Most companies are reluctant to enter the social media space because the ROI is a tough nut to crack. Unfortunately for most marketing efforts in the social media space, there isn't a direct correlation from click to purchase or click to action like other forms of online marketing.
There isn't a formula to make sure you're found in the social media space like there is with Google's organic algorithm, or even their PPC algorithm, where everyone can easily see the rules and know how to work within them. With social media, the rules are different for everyone. There are very few rules when it comes to social media, which is why it's hard to gauge ROI on a "standard" basis.
Knowing your audience is vitally important if you plan to venture into social media. When you understand who they are, you can better understand how they function in the social media realm and how to measure your success with your marketing efforts. You can better adjust your marketing strategy and goals by understanding what your audience is doing in the social media communities they're intensely involved in.
Your social media goals will be strikingly different than an SEO or PPC strategy. SEO and PPC strategies are a straightforward "click=action" for success. A person searches for "red shoes" in a search engine, you're listed in organic or paid results for "red shoes" in said search engine, the person clicks on your result, the person sees red shoes on your site, the person buys from your site. That's reaching your goal successfully with SEO and PPC.
If social media were that easy, CEOs and CMOs wouldn't be so hesitant to dump money into strategies. With social media, different goals are defined according to the social media type you're dealing with.
Here are some tips for measurable goals in three areas of social media: forums and message boards, video and image sharing sites, and social networking sites.
Forums and Message Boards
Forums and message boards are the "granddaddy" of all social media types. They've been around since the inception of the Internet (long before the terms social media and user-generated content were coined), they hold a lot of power when it comes to the search engines, and they're home to some of the most influential people who can help brands, products or services develop evangelists.
Some goals to look at for measuring success in these types of social media sites are:
- Number of active members (if you start/own the forum)
- Number of new subscribers (if you start/own the forum)
- Number of posts made
- Number of replies to posts you make
- Number of friends acquired
- Number of private messages you receive and answer
Video and Photo Sharing Sites
Humans are very visual creatures. We love to see and watch things. It's much easier to understand how to fix a toilet if you watch a video of someone doing it, or see pictures of it, rather than just reading a Web page full of text. This is why video and photo sharing sites have become a great place for even the smallest of businesses to work with social media.
Some goals to measure for these types of social media sites are:
- Number of times the photo or video has be viewed
- Number of times the photo or video has been favorited
- Number of friends or subscribers to your account or channel
- Number of links/embeds to photo of video
- Number of comments photo or video has obtained
- Number of video responses
- Rating level of video or photo by users
Social Networking Sites
People love to connect, share, and feel like they belong. This is why social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn have become so popular. Social media is about sharing experiences, and both Facebook and MySpace offer platforms that do that so well.
You can share photos and videos, and tag your friends in them. You can integrate your Twitter account with both Facebook and MySpace and your friends can comment on your tweets. You can build fan pages or groups to promote the brands and activities you really love or advocate.
Here are some goals to look at for social networking sites:
- Number of fans/friends/contacts acquired
- Number of comments/likes to updates on status
- Number of discussions started on groups or pages
- Number of fan videos uploaded and comments on them
- Number of fan photos uploaded and comments on them
- Number of comments left on profiles
- If you create an application -- number of downloads/installs
- Number of questions answered
- Number of answers to questions posted
Understanding What Goals to Set
All marketing strategies have to be held accountable for their efforts. A marketing director doesn't want to hear that you can't measure social media efforts. If you can come back with a concrete way to show success with your efforts by setting goals in the social media space you're working with, you're more likely to get greater support moving forward with more social media efforts.
Do you know what your goals should be? Do you have any at all? If you don't or didn't, and you've deemed social media unsuccessful, perhaps you should take another look and set some reasonable goals in place this time.