Wait, Was That a Click or a Conversion?

Image of Two Muscle Cars Racing

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.

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Reader Comments (16)

  1. says

    I totally agree, the profile of your typical ‘clicker’ might be very different to the profile of your typical buyer. But doesn’t the eCommerce tracking feature in Google Analytics do this conversion tracking already? It tells me where all my conversions come from, including social media sites.

  2. says

    Any suggestions on pro/enterprise level social media management software that has conversion tracking? Typically, we advise clients to do this using Google’s custom URL builder, Free (or inexpensive) Social Media Management software, and Google Analytics.

    In my experience, I’ve found that most of the Enterprise level social media management applications are drastically overpriced. Could you expand on this post by providing some tool recommendations?

  3. says

    “produce customized short links for each social post you create”

    I think you don’t always need the customized short link, especially if you are just promoting a regular blog post. But the moment that content comes with some kind of action item (like downloading a white paper or registering for a webinar) it is definitely worth tracking!

    • says


      Would disagree with you there. If you regularly publish content on other peoples sites (like here at Copyblogger) and include links back to your own site (to allow readers to dive deeper into a topic) the end goal is traffic and brand impression.

      You get the brand impression by virtue of publishing on the other company’s platform.

      But to understand the traffic driving factor, you need to have trackable links. This way you can determine if your efforts are driving traffic, or as I note above, convertable traffic. Further, by using the tracking links you can then understand traffic driving at the “campaign” level as well as the outpost level and then diving down even further, you can begin to understand what type of content drives traffic to your site from each of your outposts.

      This helps you develop better targeted content for those guest posts vs just blasting the same content (more or less) across all outposts where you have publishing privileges.

  4. says

    Great article and case study which makes a very good point. People often make the mistake of assuming that the platform with the highest click through will give more conversions. Getting the actual conversation data is very crucial, otherwise you may start making incorrect assumptions and start going down the completely wrong track. Most of the advantages of online is its capability of tracking and evaluation, so it would be a pitty not to use this capability…A click through, even if it doesn’t convert, provides brand awareness which is not a bad thing, but equally it might not be your campaign intention…Thanks again!

  5. says

    I totally agree. Clicks are fun and easy, but they aren’t where the action is. When the rubber hits the road, we need conversion data. Nice post!

  6. says

    Hi Tom,

    Conversions drive business.

    Clicks are good – the more the better – but of course, good mainly in the ego building department.

    Conversions grow your business and put money in your pocket.

    Smart post!

  7. says

    Great food for thought! One thing I always ask people when they’re calculating their ROI in social media is how they’re calculating their ROI in their online reputation. If your online reputation isn’t in good standing, the likelihood that any of these conversion calculations for better ROI in social media will be unsatisfactory. Good ORM should always be in any social media strategy.

  8. says


    I’ve been dropping the ball. Thanks for the solid information! Time to step up my tracking game and see what’s what.

  9. says

    Hi Tom,

    They both go hand in hand. It’s all a numbers game. The more clicks you have will ultimately lead to more conversions. That is, if your Call to Actions etc are set in place. Really good info.


  10. says

    You can now get that exact data in Google Analytics, in the recently added Overview & Channels report, in the Acquisition section

    Very usefull stuff to track opt-in flows or specific e-commerce conversion rate

  11. says

    Hey Tom,

    You do realize Google Analytics actually does provide conversion tracking, right?

    You can set up a goal, add some code and then start tracking.

    We use it over at Social Media Examiner to see what social channel is leading to the highest percent addition to our newsletter.

    Just food for thought

  12. says

    Great post.
    As a Piwik user, I would highly recommend it as an alternative to Analytics. Now I know that there might be a few people that can highlight features that GA has that Piwik doesn’t, but I personally find that many of the features and graphs provided by Piwik are not matched by GA…
    Just my 2 cents worth… :)

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