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First things first: you need to figure out what you want out of social media at the long run. Social media planning is a marathon, not a sprint.

Establishing clear social marketing goals is the first step toward transforming your strategy.

Think of exactly what you want social to achieve. Some common, broad social media goals include:

  • Drive website traffic.
  • Increase brand awareness.
  • Improve ROI.
  • Generate new leads.
  • Increase sales.
  • Create a loyal fanbase.
  • Build a community around your business.
  • Establish authority and industry expertise.

The objective here is to give purpose to your social efforts. Once you’ve established your social goals, the content you produce and share should continually support those goals.

Some companies set different goals for different social networks. We recommend only a few goals per network so you do not become overwhelmed. You can have primary goals like “increase brand awareness” and also secondary goals like “increase sales.” This way, you can track if brand awareness really is increasing and if sales are also increasing, that is great, too.

Identify Your Goal Metrics

While some social media marketing metrics are universal, there are also platform specific metrics you need to consider. Even, some data is calculated differently depending on the platform and social media metrics tools you’re using.

Social media metrics are data and statistics that give you insights into your social media marketing performance. You have to identify the metrics you want to use for each goal.

As an example goal, we’ll use “increase brand awareness”. To measure “brand awareness” on Facebook, you have to pay attention to:

  • Fan count.
  • Page and Post Impressions.
  • Post Reach.
  • Link clicks (if you are linking to your company website).
  • Website analytics for Facebook referrals

Social Media Campaigns

Rather than look at the big picture of your social presence, social goals should be campaign-specific. This is a critical aspect of measuring ROI that don’t have to miss.

A campaign is a planned out effort with set goals and a measurable outcome. For example, any brand running a paid Facebook campaign should know whether or not their ads paid off. Through analytics the answer is fairly straightforward.

One of the most important reasons you want to set up campaigns is that it will allow you to track individual links that you share on Twitter, Facebook or other networks. This allows you to easily attribute visits from specific links you share.

Measure your goals

Once you’ve defined your goals, the next step is to track them. The tracking part is why it’s so important to set up goals that are based on your visitors taking action.

The easiest way to track your social media goals is by using Google Analytics.

Although Google Analytics can point out you in social traffic and which channels are driving traffic, you can get much more detail than that. For example, if you want to see the financial social ROI for a specific campaign, Google Analytics has the answer.

From your Google Analytics dashboard, go to Acquisition > Social > Conversions. If you don’t have any goals set up, you’ll be prompted to create one. Click on “Set Up Goals.” This is where you’re going to set up the goal you defined earlier. If your goal was to get newsletter sign-ups, you’ll have to set up a special thank you page on your site for after someone subscribes.

For this part, you’re going to enter the actual destination URL that you want to trigger a conversion. Make sure this page is not indexed in Google, so that the only way for someone to land on it is by going through your email signup process. Otherwise you could get wrong insights.

Track your social media expenses

In order to figure out whether you’re getting a positive or negative ROI for social media campaigns, you’ll also have to measure how much you’re spending. That expense is not only money. Here’s what should be included in your ROI calculations.

  • Time: Your time is valuable. Add up the hours that go into a specific social media marketing campaign over a specified period of time. Measure this investment per-campaign.
  • Content: Did you get a landing page written by a professional copywriter? If you’re writing such copy yourself, that’s going to count toward your time investment.
  • Social media tools: Using Facebook and Twitter is free, but if you’re using other tools for social media management, you need to add those costs. Just like with the hours, you should calculate this on a per-campaign basis. So if your campaign lasts for one month, only add in the cost of a month of the software, not an entire year.
  • Ad costs: If you’re running a Promoted Tweet, Facebook Ad or boosting a Facebook post, add in that cost as well.

Once you have your expenses calculated, you’ll be able to calculate your social media ROI for every campaign with this simple formula:(Earnings – Costs) x 100 / Costs

Earnings are based on the value you calculated when measuring your goals. Your costs are the items listed above (hours, content, etc).

You can figure out the specific ROI for each social network by segmenting your earnings and costs per social channel using that same formula above. After looking at the numbers, you’ll be able to decide which social platforms are doing the best for your company and concentrate on those.

For any social networks or campaigns that are bringing in a negative ROI, you can either try to adjust by spending less or fine-tune your campaigns.

Tips for improving your social ROI

Let’s analyze some points for improving your social ROI.

Mine your social data 

As noted, so much of measuring your social ROI boils down to your metrics. Beyond Google analytics, take a hard look at your social dashboards to understand your performance.

For example, which types of content are your top performers? When are you getting the most engagement? These data points can be decisive for paid and organic campaigns alike.

The more data you have on hand, the easier it is to maximize your reach and get a better ROI for your efforts.

When in doubt, run test campaigns

Marketers today are expected to run a variety of campaigns, paid or otherwise. Before going all-in on a particular campaign or ad type, you can save yourself time and money by running a test first.

This is especially important for paid ads like those on Facebook that can quickly blow out your budget if you aren’t careful. Some of the most important tips to consider when running an effective test are:

  • Choose your time period. The time period you choose to measure is important, and is different for every social marketer.
    • Start by looking at a specific time period, whether that’s day, week, month, or year. Compare this time period to a similar period in the past.
    • What differences do you see in your KPIs? Was the difference caused by a specific campaign, posting cadence, or social channel focus? Learning the answer to these questions gives you prescriptive data about what to plan next.
  • Testing your messages and content types. Not all of your content is going to be the same. You’ll have different text, pictures, videos and more. While this variety is great for your audience, it forces you to do more testing on each of your different messages and content types.

Take advantage of the tools of the trade.

Thankfully you don’t need to use a ton of tools to assess your social media ROI. Here’s a short list of some tools that can be used: