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Over the years, our clients have asked this question a lot, and over the years, we’ve gotten better and better at answering it. Thanks to increasingly sophisticated tracking and analysis options within each social media platform, as well as some great third-party measurement and reporting tools, it’s easier than ever to monitor and improve your social media ROI.

However, doing so requires some detailed setup and planning, as well as ongoing maintenance. You can’t expect to drive higher ROI on social media if you haven’t started measuring it! We recommend taking the following steps to first track and measure, then improve, your social media return on investment.

1. Translate your business goals to digital goals.

For some businesses with a strong online footprint, this is easy: your business and digital goals are close to being one and the same. However, for other organizations, this first step can be tricky.

If your business goal is to increase real-world brand recognition and affinity, it’s important to understand how that translates to digital and social channels.

Similarly, if your business goal is to increase restaurant visits or to drive sales of your product at a retail location, you’ll need to understand how social media fits into your customer’s journey to that end destination. It’s often complicated and will require insight from multiple people and teams within your organization, but it’s worth the effort to build an effective social media strategy.

2. Know your benchmarks.

Once you’ve got some overarching digital goals in mind, you’ll want to quantify them. What benchmarks have you achieved, and what resources will you need to improve in order to achieve your digital (and business) goals? For instance, if we continue with the example above, say you’ve set a goal to improve brand affinity. This could be translated to a digital goal of achieving positive engagement (likes, comments, shares, mentions, etc.). How many social media interactions did you achieve last year? How much would you like to grow that number by this year? How much budget did you allocate toward achieving those interactions, and do you anticipate increasing it to meet the growth goals you’ve set, or spending more time on your strategic approach to tailor it toward those goals? (Don’t have more time? Pro tip: You could hire a digital agency to help with this.)

3. Prioritize your goals by platform and audience.

Which social media platforms are best suited to help you achieve each goal? Think about the strengths of each platform in order to make this decision. Is one platform more popular with your target demographic than another? Does a platform offer certain ad formats or bidding strategies that will help you optimize toward your goal? If you’re trying to sell orange juice to senior citizens, it’s probably not a good idea to set up a Twitter campaign to optimize toward driving engagement with your tweets. Instead, consider focusing your efforts on Facebook, where you can target users based on their demographics and interests with a Page Post Link Ad that will send them directly to a product page or a store locator. It’s important to understand all your options, as well as your benchmarks and how your goals are prioritized, in order to begin to build an effective strategy.

4. Monitor performance and iterate on your successes

Almost every social platform has its own native insights, and we love tools like Google Data Studio that allow us to set up dashboards for real-time reporting on our goals. Constantly check in on performance to identify what seems to be working and what may need to be rethought, and set up a cadence to make changes big and small. The great thing about social media is that you always have the ability to test and tweak your strategy – you’re never truly committed to one idea, audience, message or format.

A smart budget and a smarter strategy are the keys to success

Finally, perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind when it comes to driving higher ROI through social media is that a smart budget and a smarter strategy are the keys to success. Social media has truly become “pay to play” as platforms refocus their algorithms to prioritize user content over brand content, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be successful, nor does it mean that you need to have a huge budget to win out.

Be very thoughtful about how you allocate your money to serve your goals, regardless of how big or small that number is, to ensure that your investment is well-spent. Knowing exactly what goals you’d like to achieve and what resources will be required to do so is the most effective way to ensure that you see a positive return on investment. And finally, constant iteration and improvement through ongoing monitoring and measurement are how you’ll continue to improve that social media ROI.

Kelsey Agnew

Kelsey Agnew

Long before joining the Vert team in 2012 as a Digital Brand Manager, Kelsey was spending her time kicking around a soccer ball, cheering for the Steelers, and building Angelfire websites in northwest Pennsylvania. Currently, Kelsey leads the web & social content charge at Vert, working with clients to develop and execute robust, engaging strategies.