Among the many contributors to Inbound success, social media is often categorized as hard or impossible to measure. This doesn't have to be the case for your business, and I'd like to invite you to explore why today. Let's take a look at why social ROI is often overlooked, and how Inbound puts the power of measurability in your hands.
Here's a quick test: Think of your five favorite brands. Once you've got them in mind, skim through the top social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, LinkedIn), and see which ones have some sort of presence. Are you surprised by the results?
I'd be willing to bet that the majority of those brands are on one or more of those major platforms. Why? Because social media is no longer a cherry on top addition to our marketing sundae, it's a necessary part of any campaign for businesses in every industry. That's right, every single industry. If you're thinking to yourself "Social media isn't valuable for B2B companies!" then I challenge you to read this.
If you weren't already, hopefully you're convinced that social media is a valid part of a complete marketing agenda, regardless of your company's size or value proposition. Unfortunately, simply making the choice to utilize social media is not enough.
Although we often think of social media as the fun, quirky cousin of marketing (the one who allows us to use phrases like "LOL" and share photos of our office dog) the only reason to partake in any marketing activity is if you can prove its value to the bottom line. But how do we begin that process?
If you're a marketer, you're charged with the task of proving the value of your social activity to a room of possibly cynical executives. If you're a business owner, you may be uncertain how things like Tweeting tie into more important things, like profit. Either way, you can start measuring the validity of your social participation today with these easy steps:
Don't Skip the First Step
As with any other marketing tactic, social media usage should be carefully planned and monitored as a contributor to growth. I'm not saying there's no time for spur-of-the-moment posting (that's what agility is all about) - but the fundamental truth is that you can't achieve success if you don't know what success is. If you want to prove the value of social media, define that value through clear goals.
Goals can be as broad as increasing reach (measured by followers, engagement, and sharing each month) or as specific as driving traffic to one page on your site through one social network. Whatever you want to accomplish, take the time to outline it effectively. Otherwise, you'll be left scratching your head at the end of each month and wondering what all that time was for.
For a lot of small businesses, this task has yet to be taken on. Scott Monty, head of Social Media at Ford, once famously compared online social participation to getting dressed, stating "What's the ROI of putting your pants on every day? It's hard to measure but there's negative consequences for not doing it."
I like the quote, but I'm not 100% in agreement. Measuring the monetary value of social media shouldn't hold a permanent spot on your "Things to figure out" list, just like putting your pants on shouldn't isn't an optional part of each morning (except for on Saturdays!)
There are far too many resources available for us to opt out of analyzing our social participation, and optimizing our contributions.
Here's the truth: every tweet, every status update, every pin and every LinkedIn share should be analyzed as a contributor to growth. Did you know that this was possible? It is, and it's not as complex as you think. Employing an Inbound methodology allows you to optimize sharing by content type, time of posting, network selection, and so much more. Social no longer has to be a mystery, it can be a precise science.
This means that every business, whether it's an alpaca farmer or an enterprise software company, should be assessing the effectiveness of their participation on every social network, at regular intervals. In turn, time can be spent in only the most valuable of places. While traditional marketing focuses on utilizing social media for overall branding principles, such as impressions, Inbound provides a clear view into the tangible results such as site traffic, lead tracking, and conversion rates. They key to this difference is Inbound's emphasis on real numbers, rather than fluff.
Understand What Really Matters
Knowing what measurements really matter goes hand-in-hand with tracking the viability of your social participation. Just like the most popular cheerleader at the local high school, a lot of brands on social networks like to use their friend count as a measure of success. But as anyone over the age of 18 can tell you, popularity isn't what life is all about – and neither are the hordes of people who may have passively Liked or followed your page three years ago and not visited since.
Although the growth of your follower base is a decent indicator of whether your brand is building awareness, answer me this: How do you measure social awareness, and how do you prove it's value? You don't. Which is why Inbound marketing shifts the focus away from attempting to reach the masses, and exerts efforts instead into building strong, dedicated relationships with valuable prospects, leads and customers.
Instead of focusing on vanity metrics such as followers or likes, successful inbound social businesses are learning to pay attention to the users and interactions that truly matter. Inbound mandates you analyze not only to how many social interactions are driving traffic to your page (via Analytics), but also how many conversions are actually stemming from each social network. Master Inbound gives you the tools to contribute on social networks, and analyze which of those contributions translate into visits, leads, and customers.
Because Inbound puts so much energy into really getting to know your leads and qualifying them before allocating sales resources, you'll be able to prove which networks are fostering relationships (and creating customers) of the highest value. Naturally, you'll then optimize your social presence to drive the highest engagement and conversions from those social sites.
Be Smart with Strategy
If you choose to participate passively with little to no strategy on social media, then you'll have a very difficult time explaining to your CEO how all those hours on Twitter are valuable to his business. Alternatively, if you implement a comprehensive Inbound strategy which seamlessly transitions from communicating to lead generating to converting, demonstrating ROI will be a painless process. Naturally, this goes back to effective goal planning and the ability to draw clear correlations between your initiatives, your tactics, and their outcomes.
I'd encourage you to take a look at your company's social media efforts, and honestly ask yourself whether they can be measured on a realistic value scale and tied to revenue. If the answer is even a "Maybe", it's time to take a step in a new direction.
Happily, the path toward Inbound success is paved with measurable growth, delighted customers, and a whole lot of fun.
Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/68751915@N05/6281020696