How to tie your social media to revenue: 4 steps

It’s now possible to measure exactly the effect of social media on your bottom line. Follow these steps to find out what your social media campaigns contribute to ROI.

Sophisticated marketers measure everything from website traffic and page views to form submissions and email click-through rates.

But when measuring social media, most rely on fluff-new followers and increased brand awareness.

According to Social Media Examiner, only one in three marketers measures social media return on investment (ROI). In other words, most businesses have no idea whether their social media work.

That wouldn’t have been surprising a few years ago when the world was still making sense of Twitter and Facebook. Back then, as long as companies were on social networks, marketing was doing its job.

Today these channels should be second nature. Not measuring their effect on the company’s bottom line is a big mistake.

Marketers will double spending on social media in the next five years, the CMO Survey predicts. Proving social media’s business value is more important than ever. Executives don’t want to hear that marketing invested a good chunk of its budget in social media buzz last quarter. They want to know how that buzz fueled results-and how you use those results to shape your marketing strategy.

Luckily, marketers have the tools, data and insights to tie social media to changes in the bottom line.

It’s time to think of social media as revenue-building, not just brand-building. Here are four ways to tackle your social media to measure results:

1. Set tangible goals.

Measuring social media starts long before you tweet, post or publish anything. You should set clearly defined goals first.

Most marketers make the mistake of saying they plan to boost engagement or increase awareness. Such vague goals make it tough to evaluate progress or analyze outcomes. To evaluate social media, you need numbers.

To come up with those numbers, find out what matters most to your business and what will do it the most good.

After that, you might decide to boost Twitter engagement by 20 percent, increase Facebook leads three-fold or reach 15,000 LinkedIn followers by year’s end.

No matter how aggressive or modest your target, it must be attainable.

2. Put results in context.

Remember getting an allowance from your parents? Five bucks a week felt like winning the lottery-until you discovered your friend got $10. Don’t evaluate your social media results in isolation; compare your metrics with benchmarks.

You received 40 Twitter clicks this month, a record for your business. Your Twitter strategy must be in good shape, right? Wrong.

You need data beyond your own to know what “good shape” looks like for businesses like yours.

Industry benchmark reports put your results into perspective, but to know how you stack up, compare your results to companies with similar followings. Choose a handful of companies to investigate, or look for social media tools that can whip up benchmark data that fit your social media reach. You’ll discover whether 40 Twitter clicks is high, low or standard.

To set goals that will boost business, you need context for your social media performance.

3. Measure down to the dollar.

Not long ago, 41 percent of companies had no idea how social media affected their sales, revenue, or profits, an eConsultancy survey from 2011 reports.

Your Facebook page might boost your bottom line, but you must prove it. Tracking leads from the first interaction through the purchase is crucial. If your page brought in 30 leads last month, you should know how many became customers.

Customers who find your business through Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn bring in revenue, not just retweets or shares. Finding a social media dollar value used to be wishful thinking, but now marketers can link social media directly to revenue.

Marketers must apply closed-loop marketing on social networks to tackle ROI. If you haven’t done it yet, find tools that tie your social media campaigns to conversions and sales.

4. Let results guide you.

Never set your social media strategy in stone; it should be fluid and continually improving. But to improve it, you must have insight into what works.

Marketers who don’t measure social media can’t confidently say which channels need more attention or why one platform out-performs another.

For example, if you’ve poured the same resources into Google+ and LinkedIn for months and found that one has much lower engagement than the other, don’t keep doing what you’ve always done. Dive into the analytics. Reassess the investment you put into each. Don’t just track your measurements. Analyze them so your resources always fuel growth. Your bosses will thank you.

Every business is different. Every business has a unique social media strategy. But all businesses should commit to measuring social media.

Set quantitative goals. Compare your measurement data to data from competitors of comparable size or to data compiled by your industry. Dive into closed-loop reporting. Learn from your results.

You’ll make social media more effective. You’ll be excited to present to your executives.

Mike Volpe is the CMO of HubSpot, an inbound marketing and sales software company with more than 11,500 customers in 70 countries. A version of this article originally appeared on MarketingProfs.

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