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"ROI" and "KPI" are the longest sustained buzzwords in the world of marketing. They've been around forever and while they might fade for a short period of time from the talking points in sales presentations and blog posts, they always bounce back up with a vengeance. We're on the high-buzz portion of the cycle right now and more people are asking again, "How can I track my social media ROI? What are the KPIs in social media?"
Return on Investment is the amount of benefit received for any investment of money, time, energy, or resources put into a particular marketing endeavor. Key Performance Indicators are the statistics that demonstrate whether or not a marketing action is doing the things that will make it successful or not. In the world of social media, both of these are extremely important when trying to understand whether or not your strategy is working or not.
Let's throw them out for now. We'll get back to them some other time, but they're only confusing the real issue with social media.
Most businesses and agencies using social media are getting locked into the trackability that is required to determine both ROI and tangible KPIs. It's sad because, much like television, tracking can be done but often to the detriment of the actual results. Today, let's focus on the verifiable benefits of social media.
A wise old car dealer once told me, "I wasn't sure whether or not my television advertising was working until I turned it off. Sales dropped. I turned it back on and sales went up. That's how I know TV works."
Thankfully, social media doesn't have to be quite as ambiguous, but it does take more verification than tracking to know whether or not it's working.
Most will call this method anecdotal at best. It is, but unless you're spending tens of thousands of dollars per month on social media, it may be all you need to be able to track your social media campaign effectiveness. Consider this scenario:
In the car business, there is one department that talks to everyone no matter what. The finance department has to get the paperwork ready and make a car deal legal regardless of how they're paying or what they're buying. This final touchpoint prior to delivery is an ideal time to ask the magic question.
"Are you following us on Facebook?"
90% will reply with one of two answers. The first is, "no." If they say that, then the response is quick and easy. "Well, we post interesting stuff there every day. You should check it out. Now, let's talk about GAP Insurance."
The second likely answer is, "Yes, and as a matter of fact I..."
Some say they found the vehicle they bought or another vehicle that they didn't buy while surfing social media. Others will say that they have been following for a while and they love the updates. A few might even say that they might be following you but they don't spend much time on Facebook. These and a couple of other variations are the common ones.
If you're doing your social media the right way, getting massive exposure in the local area for pennies on the dollar compared to television, then you will find that these types of responses are oddly common. The funny part is that the most common winning response is a different variation of "no."
"No, but I've seen your posts pop up on my Facebook news feed."
This is the winner. It's the one that demonstrates that your social media marketing really is reaching people. Just as with any form of advertising in just about every industry, being in front of people is often the subconscious prompt that makes them pull the trigger. This brings up the most important lesson that I've taught thousands of people at a dozen speaking events since 2009.
Social media is not about getting likes or followers. It's about getting your message in front of as many potential customers as possible. It's not about being part of the community. It's about being part of their community. On Facebook and Twitter, getting into their community is only loosely associated with them liking or following you. Pinterest, Instagram, and Google+ are heading in the same direction.
If you truly want to know if social media is working, you have to be willing to ask. There are definitely key performance indicators that can tell you if you're effectively getting in front of your audience. There are ways to track and measure ROI that can determine if it's generating real business. However, you should not let tracking get in the way of results.
Verify that it's working. If you can track it, great. If not, the verification (or, as those of us in social media marketing like to call it, "vindication") of its usefulness is much more important.