3 Tools and Techniques to Prove the Value of Social Media

Social media marketing is a staple part of any communications strategy today. From improving brand awareness to increasing sales to finding new PR opportunities, the benefits of social media for businesses of all sizes are apparent.

But one of the most challenging aspects of social media is proving a return on the investment. Here are some tools and techniques to help you prove the return on your social media investment.

Social media analytics for detailed audience information

Laura Hampton
Laura Hampton

For anyone using social media channels such as Facebook or LinkedIn, the idea of social analytics won’t be a new one.

Many of the social networks available today come with their own analytics or insights capabilities, where managers of those profiles can gather information about the people they’re reaching.

Facebook, for example, will show business page owners data on how many people each post has reached, the level of social interaction with each post, the number of new followers each week and demographic information such as gender or location.

LinkedIn will show company page administrators in depth information relating to post engagement, as well as the professional demographics of the page’s followers, such as seniority, role and industry.

Savvy social media marketers use these analytics areas to review the quality and relevance of the audience they’re reaching, and this can be an important tool in proving the return on social media investment. Let’s say yours is a business which targets, as ours does, marketing managers; using LinkedIn, we can see just how many marketing managers we’ve reached through our posts, and therefore see a tangible return on that investment.

Google Analytics for conversion data

Of course, it’s not just about the audience you’re reaching. Proving a return on your investment also means showing what that audience does once they’ve been reached.

Google Analytics is a free tool which essentially sits behind your website and gathers information on the its visitors, including how they found your website, which pages they viewed and conversion metrics such as whether they submitted a contact form or signed up for a newsletter.

Using Google Analytics, you can show what visitors who came from your social channels went on to do on your site, and therefore the percentage of them that converted into customers through online channels. If you’re using Google Analytics, navigate to "acquisition" and then "channels" in the left-hand navigation. Click on "social" to see a breakdown of all the social media channels that sent traffic to your site, and move across the columns to that which shows conversion data to see what they did once they were there.

It’s important to remember that the channels which send the most traffic aren’t necessarily the most successful. You may find that Twitter, let’s say, sent more visits to your website than any other social media channel, but that LinkedIn sent more visitors who went on to convert. You, or your marketing team, should be reporting on both traffic and conversions when it comes to proving the value of social media to your website’s success.

Hootsuite for PR opportunities

Another tool savvy marketers are employing in driving successful social media campaigns, and thus proving a return on the investment, is Hootsuite. This is a free platform (alternatives such as Tweetdeck exist) which enable marketers to manage Twitter more effectively and efficiently and, when used strategically, to identify PR opportunities therein.

Hootsuite enables you to set up streams, which are columns containing certain tweets. You can have a stream set up to show you the entire Twitter home feed, which can be a lot of information to filter through, and also set up streams to show mentions of your brand’s Twitter handle or direct messages to your account.

A more advanced technique is to set up custom search streams that pull out PR opportunities for you. Journalists love Twitter for its constantly updated feed of bite-size news snippets and for this reason, have started using hashtags to put out requests for information, comment and news stories.

Using Hootsuite, set up a new stream and choose "search" as the type of stream. Then, type in:

“#prrequest” OR “#journorequest”

This stream will now show you all tweets which contain either #prrequest or #journorequest, both Twitter hashtags used by journalists to seek information from people. These can be a fantastic source of PR opportunities for you.

You can refine this further to be more specific to your business or location. For example:

“#prrequest” OR “#journorequest” AND “travel” AND “new forest”

This will return all tweets which include #prrequest or #journorequest plus the words "travel" and "new forest," which is highly relevant if your business is selling holiday cottages in the New Forest, as my client does.

Or try:

“#prrequest” OR “#journorequest” AND “nottingham”

This will return all journalist requests which mentioned Nottingham—great if your business, like ours, is based in Nottingham.

By setting up these streams, you can quickly see all of the PR opportunities available to you through social media, and thus show the value of the social media activity in delivering PR potential.

Social media has a wealth of potential opportunities for businesses of all sizes, and proving the return on investment is essential in both showing the value of your work, and refining it for more success in the future.

Laura Hampton is digital marketing manager at Impression. Follow @impressiontalk