How To Start & Grow Your Business

Is Social Media Worth Your Time and Money?

Jessica Bowers
Jan 8th, 2015
  • Estimated reading time: 6 min read
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    1Efforts are most effective when goals are set first. 2Choose the social media platform that fits your market. 3Select relevant metrics and use a tracking tool.
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Finance-Graphs, charts, business table Photo Credit: Sergey Nivens Shutterstock

It’s Social Saturday, again. This week, I want to take you a trip back through time. All the way back to 2009, when I first joined Twitter. At the time, I thought this new social media platform was limited to connecting with others at conferences or meetings. I didn’t realize its full potential.

But I signed up for a profile to conduct a little research before creating a Twitter profile and subsequent posting strategy for my then-employer. (I am proud of the fact that I was able to stake claim on my full name for my handle. No crazy combinations of letters and numbers here!)

I set up a detailed, thrice-daily Twitter posting schedule for the nonprofit where I worked. My schedule promoted the work we were doing in the community, highlighted warm-fuzzy volunteer stories and pitched donation requests. I thought I had mapped out a great plan! And, really, my plan was great. My boss just didn’t see it that way.

Like many employers, the execs at this organization expected Twitter to become the silver bullet that suddenly caused volunteers and donations to start pouring through the door. They expected immediate and quantifiable results.

As most of us who work in social media now know, the results aren’t always immediate. But they are quantifiable.

Measuring ROI of Social Media
As a social media professional, you may often be asked to justify your work or quantify the results of all those Facebook and Twitter posts. To be able to measure and report on the return on investment, you need to have a plan and a strategy, just like you have a plan for posting.

Measuring your organization’s ROI of social media not only helps justify the work you are doing, but it also helps you to understand where you should be focusing your time to achieve the most results.

In his book, The Social Media Bible, Lon Safko talks pretty extensively about ROI. The questions he receives most often at speaking engagements are “Where’s the ROI in social media marketing?” and “How much should I be spending on social media marketing.”

“…Remove the term social media from those questions and ask them again: ‘Where’s the ROI in marketing?’ and ‘How much should I be spending on marketing?'” -@LonSafko

Safko says, “My answer is always, remove the term social media from those questions and ask them again: ‘Where’s the ROI in marketing?’ and ‘How much should I be spending on marketing?’”

Social media is just one tool in our collection to add to existing marketing strategies. And Safko puts it: “There is always an ROI to marketing.”

How to Measure Social ROI
So, how do you go about measuring and quantifying the ROI of your (social media) marketing efforts?

1. Set Goals
Before you start any plan, you should have a goal for what you are trying to accomplish, right? Just like you have goals for your business, you should have goals for your social media efforts as well. Simply tossing out photos and 140-character bites of information will not work.

Before you begin your social media marketing strategy, you need to outline your goals. Determine if you want to:

  • Increase your brand awareness
  • Promote a product or service
  • Generate new leads
  • Convert warm leads to paying customers
  • Once you have identified your goals, and ensured they align with your departmental or corporate goals, you can decide which platform is best for the message you want to convey.

2. Choose the Platform
Social media is more than just Facebook or Twitter. Instagram, Google Plus, YouTube, Pinterest and LinkedIn are also viable, highly visited sites full of potential customers. Determine where your target audience is most active and plan your communication strategy accordingly. Don’t simply auto-post the same message to each platform, either. Vary the content and context to match the appropriate outlet.

Leverage New Age Media provides a great infographic to help you determine which platform best meets your goals:

Comparison of Social Media Platforms


3. Determine Metrics to Track
You’ve decided which platform(s) to post to and who you are trying to engage with. You’ve now started to create messaging appropriate for each platform, audience and goal. Now it’s time to track those results.

When determining the success of your social media-marketing program, you need to track more than just likes or retweets. You also need to measure components such as:

  • Reach (How many people saw your post?)
  • Site Traffic (How many users clicked through to your website or landing page as a result of your post?)
  • Leads Generated (Who filled out a landing page form or asked for additional information?)
  • Conversions (How many people downloaded an offer or coupon, signed up for your newsletter or converted on some other action?)
  • Revenue Generated (How much money resulted from the specific campaign?)

4. Track those Metrics
There are a variety of ways to track and analyze the aforementioned metrics. Tools like Google Analytics, SproutSocial and Postific help you manage your social media engagement and evaluate the effectiveness of your strategies.

Google Analytics is a free tool that will help you track and report on site traffic, on-site conversions and sign-ups resulting from specific social media campaigns.

SproutSocial is a subscription-based platform that compiles data from all of your social platforms into presentation-worthy reports to help you measure the effectiveness of the content you publish.

Postific allows you to monitor live social media performance from one platform by providing detailed insight into your page views, engagement, community demographics and more.

No matter which platform you use to track your metrics, it is important to review and analyze the reports on a regular basis. Compile the data into reports that you can share up the ladder.

Continually Evaluate Social ROI
Data is no good if you do nothing with it. Tracking your metrics is great, but you must go to the next level and act on the data you collect.

Use your metrics to determine which components of your social media strategy are working and which are underperforming. Tweak the less-successful portions of your strategy to mimic what is working to see if you yield better results.

But remember, society is fickle. What works this month may not work next month. You need to continually analyze and evaluate your social media activities to ensure that your strategies are working effectively.

Only then can your truly quantify and communicate the ROI of your social media strategy.

This article was written by Jessica Bowers and published by Inbound Marketing Agency.

For more than five years, Jessica has been creating and managing online content to generate awareness and drive sales for corporate and nonprofit organizations.

Inbound Marketing Agency is a full service marketing agency with a passion for helping small & medium-sized businesses improve their marketing strategy.