So often I hear that companies have trouble figuring how or what to track with social media. There is a wide range of tools to measure the buzz and chatter about your brand, but what about ROI (define)? Companies are investing time tweeting, posting, and weaving social media functionality into their online ad campaigns and asking, “What is my organization getting back?” At the same time, there are some who still say, “Don’t worry about tracking social media.” To them I say, “Hogwash!” Social media is one of the easiest things to track ROI from if you understand how to combine the tracking and analytics tools you already have. ROI from social media can be tracked right down to the clicks, leads, and dollars it brings into your organization, just like everything else we do online!
You can also measure the media equivalent value of the actions and behaviors you create with social media, and that’s when things get really interesting for people building a brand. What is the value of all those impressions, clicks, and page views if you were to pay for them as advertising? With a little ingenuity, all these metrics can be brought together into easy-to-use-and-analyze dashboards.
Here are just a few ROI metrics you can apply to social media:
- Friends, fans, and followers: Is your media driving spikes and increases in the average rate of people choosing to connect with you for a lifetime? Yes? Well, report that and take note of the cause – lifelong social connections are very valuable! Also, figuring out what it costs to get a Facebook Fan or Twitter follower by media tactic helps answer the question of what one is worth on your vertical.
- Social sharing: How many times did the people seeing your banners or hitting your landing pages click on a chiclet to share your content? If an average Facebook Fan has 138 friends, then every click on a Facebook sharing chiclet has the potential to turn one click into 138 additional impressions. How about people tweeting about your promotion? What is your tweet reach? All those extra impressions and clicks you get from chiclet-based viral distribution can pump up the impressions, clicks, and ROI from your online media in a big way.
- Video plays: Promoting a page with your YouTube video in it or even your whole YouTube channel? Don’t forget the value of a consumer watching your video – what is that worth? A lot, if you stack it up against the cost of a :30 pre-roll!
- Comments and engagement: Are you creating high levels of engagement on your Facebook Fan Page? What conversations and questions sparked high levels of response and engagement? Tracking comment and Wall post levels and visualizing it in a dashboard or chart can help you answer these questions. Facebook provides you this data in Facebook Insights, and it’s free.
- Page views: In my opinion, a page view in your social sites is worth as much as a page view on your site. People are still online engaging with your content and brand. Look at how many page views your online media creates on your site and what a page view is worth -that’s the value of a page view in your Facebook Fan Page or YouTube channel.
- Traffic, leads, and revenue: OK, here’s the big shocker: you can track these critical metrics just like you track your e-mail, paid search, and online media using simple tracking links and your Web analytics or ad serving and tracking platform (Google Analytics, Omniture, Unica, Dart, Mediaplex, etc.). Use campaign tracking links with shortened URLs like bit.ly everywhere you can. Then you will be able to track most of the clicks and actions you get from your tweets and status updates. Then, for a second layer, just isolate the big social referring URLs in your Web analytics and see how many clicks, leads, and sales you get from the big social sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Blogger, and more.
- Phone calls: Alright, a little more technical wizardry is needed here, but it is still very possible. Use unique toll-free numbers in your social chatter (tweets, Facebook posts, etc.) and dynamically generate toll-free numbers on your site based on the referring URL of a site visitor. Of course, you can use this technology with your banners, paid search, and e-mail as well.
The key to tracking anything is to step back and seek out the same value you apply to anything you do online. If your goal and main metric are leads and cost per lead, then the opportunities and technology exist right now to apply your objective to social media and effectively measure the outcome. Sometimes you need to think a little outside of the limited set of features your main tracking platform might provide and toggle a couple things together, but the effort is well worth it if you are the hero in your company that closes the loop on social media ROI!