That’s the problem with discussions of social media ROI today.
Unless your company ponies up for enterprise level social media management software, you’re left to use free or low cost platforms that offer little more than click tracking data.
But it’s all you have, so you use the data to develop and manage your ongoing social media strategy.
The problem is, once you upgrade to a social media monitoring platform that includes conversion tracking, you begin to see a very different world.
A world where not all clicks are created equal.
The folly of click data
The world loves free — especially free — data, insight, helpful tips, etc. Thus, when you’re creating and sharing helpful content, people click on it.
Many content marketers mistake this click for need when often, it’s simply an indicator of interest.
For example, let’s say you post a lot of content around B2B digital sales & marketing strategy and consistently see good click-thru numbers on those links. Specifically, you may see a lot of clicks from inside certain LinkedIn Groups that focus on B2B sales & marketing.
Because of this, you assume those groups want and need advice about developing B2B sales & marketing strategies — something you do. So you devote more time to those groups beyond just posting your content.
You monitor the Daily Update emails, you participate in various discussions and begin to connect with other members.
Meanwhile, you’re not seeing as many clicks from another platform — let’s say Facebook — so you dial down the time you spend there to focus more attention to those click happy LinkedIn Groups that seem to love your content.
But you have a big problem.
You don’t really know if the social media activity is converting to new leads, downloads or subscriptions, or if you’re just helping educate a lot of people that will never do business with you.
Turning links into leads
The missing link (pun intended) here is conversion tracking.
It’s not enough to use Google Analytics to determine that your social and content efforts are driving traffic to your website, you need to define the high quality from low quality traffic. The only way to do that is by tracking conversions.
For every social media post you make, you need to understand how many clicks and conversions (downloading a white paper, subscribing to a newsletter, or buying a product) were generated.
To do this, I suggest you invest in a social media management and tracking platform that will produce customized short links for each social post you create … and track traffic from those links all the way through conversion.
There are a number of enterprise level solutions that will do this but for now, let me show you a simple real-world example of how I use this conversion data to better target my social media marketing efforts.
How conversions inform your strategy
The single most valuable benefit to comparing performance by click and conversion is time and effort management.
The insightful reports can be quite eye opening and really help you focus your limited time and attention to drive the best results for your business.
For instance, look at this campaign snapshot for my new book, The Invisible Sale.
Because most people are not going to purchase a book that is still nine months from publishing (this campaign was in April) we designed the campaign to drive awareness of the book and newsletter subscriber sign-ups. The figure below is showing the click and conversion (people who clicked through and then signed up for my Painless Prospecting newsletter).
If I was only looking at click data, I might feel that I need to place more effort on Twitter and less on Facebook and LinkedIn as Twitter drove significantly more clicks.
But take a look at the conversion column.
It tells a very different story. Each of those platforms drove four conversions. However, LinkedIn drove those conversions at a much higher rate. Thus, if I’m looking for the most profitable platform to place my limited resources (time and effort) than LinkedIn would seem a better option.
Think of it this way …
When someone clicks on your content, they’re indicating an interest or curiosity. They’re window-shopping. And in the world of business prospecting, they’re invisible.
But when they take that next step … when they trade you a piece of personally identifiable information, such as an email address to subscribe to a blog, they become a visible prospect.
And that should be the goal of your social media efforts: To create and share content that turns invisible prospects into visible leads.
The benefits of conversion tracking
Conversion tracking isn’t just a better, more accurate way of reporting social media ROI.
It’s a better way of developing a social media plan of attack. The single biggest challenge marketers have today is regarding time … or maybe better stated, the lack of time.
If you’re merely tracking clicks, you very well may be spending a lot of time producing and sharing content with window shoppers instead of developing truly valuable relationships with true prospects.
About the Author: Tom Martin is a 20+ year veteran of the marketing and advertising industry with a penchant for stiff drinks, good debates and digital gadgets. He is the founder of Converse Digital , author of The Invisible Sale. Get more from Tom on Google+, Twitter, or LinkedIn.