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Yeah, But… Social Media Can’t Be Tracked

Yeah, But... It's time to bring your business up to speed

Even as social media matures there are still many misconceptions surrounding it. Take my job for example as a social media marketing strategist. Do you have any idea the kind of reaction I get when I give people my title? Here are a few:

“So you just play on Facebook all day, that’s awesome!”

“What a cool job, that must be so easy!”

“Why do businesses need marketing plans for social media?”

Or, from people of my parent’s generation (no offense Mom and Dad), a blank stare because they’re not quite sure what that all means.

When I encounter “yeah, butters” who say social media can’t be tracked, and I ask them what their social media goals are, I get the same response as the last one above. I recently spoke to a group at a local chamber of commerce, and at the beginning of the presentation I asked people to raise their hand if they used social media for their business. About 90% of them did. Then I asked how many had a plan for their social media marketing. You guessed it, that number dropped significantly–only one person out of 30 raised their hand.

If you have no social media goals, how could you possibly know what to measure? [tweet] Would you jump into any other type of marketing without a strategy or business goals you hope to achieve from it?

Have a Plan, Stan

This is over simplified, but there are several basic questions you need to ask yourself before jumping into social media (or if you’re already drowning in the deep end).

Why do I want to use social media for my business? 

This question is something you should ask before you begin marketing on social media, but many businesses fail to do so. Even if you’re already on social media it’s not to late to answer it, and if you can’t answer it, I want you to stop reading and think about it for a moment! And, “Because everybody else is on social media,” is not a good answer! I seem to remember my mom saying something about if everyone else jumps off a bridge…

There are many reasons why you might choose to include social media marketing in your overall marketing mix. It could be to build brand awareness, launch a new product, increase leads (yes, that’s possible), increase sales (yep, that’s possible too), build loyalty among current customers, communicate with members or a host of others reasons. The next question will help us further define the why.

What are my business goals?

Make a list of your business goals and then determine which goals you want to support through social media marketing. To start, pick the 2-3 most important goals and determine the tactics you’ll use to achieve them. Here are two examples:

B2C Example
Let’s say we are a family fun park with mini-golf, go carts, batting cages and an arcade. One of our business goals is to increase mid-week visits during the last few weeks of the season after school starts. What is a tactic that could be used on social media to achieve this business goal? We could offer a special coupon to our followers for BOGO admission Tues.-Thurs.

B2B Example
For this example, we’re going to pretend we sell business insurance. Our business goal is to increase leads for our insurance products. What tactic could we use on social media to achieve this goal? How about by promoting an eBook that helps small business owners navigate the types of insurance available, what each type of insurance covers, and when and why they’re needed.

When creating a complete social media strategy, you’ll define not only your macro goals like increasing mid-week visits, but also the micro goals like increasing homeschooling group visitation mid-week or attracting past visitors from earlier in the season. These micro goals will help you define your tactics, which will in turn help you define which social media channels you should be utilizing.

How will I measure the results?

First, think of what metric you would normally use to measure the results of a business goal and then determine what the equivalent metric would be on social media. The most meaningful social media metrics a business tracks are those directly tied to business goals. [tweet]

B2C Example
If you were offering a coupon through any other marketing medium you would look at redemption rates, right? The same thing goes for social media. The important thing with this example is that if you’re offering a coupon through other marketing mediums, your social media coupon needs differentiation so that proper credit can be given and tracked.

B2B Example
For increasing leads through the promotion of an eBook on social media, you’ll want to create a campaign-specific landing page on your website to direct people to. Make sure that you require people to give their name and email address (or other contact info) to download the eBook. These become your leads. Track the number of leads you receive over the course of the campaign. Just like coupons, make sure your landing page is specifically for social media so you can properly track responses.

Facing Reality

It’s important to be realistic with your social media goals and remember that becoming an overnight internet sensation or driving a large number of direct sales are the exceptions, not the rule. You need to be realistic about your time and resources, and the time it will take to reap benefits. It’s also important to get into the cycle of plan, post, measure, analyze, re-evaluate goals—rinse and repeat.

What are examples of other realistic social media goals?

  • Consistency – When building awareness of your brand on social media, you will want to post and engage with users consistently. Using Twitter as an example, your measurement could be to post three brand-related tweets per day, three posts of other related content or re-tweets per day, and directly engaging with three users each day.
  • Engagement – Engagement is a key part of building your brand and reach on social media. You will want to track key metrics such as likes (applause rate), comments (conversation rate) and shares (amplification rate) per post. A great tool to track these, with free and paid plans, is True Social Metrics.
  • Referral Traffic – One goal may be to increase traffic to your website or blog from social media. Track this through Network Referrals in the Social section of Traffic Sources in Google Analytics.
  • Subscriptions – Track increases in email newsletter subscriptions through a specific landing page on your website. Or, run a contest on social media requiring an email address for entry. Offer a checkbox allowing users to opt-in to your newsletter and track the number of subscriptions resulting from this.
  • On-site Conversions – While social media typically does not drive direct sales or conversions, within Google Analytics, use Assisted Conversion reports to see how many sales or conversions have been influenced by social media.

With all of this said, tracking the full impact of social media can be difficult because there are some things that simply can’t be tracked. For example, last fall a colleague took her children to a local pumpkin patch after seeing friends share posts from mommy blogs. I remarked about the power of social media, and she replied that social media didn’t drive the sale, it was referral from friends. Little did she know I was involved with the social media campaign that resulted in those posts. If the farm asked visitors how they heard about them, she would have said friends, not social media, even though social truly drove the sale.

So, while you can’t measure the full effect of social media marketing, take a cue from traditional marketing and track what you can tie to your business goals. You might be surprised just how much social media can grow your business!

What are you struggling to measure on social media?

Find out more about the “Yeah, but” series and links to all posts in the series.


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Kathy Gray

Kathy has over seven years of web marketing experience with an emphasis on social media marketing for the past five. When not on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram or reading her favorite blogs, Kathy can be found spending time with her husband and wrangling their two young children. She also has a garage sale addiction and can smell a deal a mile away! Read Kathy's full bio.

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