Setting goals and outlining strategies for companies is just the beginning for a social media apprentice. One of the more challenging questions in the social media realm today has to do with measuring outcomes. ROI, return on investment, measures how much a company gets out of a marketing campaign. The challenge comes when the boss, who likely doesn’t fully understand the intangible advantages, looks at the numbers and asks, “Is being on Facebook worth it?” This can throw a wrench in social media campaigns.
First, social media takes time to work, so some companies get annoyed when they don’t see the ROI right away. Second, it has a lot to do with reputation. Like word-of-mouth, a person will not likely advertise your tweets or Fanpage if they don’t trust you. Third, social media, while somewhat measurable, remains a highly subjective space. Is that new Twitter follower a spammer? How many of your Facebook fans actually know what you do? The most successful people not only gain numbers, but establish relationships with customers.
Specific metrics, or measurements of impact, apply to certain strategies, and, though all data can be helpful, the metrics to which you cling should reflect your goals. If you want to increase in-store visits, Twitter mentions may help, but probably less than Foursquare or Yelp check-ins.
There are also applications that claim to measure your influence in social media. One of the big players now is Klout, which supposedly measures how influential a specific Twitter or Facebook user is. Personally, I take these scores, as with any formula that measures the intangible, as only a general indicator, because, in the end, numbers don’t buy your product.