A couple of weeks ago, I was standing in line at security in the Ft. Lauderdale airport. I was fascinated at the three and a half hour line (which I thankfully didn’t have to go through) and commented on it to the guy standing behind me.

We started to talk and he asked me what I was doing in Florida. I explained I had just given the opening keynote at the Retail Packaging Association trade show on using the web for business growth.

He asked if that included social media. I said it did and he relayed a story to me about how many cold calls he gets from social media experts wanting to start Facebook and Twitter accounts for his business.

I said, “Yeah. Well, anyone with a Twitter account and a keyboard is a social media expert.”

They are a dime a dozen.

Yet, there are few who know how to integrate their expertise with real business results.

I swear, if I hear one more time that you can’t measure the ROI of a bar of soap (or your mom or a bag of chips or whatever the cool phrase is at the time), I may actually go ballistic.

The fact of the matter is, you can (and should) measure your social media efforts. Sure, if you’re only tweeting or updating your Facebook page, there isn’t going to be a return-on-investment, other than an increase in fans or followers.

But if you integrate your efforts with other marketing and communication strategies, there are several metrics you can easily track.

  1. Leads. The number of qualified leads that come through your efforts are easily tracked with Google analytics, sites such as Clicky, and good old fashioned asking customers where they heard about you. If you set up your tracking correctly, you’ll be able to watch who comes from the blog, email marketing, and even your social networks.
  2. Converted leads. As you begin to watch your qualified leads, you can do things to nurture them along, keeping you top-of-mind. In some cases, that’s going to be “talking” to them, one-on-one, every day on the social networks. People buy from people they like and trust. And trust can be built through the social networks. But be sure you’re tracking those leads so you can show how your efforts help convert them to customers.
  3. Shortened sales cycle. This won’t necessarily apply to consumer-facing businesses, but if you work in B2B, you know how long it takes to close a new customer. For some, it’s three days and other it’s 12 months. By using social media to stay top-of-mind with your qualified leads, you are able to shorten the sales cycle. Track how long your leads take to become customers and compare that to the other methods of closing new business.
  4. Improved margins. Margins is another word for profit. It comes from the margin between your top line (revenue or sales) and your bottom line (profits after expenses such as payroll, benefits, and rent). Any time you can improve the number that’s left after expenses, the better the company does, in terms of growth. Perhaps there is a new product you can sell online to your social networks or you have created a premium eBook that you can sell. By thinking of new ways to sell, you’re increasing the margins for the company. Even if it’s only one percent, and you can demonstrate that came from your efforts, you’ll be hailed a hero.
  5. Increased fundraising. Not all of us work in for-profit businesses. If you work for a non-profit, the goal might be to increase fundraising. Create a Twitter chat or a program such as 12for12K to demonstrate your social media capabilities are raising money for the organization.

This certainly isn’t every metric you can track, but I was allotted 500 words for this blog post and I’m already over my amount.

But I’ll leave you with this…once you learn how to measure your social media efforts, in real dollars and cents, you’ll get the attention of the executive team and create an opportunity for you to become an investment, instead of an expense.

This first appeared on Social Media Sun.

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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