It's time to get smart about social media. Social media today is reminiscent of the early days of other online channels or media -- from websites and email to search engines and behavioral targeting -- no one knew quite what success looked like and some of the early experiments were not only un-optimized, they were just plain awful.
Eventually, the experimental approach gave way to a more sophisticated, metrics-based approach and, then, CFO's began to notice the healthy ROI's coming from these online channels.
Social media is on the same trajectory. Many brands are beginning to set goals around social media engagement, which often include measuring the number of fans, followers, impressions, comments, reviews and other variables.
Comparing how you're doing against competitors and market leaders is easy and tools allowing brands to monitor the conversation in the social media sphere are becoming more sophisticated and ubiquitous. Marketers can track mentions of their brands, as well as the posts of other brands and companies.
All of this can help justify the time and expense of pursuing a robust social media strategy, but still falls short of providing solid ROI data. Now tools are emerging that take a giant leap forward.
Marketers wanting to take their social media campaigns to the next level need to ensure that they are using tools that are not only able to track posts and reposts, but can also track all the way through to clicks, orders and sales. This takes understanding the impact of your social media to a whole new level.
Marketers can know which types of discounts and offers from specific posts and tweets are driving the most sales. Or, if brands have several accounts on Facebook and Twitter, they can determine which types of offers to which specific audiences are performing the best.
Tools with these capabilities can help marketers understand which product features and benefits are driving the most sales through social media messages. As messages are retweeted, they are tracked and measured, which adds to the overall picture of a campaigns' effectiveness.
By tracking sales and order performance, marketers can optimize their social media activities based on ROI and traditional direct marketing principles. Time and resources spent on social media just got much easier to justify.
Very soon, marketers will be able to report to the CMO and CFO that social media ROI is higher than expected and even higher than other online and offline marketing channels -- and the data will be there to prove it.