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social-media-ROISocial media ROI and how well (and if) it can be measured is a common pain point for those businesses unsure or doubtful that social media is necessary as part of their larger marketing mix. The truth: You definitely can (and should!) track and measure your social media efforts.

“Tell me how you measure ROI for ‘traditional’ marketing & advertising campaigns and I’ll replicate that for social media”

If you can look past the top layer of snark that accompanies this response, you’ll see the true message. Business owners have largely grown accustomed to “traditional” marketing and advertising costs, even though the true ROI of those expenses cannot fully be measured. Sure, you know a newspaper’s circulation numbers, the demographic break outs and average viewership numbers during that TV time slot, and the amount of traffic that passes that billboard over a period of time, but you have no real way to measure or track how many people who noticed your print ad, saw your TV commercial and drove past your billboard who ended up with your restaurant at the top of their minds the next time they asked, “Where should we go to dinner?” There is at least some (vague) degree of “growing brand awareness” tied into any type of marketing or ad campaign.

What are your goals with social media?

One big no-no that business owners frequently make when initially stepping into the social realm is not establishing clearly-defined goals for the time and money they are putting into it before beginning. But you aren’t going to be able to properly measure ROI or your level of success with either social media or traditional marketing and advertising campaigns without specific goals to achieve.

Your goals could be simple, like steadily growing a fan base and following on social media channels. Perhaps you want to increase your newsletter subscriptions or work to build partnerships with relevant businesses in your area. Your goals could also be more specific like tracking conversions from social media to a landing page on your website or increasing internet sales via social media.

Whatever your goals are, laying them out before diving into social will help you to know if you are achieving the results you were hoping and can also guide you in selecting the proper analytics, tracking and social media management tools to use.

The “type” of ROI can vary by social media platform

Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus and Pinterest are 4 of the most popular social platforms. Yet chances are that you would use each one in a way that’s different than your approach with the other 3. For example, sharing as many of your website pages on Google Plus and being “circled” by as many other accounts as possible are 2 common goals for Google Plus because Google is the King of Search. Pinterest is a platform that retailers love to use because of its ability to drive internet sales. Facebook has a lot of built-in opportunities for ads and sponsored stories, as well as integration of apps that allow you to incorporate other marketing tools like a newsletter subscription. Twitter is a casual platform that allows you direct access to the thoughts, feelings, questions and problems of those you follow, and the one social media platform that accommodates a substantial number of daily updates. Twitter is often the preferred avenue for developing cross-promotional opportunities.

In a lot of ways, once you look more closely at social media ROI vs traditional marketing and advertising ROI, you’ll see there are many more similarities than there are differences. Accepting that there will be a certain degree of “unknown” ROI, establishing defined goals and understanding that ROI comes in many forms are 3 factors that are just as important when evaluating the worth of social media as they are when evaluating the worth of your traditional marketing.