Not that long ago, social media marketing was seen as a kind of novelty–something the bigger brands could afford to dabble in but most didn’t see the point. Today, social media platforms give brands the tools they need to make social media a viable and serious marketing strategy and brands are catching on. But despite huge growth in the number of brands using social media, many still aren’t using the channel to its full potential.

A surprising number of brands are just “winging it” without any real guiding strategy behind their actions and many continue to use the channel even when it isn’t producing the results they want because social media is just something brands are supposed to use. Social media can be so much more but marketers and business owners first need to know if their strategy is even working.

Define “working”

Before you can know if your social media strategy is working, you have to define what that means for your brand. It could mean several different things but some common definitions are:

    • Increased web traffic. If your website is set up to generate revenue for your brand, then any increase in web traffic is inherently valuable. If a goal you have for your social media efforts is increased web traffic and you set up your site so you can track social media-driven web traffic, you can measure its effectiveness.
    • Increased revenue. Maybe you care more about actual conversions than web traffic that doesn’t lead to revenue. If so, measuring conversions that originate from social media will be a top priority.
    • Increased brand visibility. Revenue may be the ultimate bottom line for brands but brand visibility is important too and can lead to more long-term customers rather than just short-term conversions.
    • More followers. For brands just starting up, the goal behind social media marketing may be just to build a base of followers who will help to distribute content and spread awareness by commenting on and sharing that brand’s posts on social media.

Don’t get sidetracked by “vanity metrics”

A common trap that social media marketers fall into is getting caught up in “vanity metrics” which might make them feel good, but are poor indicators of true social media marketing success. Vanity metrics include:

    • “Likes.” The most common vanity metric before is “likes.” Getting hundreds, or even thousands of “likes” on something your brand posts on social media might make you feel good, but it doesn’t necessarily mean your social media strategy is working. After all, who cares if thousands of people are “liking” what you post if they’re not taking any further action?
    • Impressions. When you’re paying to sponsor posts on social media, the social media platform lets you track impressions, which is the number of times your sponsored post was displayed on a person’s screen. While it can be helpful to see the reach of your sponsored post, it isn’t the best metric because it doesn’t tell you how people are reacting to that post, only that they’ve seen it.
    • Web traffic. Social media-driven web traffic is a step in the right direction but is a meaningless metric by itself. That web traffic needs to convert into revenue to really be valuable. If you’re seeing lots of web traffic originating from social media but few sales, it could be you’re targeting the wrong audience on social media.

Better metrics and how to achieve them

If vanity metrics are the distractions, then which metrics are the ones you ought to be paying the most attention to. Here are a few:

    • Conversions. If you set up your site to measure what percentage of social media-driven visitors specifically are taking “meaningful action” (you will have to define what that meaningful action is whether it’s completing a purchase, signing up for an email newsletter, or something else) you’re now tracking conversions and not just web traffic which may be meaningless.
    • Engagements. A better metric than “likes” is the number of shares and comments you’re seeing. Whereas “likes” are more passive and not indicative of real interest, seeing large numbers of social media followers engaging in discussions on your posts and sharing your content with their friends is a good sign that your audience is actually interested in what you’re posting.
    • On-site behavior. How long do social media-driven visitors remain on your website after clicking onto it? Is the bounce rate from the landing page high or are they clicking onto other pages and spending more time there. The answer will help you determine if you’re targeting the right audience on social media.

The key to seeing conversions, engagements, and desired on-site behavior instead of just “likes,” impressions, and increased web traffic is targeting the right audience. Your social media following needs to be made up of loyal customers who will be ambassadors for your brand. A great way to achieve this is to target people who you know are already loyal customers to become social media followers by inviting them from channels you’re already using whether that’s an email list or SMS loyalty program. Including social media links in emails and text messages is an absolute must.

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