So, you’ve got your social media marketing strategy in place and started working on posts and other content you outlined in your social media marketing strategic plan. You’re busy engaging customers, writing great content, and sharing content across multiple social platforms, but nothing seems to be happening to your bottom line ! What should you do? The first step is to monitor social media strategy.
First, don’t panic and make changes without giving your strategy time to work. Like most marketing efforts, social media marketing takes TIME — nothing is going to happen overnight. Expecting sales immediately is simply NOT realistic and leads to some pretty awful decisions if you start arbitrarily making changes without a cohesive plan.
Your social media marketing plan should take this time lag between actions and outcomes into consideration by forecasting a realistic return on your social media investment.
Determine those factors leading to sales of your product or service (we call these Key Performance Indicators or KPIs), track your performance on these factors, and using insights to guide improvements that optimize your performance leads to the long-run success of your business. As long as your performance is improving, sales will ultimately follow.
There’s some discussion as to what factors are KPIs and, to an extent, this is a function of your business, your marketing, and your goals. To an extent, KPIs depend on your business, your market (including target consumers and competitors), and the context of your operation, such as external environmental factors.
For marketing, monitoring performance revolves around advertising, product, and pricing, with a little distribution thrown in for good measure. We call these the 4Ps and they’re the backbone of marketing theory. Advertising theory suggests AIDA as the appropriate acronym for measuring performance since the elements reflect the process consumers go through that leads to purchase looks like the funnel below:
AIDA stands for:
The conversion funnel shown above reflects the same elements simply reframing them to conform with sales terminology.
Since increasing the number of consumers at each level leads to higher sales and profits, KPIs surrounding these elements require careful monitoring.
In traditional advertising, especially broadcast, measuring anything beyond awareness involves a lot of guessing. We can monitor social media strategy much more readily since we commonly track clicks from their source through to purchase. Hence, we know a particular purchase entered the website from an ad (for instance), moved through our website in a particular fashion, then proceeded to make a purchase. We can assess the order quantity, specific products purchased, other products considered, cart abandonment (if the click failed to purchase after adding product to the cart), and many other KPIs related to the customer journey.
With multi-channel attribution modeling, a technique implemented on Google Analytics, we know whether multiple visits resulting from multiple channels led to a purchase.
But, what other KPIs should we use to monitor performance?
Here’s a curated list I developed, with the help of others interested in how to monitor social media strategy. Feel free to visit the site to add your own favorite KPIs to the list. The more folks participate in the crowdsourcing effort, the better the list becomes.
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Additional KPIs to monitor social media strategy
The first couple of KPIs actually come from traditional media but have meaning when we translate to a social media (or digital) context.
Consistency in your marketing strategy is critical. You have to reach potential customers multiple times with a consistent message before you are likely to see results.
Thomas Smith estimated the optimal frequency in brand messaging back in 1885, saying
In his view, the first time they look at an ad they don’t even see it. The second time, they see it, but don’t pay attention to it. The third time, they are finally aware of it. Smith didn’t think audiences even considered buying what the ad was selling until at least the fifteenth exposure, and wouldn’t make a purchase until the twentieth. [source]
More contemporary theory suggests 3-7 exposures are sufficient to drive consumers down the funnel to purchase:
Of course, that frequency depends on the time period, as longer time periods require more frequency.
Reach refers to the percentage of the target market (or persona in the current parlance) who see your advertisement at least once. Obviously, the greater the reach the better for your strategy.
Often there’s a trade-off between reach and frequency. In other words, you reach more of your target audience at the expense of frequency. With an unlimited budget, you might maximize both reach and frequency, but, in the real world, we often don’t have the budget we’d like.
Monitor social media metrics
However, here are some things to consider:
- Fans, followers, etc. – assessing how many people link with you across various social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. is easily tracked, but may not mean a lot. Emerging evidence suggests fans are not significantly more likely to buy a brand than anyone else. This is especially true if you’ve used robots to auto-follow others in an effort to grow your fanbase or other artificial means of increasing numbers. Its engagement with these fans, etc. that matters, since every time they engage with your message through a Like, Tweet, Share, etc, they transmit that message to their social networks, thus amplifying your message.
- It’s also important that your target market engages with you, rather than random people who lack either the need, authority, desire, or money to buy your brand, even though they love the brand. Consider a Rolex. I might engage with the brand, which I admire, but I don’t have the money to make a purchase.
- Influence – tracking your influence indicates how effectively you’re building your brand. Measures such as Page Rank, Domain Authority, and other measures of influence gauge your performance.
- Backlinks – tracking backlinks is especially effective because backlinks are both a reflection of your brand reputation ads also help increase your pagerank — which in turn increases your organic search engine traffic.
- Sharing behavior – tracking shares, embeds, and downloads are also pretty effective in their own right. Sharing behavior not only amplifies your message, as stated above, it indicates folks find your content valuable enough they want others in their social network exposed to it. Sharing both validates and builds your brand as well as amplifying your message to a targeted audience.
Use Data Visualization
It makes no difference if you monitor social media strategy through KPIs unless you use that data to guide decisions that optimize performance. Companies often use dashboards as a tool to bring metrics into one place for aiding decision making.
Social media marketing strategies involve tracking a large number of KPIs and a simple numeric dashboard doesn’t add much clarity. The best way to do that effectively is to employ data visualization through software such as Tableau, which employs visual dashboards and other devices that transform data into easy-to-read dials. Data visualization allows you to absorb a huge amount of data and quickly pick out elements worthy of further investigation.
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Shanneika Howell says
I have a few questions in response to the article how long should one expect it to take before they start seeing any type of return on their social media marketing plan? Also how long does it take to build a social media network? What are some of the challenges you have faced when creating your own social media site?
Angela Hausman, Ph. D. says
Great questions, Shanneika but the answers aren’t so easy. I think the amount of time it will take depends to a large extent on how effective you are. If you’re going to blast your message over social media, it’ll likely take forever to see results. Whereas, if you truly engage customers, I think you start building your network immediately and the results can be fairly quick. For instance, when I started “Let’s Blog for Money” it started picking up visitors and comments fairly quickly. That’s because my whole approach is social and I already had a network, just not one engaged with my site.
I think the biggest challenge businesses face in trying to do social media is to think they can just put up a Twitter or Facebook and do the same things they’ve always done. It doesn’t work like that. You have to throw out advertising and PR tactics. But, more than that, I think social media requires a totally new approach — one that is customer focused and pervades everything a firm does, not just what it does in social spaces.