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social media metrics to determine impact on business goalsMany businesses struggle to measure their social media marketing activities. Marketers often cannot accurately determine how well their social media efforts generate leads or sales, improve ROI, or meet other specific business objectives.

Identifying the business goals to measure is the first step in effective social media measurement. Most often, the goals involve leads, sales, or positive sentiment toward the organization or its products. For non-profits, goals could involve increases in the number of persons using the organization’s services, donations, volunteers or attendance at events.

Selecting appropriate metrics is the second hurdle in social media measurement. Many marketers stumble at this step. Using the wrong metrics can lead social media measurement efforts down the wrong path or into the, well, measurement toilet.

The ideal social media metrics are difficult to define because they vary from business to business, depending on their objectives. The best metrics are based on business goals, not social media goals. Marketers typically track their number of followers, engagement, impressions. While not completely useless, those metrics don’t reveal how social media achieves business goals. Accumulating more followers can help reach more customers, as long as followers are the brand’s desired audience, but then what?

Social Media Metrics the CEO Really Cares About

Marketers can consider these metrics to determine and social media’s impact on business objectives and deliver information their CEO really cares about and wants.

Brand awareness. Track the business profile’s fan/following growth, engagement growth, and mentions over a designated time period to measure increasing brand awareness, explains Ashley Ward, corporate speaker and evangelist for SEMrush. Increasing numbers indicate increasing brand awareness. If growth remains stagnant, brand awareness is not reaching a larger audience.

Customer contacts. Linking your CRM software to your social reporting software will help keep tabs on the number of customer contacts coming from social media, notes social media marketer Alex Sobal at Weidert Group. If you notice a spike in contacts gained, examine the posts you shared that day to find what content your audience prefers.

Incoming web traffic. Google Analytics shows incoming traffic from social media and the different social media networks. “This metric is one of the most important that you can monitor, because it tells you exactly what kind of impact your social media is having on your overall site traffic,” Sobal says. Analyzing posts by network or date/time can pinpoint the posts and social networks that perform best. If you notice a spike on a certain day or network, look at the posts you shared to find successful topics and strategies.

Conversions. Conversions encompass those people who enter the lead generation funnel by completing an action such as completing forms for online lead generation, registering for webinars, or downloading white papers or e-books. Integrating Google Analytics into your website allows tracking of those activities. Many social media analytics dashboards, including Glean.info, also make it possible to track specific activities that originate in social media. Build trackable links into social media posts and monitor those links in Google Analytics, advises Swapnil Bhagwat, digital marketing expert with Orchestrate Technologies.

Assisted conversions. A Facebook post or other social media post may refer a visitor to your website, but the customer may not convert until weeks later. If you don’t track those multi-touches and report such assisted conversions, you won’t know the true value of social media marketing in lead generation, says Shelly DeMotte Kramer, CEO of Futurum Research + Analysis, in a LinkedIn post.

Sentiment. Establishing and maintaining a high-quality brand reputation is essential for a successful business. And while social media can help promote your brand, negative comments can quickly damage an organization’s image. “Thus, understanding the brand sentiment on social is vital for any marketer,” Bhagwat emphasizes. While social media platforms typically provide at least some level of analytics, organizations need a social media monitoring service to measure brand sentiment across all social networks, online forums and online publishers.

Beware of Social Media Measurement Overload

Measurement experts typically recommend tracking three to five metrics consistently over time. Measurement is time-consuming, and more metrics won’t necessarily lead to any more useful knowledge or insights.

“It can be tempting for social media professionals to try and track everything, but that’s a recipe for failure,” argues Amber Naslund, senior director of industry leadership at Hootsuite. “Complex measurement programs don’t often make that easy, so companies are much better off selecting a handful of measurements they can track with strong benchmarks, clearly and consistently.”

Bottom Line: Selecting the best social media metrics to track is a critical step for social media measurement. While follower growth and reach can indicate how social media efforts are faring, they don’t show how those efforts help meet business objectives. Marketers need more advanced metrics and the right social media measurement tools to show results that impress their bosses.

William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.