“I’m not sure how to measure it, but if what you’re doing is working, we’ll know,” the CEO said to me.
A couple years ago, I was interviewing for a part time social media management position with a Brooklyn watch manufacturer who owned several brands of lower cost yet trendy-looking watches. The CEO, an older man with little interest or knowledge of social media said those words.
We didn’t end up working together, but I think what he said exemplifies an attitude many people have, not only when it comes to social media marketing, but toward any sort of marketing whatsoever. The creative team comes up with a concept, which may or may not be tested on a focus group, money is spent in the form of ad spend, and then everyone simply crosses their fingers and hopes for the best. What do they hope to achieve? Well, sales, of course. Duh! But, do they always track or measure the results? How can they trace the sale from the marketing?
In traditional advertising, it’s very difficult to track or measure the effectiveness of the marketing and it’s not always clear how many sales came as result of it. Jon Wanamaker, a businessman and early pioneer of marketing famously said: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”
Today, new technology and digital platforms allow us to track the ROI for every marketing dollar spent. The beauty of digital marketing is that it allows businesses to track and measure the effectiveness of their marketing efforts. There is no good reason or excuse to chalk it all up to guesswork when we have sophisticated (and often free) analytics programs at our disposal.
But, when it comes to social media marketing, the ROI isn’t always clear-cut. Even though all forms of advertising are increasingly tuned out and ineffective, businesses continue to spend money on digital advertisements (banner ads, search ads etc.), because one can more easily see the returns on spend, but they pay insufficient amounts of money or attention to creating content, which is what users actually want to engage with.
Still, some question the value of social media marketing in particular, because they are unsure of how to quantify it. The truth is, social media marketing (organic and paid) can’t always be measured in terms of how many sales are made. The path from social media marketing (or any sort of marketing) to sales is not always linear or cut-and-dry. On the opposite extreme, it’s wrong to measure the effectiveness of social media by vanity metrics alone, such as likes, comments, and followers, which don’t in of themselves boost the company’s bottom line.
The efforts of your social media marketing must be measured by a combination of qualitative and quantitative metrics, which should be determined by context. When your social media marketing is analyzed in terms of context, you can better determine the effectiveness of your efforts.
Understanding context often goes back to knowing your audience and where they are in the buyer’s journey or sale’s funnel at the moment. Without an understanding of who and where they are, you are at a critical disadvantage when determining the goal of a given campaign. Without a goal and a plan for achieving it, you have no yardstick by which you can measure the progress or lack thereof of your social media marketing.
While all companies hope to make sales, there’s a lot of relationship building and nurturing that must happen first. And, even after sales are made, those customers must be continually engaged so they will remain loyal and come back for more.
Therefore, you must come up with campaigns that each have specific, measurable, and actionable goals before you can even begin to evaluate the effectiveness of your social media marketing. The goal of each campaign must correspond to a different stage in the buyer’s journey from awareness to consideration to purchase to post-purchase.
If the goal is awareness and engagement, you cannot use the same metrics as you would for a campaign focused on getting more conversions (sales, sign-ups etc.). For an awareness and engagement campaign, it’s perfectly acceptable to use vanity metrics such as likes, comments, shares, followers, and clicks that drive traffic to a website or landing page. You can then create a campaign that guides a percentage of people at the awareness stage down the marketing and sales funnel to the next stage. You can measure the effectiveness of a lead generation campaign by how much demographic info was collected e.g. email addresses, sign-ups, subscriptions to website or blog etc. Next, you can create a sales campaign targeting those leads and converting them to purchase. Finally, a campaign focused on delighting current customers can be measured by determining how many of them continue to support your support your organization after they’ve made a purchase.
Qualitative, “soft” metrics such as awareness, or “first-touch attribution,” as well as engagement and brand perception also play a tremendous role in attracting and retaining customers. This is why establishing a credible, trusted, and likable brand is essential for long-term success. Social media marketing is most effective at building brand equity and forging deeper connections with an audience. While building a brand and nurturing relationships takes a great deal of time, this will lead to greater profits and sales in the long-term.
So, before you judge your social media marketing to be a success or a failure, make sure you are deploying specific, goal-oriented campaigns and measuring their progress with the appropriate KPIs (key performance indicators). Then, look at the results and allow them to help you determine your next course of action. Only once you know what you want and how to get there can you determine whether or not your marketing is effective.