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10 Steps to Achieving Return on Investment Using Social Media

I recently wrote this step-by-step guide to achieving ROI using social media, and many have found it useful as a way to think about using social media as part of their business plans.

Achieving ROI using social media is all about focusing on your needs and planning ahead. Here are the 10 steps to implementing a successful social media campaign. 

1. Define and set goals for success–and be specific

Outline your goals for your social media marketing campaign, and decide how you will measure those goals. Your goals should be very specific to your business and must be measureable in some way.

Be strict! For example, the goal “I want to have X number of followers on Twitter” is only meaningful if all those followers are prospective clients.

Here are some general ideas for goals; you need to make them specific in terms of what will make a difference to your business:

  • Number of clients tweeting or blogging about your services
  • Increase in number of online reviews of your product or service on Google or LinkedIn or Yelp or Citysearch
  • Number of clicks to a landing page on your site from a specific URL
  • Number of subscribers to your newsletter
  • Number of downloads of a document from your website
  • Number of retweets of your tweets
  • Improved search engine ranking for a specific search term
  • Number of new sales leads
  • Number of new customers
  • Increase in gross income (the holy grail)

 2. Goals–quantity vs quality

In setting your goals, think qualitatively as well as quantitatively. Ten great business leads are better than 100 crap ones.

Quantitative goals are: Dollar amounts of sales, number of new sales leads, number of subscribers to your newsletter.

Qualitative goals are:  Client interaction, client feedback. You still need to have metrics on these, so make some simple rules.

Examples of qualititative goals:

  • My number of Twitter followers may not be as important as where they are located, given that my business only works with clients in NYC. So my goal might be to have X number of Twitter followers in the NY area.
  • A trust campaign could set a goal of having X number of positive Twitter conversations about my company with followers each week.
  • Starbucks initiated a Twitter campaign to get suggestions from customers of how they could improve their service. The goal was collecting X number of suggestions per month, and/or implementing X number of those suggestions per month.
  •  A campaign to increase authority could measure X number of influential blogs linking to yours, or pagerank of your website compared to your competition.

 3. Which social media avenues you should use depends on who you’re trying to reach

In deciding how to reach your goals, you need to figure out which social media avenues are the right ones to reach your target audience. For example, don’t use LinkedIn to reach prospective clients if you’re targeting teens. Essentially you need to know where your prospective clients are spending time online.

Relevant questions to determine how to reach your audience through social media:

  • Who is likely to purchase my product or service?
  • Who do I want to communicate with?
  • What kind of audience does this social media community have?
  • What kind of online content will appeal strongly to my target audience?
  • What tools or online services does my target audience use?
  • Which websites does my target audience frequent?

You may need to do research, or ask current clients about their online habits, in order to answer these questions.

4. Monitoring tools

In order to track the success of your social marketing campaign, you need to use online tools to collect your numbers. Luckily there is a lot of free stuff out there for online monitoring.

Here are a few useful monitoring tools:

  • Twitter mentions: Use a program like TweetDeck to track every time you or your business is mentioned on Twitter.
  •  Twitter followers: Use a program like WhereBeYou to see where your followers are located.
  •  Twitter hashtags: Look up any hashtag to find out how often it’s been used recently, and see the top current hashtags.
  • Blog and website: Use page tracking tools like Google Analytics to see how many people are reading your blog and how many people are coming to your website from Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn.
  • General: Use Google Alerts to see what people are saying about you or your business online.
  • Client tracking: Use some type of internal CRM (customer retention management) system to track how your new clients and prospects who call or email you are finding out about your company–even if it’s as basic as a spreadsheet.

 5. Design your social marketing plan

Now that you know what your detailed goals are, and how to reach your target market, design your social marketing plan.

Your plan should include which online avenues you’ll be using, how frequently you will perform specific tasks, and what you will do specifically to achieve each goal.

For example if one of my goals is to increase my Twitter followers in New York to
100, then my plan will specify the following:

  •  I will use Twitter to reach this specific goal
  •  I’ll tweet daily, and send out 3-4 tweets each day
  •  At least 2 tweets per day will be about the intersection of New York and technology
  •  At least 1 tweet per day will contain a hashtag related to New York or Macs
  •  I will follow more New Yorkers on Twitter, and retweet anything that may be of interest to my target audience

6. Establish your baseline

Before you begin implementing your social media marketing plan, collect baseline numbers for where you are right now on your metrics.

 7. Implement your social marketing plan, keeping your specific goals FIRMLY in mind

If you keep your specific goals actively in mind when you do your social marketing every day or every week, this should help prevent you from wasting too much time on Facebook.

 8. Give it time

It takes time to see the benefits of social media. Give your campaign time to build
(3-6 months minimum) before giving up or switching strategy.

 9. Review and compare your stats regularly, and make adjustments

Every 1-2 months, review your current stats and compare them to your previous and baseline stats. Is the campaign working? What’s not working, and can you figure out why not? Adjust your social marketing campaign as necessary.

 10. Don’t overlook other potential problems

Detailed analysis of your stats is the key to figuring out which parts of your campaign need adjusting. The problem may not be where you expect.

Example: Your Twitter campaign may be driving a lot of traffic to your website, but your website bounce rate is high. This suggests that your Twitter campaign is working but your website landing page isn’t converting visitors. In this case the solution is to change your web landing page, not your Twitter strategy.

For more information

Some useful sites and articles related to social media marketing:

  • Chris Brogan, social media expert:
  • Zygote on getting ROI from social media:
  • Mashable’s How-Tos on social media:
  • Dosh Dosh articles on social media:
  • Online Marketing Blog:


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