for additional business functions.

4. Use Content Classification to Analyze Which Type of Content Performs Best for Different Types of Goals

In addition to measuring the impact of a campaign as a whole, it’s also important to assess what content or initiatives are most effective. In some campaigns, brands can use A/B testing and targeting to simultaneously test out two different kinds of images or text to confirm which drives higher engagement or click-through. In other campaigns, monitoring the individual performance helps to track not only what content works best, but also measure the ROI of creative or time invested to produce that content.

Social media continues to grow as an essential channel contributing to all business functions, and effective measurement and reporting is critical to securing the right results and business investment. While Likes and comments are part of the measurement process, look beyond these vanity metrics to deeply understand why and how that engagement impacts key business goals.

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