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All marketing should prove its worth and social media marketing (SMM) is no different. Here are my 10 steps to both measuring the effectiveness, and proving the ROI of your social media activity.

1. Start with your Vision
Start by deciding that you can and will prove ROI. This is possible if you align your SMM so that it supports the organisation’s overall Vision, be this ‘Be No1 in our Marketplace’ or ‘Grow turnover by X% within 3 years’… With a clarity of Vision, you can choose how SMM will support the 3 Key Objectives of all businesses. These are, of course, to:

(i) Make money
(ii) Save money
(iii) Increase customer satisfaction

Whilst it’s fine to engage in SMM to build brand awareness, it’s of little business use unless it translates into making or saving money.

2. Map your Customer Touchpoints
A Customer Touchpoint Map describes how and where non-customers, customers and other stakeholders experience your brand before, during and after a purchase.

A Customer Touchpoint Analysis will then highlight where SMM could play its part in moving people from being non-customers to loyal advocates (an essential element of SMM success).

3. Identify your Social Media Pre-cursors
Of course, just because someone ‘retweets’ one of your tweets doesn’t mean that you’ll see a sudden spike in sales. The response to your SMM, being less cause-and-effect and more like overlapping ripples on a pond, will be more complicated than that.

Social Media Pre-cursors are the social media actions and responses you’ll need to spot before you reach your Objectives. Let’s imagine you hope that your Facebook pages will provide a new stream of prospects to your business. Your Social Media Pre-cursors would therefore include a growth in the number of Facebook fans, an increase in comments on your updates and more people adding their own content.

4. Conduct your Social Media Research
Use the following tools to determine how visible, respected and influential your brand is online.

  • Website Analytics e.g. Google Analytics
  • Blogosphere Monitoring e.g. Technorati.com
  • Twitter Monitoring e.g. Tweetdeck
  • Social Networks e.g. Facebook
  • Discussion Forums e.g. Boardtracker
  • Social Search Engines e.g. Social Mention

Don’t take too long over this initial research. At this stage you’re trying to form a snapshot of what’s out there. You can dig deeper later.

5. Collate the information
Collate your results into whatever format makes sense for you. Tabulate the number of mentions you found, the number of comments on your content, the percentage of negative vs positive ratings your products have received, the number of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter followers you have, page views on your blog, the volume of traffic from social media into your main site as a percentage of overall traffic and so on.

6. Analyse the information
You may be able to determine the total size of your audience by adding up various populations across different social media platforms. You could judge how interesting your brand is online or by how often key online influencers post about you. You should also try and judge the level of influence you have. You can tell this by the number of (positive) comments your blog posts receive or how many times they are bookmarked in Delicious or Stumbleupon.

Check how much traffic to your website is coming from social media. And if you’re looking to generate sales, you could see how much of that traffic is converting into enquiries, leads and sales.

7. Seek insight
Whatever you do with this data, don’t drown in it. Be focused about what you’re looking for. Remember, reporting is not an outcome. Seek insight instead.

What you’re looking for is not only volume of activity but quality of activity. Or, to put it another way, which type of SMM will create a reaction in the direction of your Objectives. If you can spot this, you can focus your efforts in crafting the type of content that interests your audience(s).

8. Draw a ‘Line in the Sand’You’ll need to choose a point in time, or data point in your figures that you choose as ‘Ground Zero.’ i.e. a point you’ll describe as ‘Before we started SMM’ and ‘Afterwards’. It may seem arbitrary, but this is the only way you’ll have a chance of spotting trends and proving the ROI of your SMM.

9. Begin your Social Media Marketing
Focused by your Goals, Objectives and Baselines, you can now begin, or re-start your social media marketing in earnest. Launch that blog you’ve been planning. Start tweeting. Post your videos to YouTube and ramp up the updates to your Facebook and LinkedIn communities.

If you’re like many marketers, you are probably both excited and overwhelmed by the potential of SMM. However, unlike many marketers, you are now better prepared to spend less time analysing and more time creating.

10. Conduct regular ROI Analysis
At regular intervals, conduct the same social media research as you did before. A programme that should run alongside your normal web analytics reporting and analysis.

By conducting regular monitoring and reporting, you will soon build up a vital database of information and should start seeing trends in the direction of your Goals and Objectives. As long as you’re truly committed to SMM and stay the course, these trends should all be positive and in the direction of your Goals. Unlike the majority of marketers engaged in Social Media not only will you be tracking your efforts, you will also be able to prove ROI too.

Andrew Lloyd Gordon is tutor for the IDM’s Successful Social Media Monitoring and Social Media Strategy courses. For a longer version of this article, visit MyCustomer.com

5 responses to “10 Steps to prove Social Media Marketing ROI”

  1. List Broker says:

    Very comprehensive article Richard. Many people seem to be dipping into Social Media to keep up with Jones’s but realistically I would imagine most are doing nothing more than throwing away time unless they follow some guidelines such as those above. Some of the points seem obvious such as Draw a line in the Sand, but its these that get overlooked. Look forward to hearing more.

  2. 2012 IDM member says:

    Excellent article. I have just returned from a meeting during which this very topic was the primary focus. Your 10 point plan has given me the confidence that I also outlined a similar plan, though in less detail.
    I was eager to explain that research is necessary against defined objectives. I Look forward to reading more from you.

  3. I am strongly agree with you. I think collect information is most hard step for social media marketing. And then try to reach to customer and manage the productivity.

  4. Wow, how depressing is that this, not the report nevertheless the number of sheep who buy in to this crap.

  5. Nice article and I will be using the 10 step process as suggested, thanks

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