One of the foundations of all human knowledge is the ability to anticipate the future from the past (induction, for the philosophical). For small business owners, being able to use the past to make predictions is essential for continued growth and responsible decision making. However, when it comes to applying this basic principle to social media marketing efforts, insufficient data tracking makes it difficult for many beginning marketers. According to one study from eConsultancy, 41 percent of companies don’t know the impact of their social media efforts. But this doesn’t have to be the case. This article will show some simple ways that small business owners can track what they do in social media so they can measure their progress and make appropriate decisions.
The best place for small business owners to start measuring their social media efforts is by tracking their community membership. It’s to do easy because every platform makes tracking the number of followers, subscribers, and fans simple because it’s the primary metric people like to use. Even visitors to a page make broad assumptions about the popularity of the page and content by the number of followers. For business owners, the size of the community determines the size of the potential audience, so it’s an important thing for marketers to keep in mind when deciding how budgets should be spent.
Tracking the growth in an organization’s fan base can be used to make complex observations about an organization’s marketing efforts. With a little additional effort, marketers can answer questions such as: “How much did a recent social media campaign affect the growth in followers?”; “During what time of the year does the fan base grow the fastest?”; “What demographic is most likely to become fans of the social media channel?”; and other such analytical questions. Since growing the fan base is one of the key objectives of social media marketing, tracking the effects of different tactics on community membership is helpful for planning future strategies and campaigns. Companies can even use their reach measurement or links clicked tallies as a way to give a monetary value to the social media efforts that can then be tracked over time.
“[Look] at the average cost of those PPC campaigns per person then analyze that cost against how many visitors you get from free social media placements,” said John Souza in an article for Fast Company. “You can then put a dollar sign on the traffic you derive from Facebook pages, Twitter links and the like.”
Business owners also need to track the other basic metrics, such as the engagement and mobility of the content posted on the channel. Track how often each kind of post is shared, liked, commented, retweeted, etc. By tracking the engagement and mobility of each type of content, marketers can see useful patterns about how their audience responds to different variables. For example, some audiences prefer text based posts to one with multimedia content. Marketers would be able to see which links get clicked most often and what kinds of titles the audience finds most engaging. It’s also important to remember that the most relevant metric can vary depending on the goals of the social media campaign and the type of platform used (e.g. blogs, microblogs, social bookmarking, etc.)
The third way business owners should track their social media is by keeping track of how their social media efforts affect sales and other tangible transactions (requests for quotes, business inquiries, etc.). With so much focus on the social media’s effect on itself, it’s easy to overlook the fact that social media marketing is supposed to affect the business’s bottom line. There are ways to do this that involve barcodes for internet coupons and the like, but the simple solution is just to measure how much changes in the social media affect sales. To illustrate, a company can measure how much sales for a certain product increased after running a special on a social media channel. The same kind of questions can be applied to web traffic and ecommerce sales, which are also common goals of social media campaigns. In this cases, using Google Analytics along with the social media channel is particularly useful for measuring the advertising value of the social media page. Running ads makes this easy to see because it’s tracked automatically, marketers just need to pay attention and record the data.
“If a customer clicks and then goes on your site to register, then you have proof that the ad was at least effective for that,” wrote Todd Wasserman in an article for Mashable. “Of course, the ideal scenario is when a customer clicks through an ad and then buys something on your site.”
However a business chooses to measure the effect of social media campaigns, they should be sure to use accurate numbers and math, and not rely solely on their intuition. A Cost-Benefit Analysis or a Return on Investment calculation can give marketers the objective look they need to make the best decisions.
The most important benefit of tracking the results of social media efforts is that campaigns become more effective as more data is acquired. Every social media community is different, and charting the effects of different tactics can lead to better performance for the overall social media marketing strategy. And it with the built-in tools on most social media platforms, tracking an organization’s return on investment in social media doesn’t require specialized software, just some basic math and maybe a graph or two to make it pretty. But whether a business does a simple analysis or hires a firm or buys an application, it is worth the effort to measure and track the performance of social media campaigns. When you know (and remember) what you did last summer, the next summer is always better.