Social media never changes. Well, maybe superficially. It’s hard to imagine today’s Insta kids coding HTML hearts into their Myspace pages and fielding messages from Tom.
But one constant has plagued social media since its birth: the challenge of tracking marketing impact and ROI.
Thankfully, as platforms have evolved, so have the tools we use to analyze our social media marketing campaigns. Today’s analytics platforms can go a long way toward delivering stronger ROI and marketing attribution.
Social media analytics aren’t a silver bullet, though. To really solve the attribution puzzle, you need the right metrics in the right places to track the right numbers.
Social media analytics at every stage
Just as we split general marketing campaigns into three funnel stages, we can also arrange social media metrics in a similar three-tier structure.
You start with early-stage metrics. Though some call them “vanity metrics,” these numbers are more important than that title suggests. These soft stats can help you spot the early indicators that lead to conversion.
Early-stage metrics include:
- Number of followers
- New names
- Known-names converted
- Cost per lead/acquisition
Mid-stage metrics come next. Social content in this tier educates and drives audience interaction—and the metrics you measure should reflect that.
Mid-stage metrics include:
- Marketing-qualified leads
- Sales-qualified leads
Finally, you have late-stage metrics. This is where you start to really demonstrate how social media campaigns are directly tied to revenue.
Late-stage metrics include:
- Opportunities won
- Revenue won
- Customer lifetime value
Of course, tracking these metrics can be difficult. In many cases, you’ll need specific platforms and marketing automation tools to get this data.
And you’ll need to maintain awareness that social is a radically different type of marketing—one that resists typical ROI evaluation.
How social eludes attribution
Social media is the poster child for multi-touch attribution. It’s rarely the first or last encounter someone has with your brand, sitting squarely in the middle of the customer journey.
That means that traditional first- and last-touch attribution models won’t do much to demonstrate how your social media efforts deliver ROI.
But social’s mid-journey position isn’t a curse—it’s a blessing. It means that your social media marketing campaigns can help increase brand awareness, improve sentiment, offer valuable content and information, and generate leads.
Social is also unique in giving prospects and customers a way to communicate directly with your brand (even if they just want to say hello).
So, if you can develop a multi-touch attribution model that truly tracks social media performance, those ROI and impact figures are bound to look very good indeed.
The potential is there, but be realistic
Yes, social media is a powerful, versatile technology. Because of this, marketers almost certainly have to invest in it. And with the right metrics, platforms, and approaches, you can show the results of your investment.
However, it’s important to set reasonable expectations. Social media is a prized platform for engaging your audience, but it’s also heavily saturated. Breaking through the noise to reach a new audience organically is an uphill battle.
But just because it’s hard, doesn’t mean it’s impossible. The key is how you track and measure your data.
For instance, if you can see what types of media appeal best to different platforms and audiences, you can get much better engagement in future campaigns and ensure you aren’t wasting your budget on ineffective content types.
Social media is a tool—so use it properly
Social media is just one part of a marketer’s arsenal. And like any other component, the key is using it to your advantage. By educating your colleagues on how best to use social platforms (and showing them the real ROI of successful usage), everyone on your team can start wielding this powerful marketing weapon more effectively.
And once you start using and attributing social correctly, greater success and more accurate attribution for the rest of your marketing tactics will follow.
For more information, check out The Definitive Guide to Social Media Marketing.