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It’s all too easy to believe that the value of social media is limited to likes, follows, retweets and other proofs of popularity. There’s a simple reason for this. Numbers are a great way to show that things are growing and progressing. Numbers show us that results are definitely happening.

This is fine, and those are definitely metrics that need to be tracked. However, it might not be getting at the real value of social media. And if you’re not getting at the real value, you may be missing out on some important opportunities.

Still, social media ROI is notoriously difficult to track. It’s hard to assign value when someone comes to your website through a social promotion but doesn’t buy anything on the first visit. They may do so somewhere down the line, but this time they’ll just go directly to your site. (This question of “last click attribution” was something that was discussed quite a lot during this year’s SLC|SEM.)

On top of that, you could also say that a lot of social media value doesn’t occur on your own properties. It happens on other users’ accounts. It comes from natural mentions from your customers and potential customers – and how are you supposed to track that?

In order to show the value, you need to be able to measure something. “Likes” and “follows” are a good start, but let’s see if we can find some deeper value.

How Are Businesses and Customers Interacting on Social?

As you jump into the social media marketing arena, it’s important to know how companies and customers are actually using it. In a recent study, it was shown that people follow businesses on social media for:

  • Promotions and discounts (71%)
  • Latest product information (66%)
  • Customer service (49%)

It’s that last entry that a lot of companies forget, even though half of your followers have done so specifically to get extra help or support. If you really want to get some value out of your social media, it’s critical that you’re focused on the things your customers are actually looking for.

The study goes on to say that nearly 46% of businesses surveyed thought that social media has some value, meaning they don’t see it as an intrinsic part of modern business. Only 14% believed it had proven value. At the same time, 29% said that social media is valuable, which comes off a little like people saying something because they’ve heard that this is the case, but they’ve never seen it applied to their own situation.

On to some other important statistics:

  • 61% of consumers say reviews on social media influence their buying decisions
  • 68% of people look to Facebook when purchasing products
  • 56% look to Pinterest

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Statistics, especially internet statistics, change all the time, and it must be said that these numbers are from a survey that is about a year old. So, ask yourself: in the last years, do you suspect these numbers have gone up or down?

Social Analytics

There are several elements that we normally track for social media campaigns. This includes how well each post is performing, if ads are driving enough traffic, and whether or not followers are sharing your content with others.

As we said above, a lot of social analytics boils down to numbers (since that’s what analytics is all about). But that’s not where it should end. There are a lot of things that these numbers can show you, and you can derive some important elements that may not be stated specifically by the numbers.

Social Momentum

The concept of social moment is something we’ve talked about before as something that is a good indicator of the success of your content marketing efforts. As you analyze what’s happening on social media around your content, you’ll be able to determine what is working and what isn’t.

After all, it’s one thing to get your latest blog to rank for a random keyword, but it’s something else entirely to have your entire audience actively sharing and referencing it.


You can see your social momentum by looking at your site on a page-by-page and month-to-month basis. As you examine the number of likes, follows and other metrics, you need to focus on what these numbers tell you about what content is working and what isn’t.

As you learn what is making these elements of your website more attractive to your audience, you can start to change your focus and continue building on the things that work.

You can even look at the social momentum of your competition to see what’s working for them, and see how they’re using content to create conversations.

Social ROI

Figuring out the exact ROI of a social campaign can be a challenge. If we accept that a lot of the value really happens outside of your brand page, there’s simply no way to get exact numbers on how often someone talks about or recommends you.

It’s always been hard to measure word of mouth. How would you even start?

Well, there are several places. For example, you could:

  • Rely on anecdotal examples (i.e. ask your customers how they found you)
  • Find correlations between sudden increases in conversions and sales with a new social campaign
  • Test how two different types of posts or ads increases or decreases traffic and conversions
  • Find some third-party tools can show you a range of metrics

Focus on Business Goals, Not Social Goals

At the end of the day, value can only be determined by what you really want to achieve as a business. You need to focus on your company’s overall goals, not just your social goals. Yes, growing the number of likes and followers is important, but your social efforts should always have a purpose outside of the social platform (like getting more customers).

When you can effectively track social ROI, you will be able to prove the value of the effort to your organization’s leaders, show what content is working well and which has gone stale, and fine tune your key messages.

The real value in social media comes when your social media is growing your business. Not when your business is working really hard to grow your social media.


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