It seems that everyone wants to measure the return on investment (ROI) of social media. While I don’t like applying such financial terms to relationship building efforts, I do think it is important for communicators to evaluate and measure the impact of their efforts on social channels.
The first thing to acknowledge is that not all aspects of social media can be tracked. Successful efforts can lead to word-of-mouth communication, online and offline. And, social media is a long-term relationship building strategy so efforts to show that specific communication led to an immediate impact can be short-sighted. If you are approaching social from the right mindset you are in it to build relationships and trust, which lead to greater engagement with you.
Even with these limitations on the table, it is still possible to measure the impact of social media efforts.
Track Where Relationships Start
Track the people who are connecting with you on social channels. While connecting may not have an immediate benefit, it is the start of a relationship that, if nurtured correctly, should lead to the interactions (advocacy, purchases, use of services, etc.) that you want. Because of the relationship building nature of social media the odds are higher to get people to respond to a given call to action if they are a follower, newsletter or email subscriber, or reading your blog.
If a connection first made on Twitter later reacts to an email message and contacts you for services or posts something favorable about you on a blog, he or she should count as a measurable social outreach success. The social media connection is more likely to be the first building block in the relationship, but it should count just as much as any subsequent interactions.
Look at Long Term Measures
Relationships are not one-shot deals so your measurement needs to look at the value of connections over time. You are tracking the initial source of connections; monitoring the activity with each over time gives you the insight you need to know which social media efforts are worthwhile. I did an analysis for a client that showed that although they had more Facebook likes than LinkedIn connections, the latter were stronger relationships that led to the desired actions.
When you track where relationships start and what actions result over time, you can measure social media outreach in a meaningful way. The insights should be used to constantly revise and improve your communication strategy.