Social Media Marketing - Measure ROI in just 4 simple steps

Posted in Analytics by Jon Payne

The 4 steps to measure ROI of Social Media Marketing:

  1. Measure 'Vanity Metrics' for your sanity
  2. Measure Google Analytics Goals from social channels
  3. Measure "Dark Social"
  4. Collect and Analyse the data every month

The metrics measured in steps 1-3 are important but nuanced, so the details of each are explained below. I've spent years refining how to best report on the effectiveness of social media marketing to our clients and have created and shared a spreadsheet (download for free) so you can follow along with the instructions and explanation of various terms in the rest of these instructions.


Step 1: Measure "Vanity Metrics" For Your Sanity

As Bristol's Inbound Marketing experts we deliver social media marketing, as part of an Inbound strategy for lots of clients, which we measure using a Google Sheet based on this framework (that's a free download) and one of our early lessons with new clients that most metrics you can easily measure on social media are Vanity Metrics like these:

  • Month on Month follower growth
  • Likes
  • Comments
  • Shares
  • RTs
  • ♡s 

The different platforms all call them different things, but they're all about vanity. Someone liking your business page or following you on Twitter isn't immediately going to make your business more successful. Of course @StephenFry follows @NoisyMonkey...

celeb following means little in terms of profits

Tacit endorsement it may be, but social media binds us with a very thin thread... Stephen isn't a customer (yet) and we aren't all ordering jetskis because of the money raining through our office.

We categorise Social Media Vanity Metrics into three; Audience, Applause and Amplification. Though clever people like Avinash replace Audience with Conversation which makes sense but doesn't fit our use as well.

This is our take:

Social Audience = the combined number of your following across all platforms. 

Social Applause = the combined number of likes, ♡♡s and pretty much any of the Facebook 'Reactions' all your brand's posts receive.

Social Amplification = the combined number of comments, shares, ReTweets, saves, your brand's posts rececive.

Vanity Metrics are useful for understanding how likely it is that people will see or share the messages your brand puts out, if those messages resonate with people in your audience - but not much more. 

So, we use Vanity Metrics as a sanity check - we collect them month on month, shove them in this Google Sheet and check that we're growing the audience and the the messages we're sharing are getting shared. 

There's a sheet for each month:

Monthly Vanity Metrics from Social Media

We also record how many people used branded #hashtags - for us that might be #DigitalGaggle (one of our events) or #MonkeySay (we don't encourage the use of our brand name as a hashtag, in case you're wondering... it just looks weird to us).

Worth noting too is how much you're spending on Social Media ads... because you can track how this influences trends when you're looking at the overview sheet.  More about this later.

If you're thinking - "Where do I find these vanity metrics?" You need to take your initial steps into the native analytical tools of each of the platforms. Follow these links to read up on this stuff: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, other platforms, like Instagram, are often a bit of a pain. Sometimes it's easier to pay for a tool which collects all the data for you. We like BirdSong or RivalIQ.

Step 2: Measure Google Analytics Conversions From Social

This assumes you've got Google Analytics installed on your website and you have got Goals set up (if gathering sales leads is what you're after) or Ecommerce tracking working. If you have, you can skip the next paragraph...

If you haven't got goals or tracking set up in Google Analytics then have a word with yourself. Genuinely - what that frog are you thinking? Marketing is already full of wafty losers who couldn't get a proper job, without you adding to that number by failing at this absolute fundamental. Sign up for Analytics here. Do it now. Read this post from Nic about the best Google Analytics reports and learn to set up Goals, Ecommerce Tracking or both. Don't you bloody dare to download my beautiful spreadsheet until you've done this.

Open your Google Analytics account and in the relevant monthly column on the OVERVIEW sheet of the Google Spreadsheet thingy, insert the total number of visitors to your site (including PPC if you use it), the total from organic search and the total new organic users for that month. This is all right there on the first page of Google Analytics (don't forget to set the date range) - so it should be fairly easy.

Transfer Google Analytics data into the Google Sheet

Then, in Google Analytics, drill down into Acquisition > Channels.

Google Analytics Goals driven by social channels

From Analytics, copy the numbers of Sessions and Goal Completions (or Ecommerce Transaction Value) from the Social row, into the Total visits to website from social media (GA) and Social media conversions (GA) rows of the same sheet as you put the other Google Analytics data at the beginning of this step.

Step 3: Measure Dark Social

Because all the social channels apply some sort of tracking to outbound visitors from their websites to yours and because that sometimes causes Google Analytics to fail to measure these visitors, we suggest you tag your links from social media with your own tracking. It's super simple using the Chrome Extension called Professor Traffic. One click from the page you want to share and it creates unique tracked links which show up automatically in Google Analytics. 

To find visitors who used these tracked links to get to your website open Google Analytics, drill down to Aquisition > Campaigns and your tracked links are all showing up in there.

See tracked URLs in Google Analytics

You don't want to add the number of YOUR tracked links to the number that Google counts automatically - you'll get quite a bit of double counting. Using tracked links is insurance against you getting fired when Google suddenly screws up and stops measuring visitors from social properly for a few months. Much better that you have back up measures in place, so you don't have to stand weeping, and possibly soiling yourself, when reporting to your boss on the month the bottom drops out of your graphs. 

There isn't a calculation in the spreadsheet to give the average of the visitors from social that Google Analytics counts automatically vs the visitors who clicked your tracked links, feel free to add one to your version of the spreadsheet... it'd be totes useful.

Step 4: Collect & Analyse Data Every Month

Once you've got a few months of data (you can backdate this if you are eager by going back in Google Analytics for as long as you've had it set up and typically 90 days for each platform's native analytics tools) you can look at trends in the sparkgraphs sat next to your your Vanity Metrics and see if they correlate with Conversions in Google Analytics. Ask yourself questions like:

  • Does more engagement in month A, correlate with more conversions in month B?
  • Does a bigger Social Audience correlate with more organic visitors?

Questions like that. But remember this is high level stuff - it's CORRELATIVE DATA, NOT CAUSATIVE. You see lots of people eating ice-creams when the sun is out right? If I told you that if we all ate an ice-cream now the sun would start shining, you'd call me an idiot. Apply that cynicism to this data too.

That's it. You should be good to go.

Any questions? Hit me up on Twitter.

 Measuring success can be time consuming, like all of the socials. Grab our download now to save you some time.

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Jon Payne
Jon Payne

Founder and Technical Director of Noisy Little Monkey, Jon blogs about SEO and digital marketing strategy.

Meet Jon Payne

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