An impressive number of businesses dive into social media without a clear vision of what they’re trying to achieve. It’s a sprint to sign up for Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other networking websites without considering and determining their impact on the business. There’s no point being there if you aren’t sure how to use social media to engage customers, build communities, and maximize profits.

You build community; the community will build your business:

Simon Mainwaring rightly said, “Social media is not about the exploitation of technology but service to community.” Today, even the tiniest businesses want to get the most out of social media, as it allows businesses to harness the power of the crowd and turn users into unknowing promoters.

Building social media community:

Suppose a helicopter crashes into mountain and no one is there to hear it. Does it make a sound? Yes, it makes a Hell of a lot of noise. But no one is there to respond, so it happens and done. It’s a similar case with tweets, likes, wall post and comments. If your messages are communicated without building significant or relevant communities, it is of no use. Specifically, these messages/posts should truly focus on dialogue among and with customers, which in turn build relationships. Remember, a strong community can build the brand and when the brand is criticised, its members will defend “their” brand.

Social media’s KPIs for Community Building:

Social Media KPIs and metrics help you to track how your users are actually engaging with your product, including specific feature usage. Tracking these metrics can help to improve product discovery, usage and business decision-making. Suppose you are trying to build a community around your boutique business. You are getting likes, tweets, comments, shares, etc. It means that people are watching, enjoying and you are getting noticed. But how to know that your social media efforts are fruitful and helping you to emerge as a brand in your community?

The inherent challenge is that how to get insightful analytics about community building efforts, which are largely intangible relationships. Community building is all about building relationships. How can you do cost-benefit-analysis on a relationship?
We can’t measure relationships, but we can measure engagements- especially positive engagements or potentially negative comments.

Traditional ROI of Social Metrics:

Think. Why don’t traditional ROI metrics help you to determine your community building efforts? Traditional ROI metrics are methods that your PPC team use 24/7. You will be disappointed if you treat social media like a PPC campaign. If you think that you can directly track the value you are adding through social networks, you will be disappointed. If you’re skeptical, I understand. I am not saying that you can’t track success (you can do this, certainly). You need to understand what can actually be considered as “success” with social media.

An Alternate ROI Metric: Customer Acquisition Cost

The major benefit of community building is that it can significantly reduce customer acquisition cost. By building your community, you can build your brand equity & recognition, drawing in new users for very small costs.

Social Metrics:

Next, you need to measure content-based metrics and ROI related metrics. With social metrics you should measure ‘likes’ (applause) and ‘Engagement’ (share comments). Content related metrics depicts success of your content. It evaluates which parts of your content people read/watch/ view. To get insights into these content related metrics, you need to evaluate the economic value of macro and micro conversation. Google Analytics allows you to measure the visits to your site by social network.

In short, these are the great indicators of measuring engagement or relationships. Community-building efforts have huge impact on establishing you as a brand, but you can hardly measure the revenue coming from these efforts.

I know, ROI is hard to measure. But it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t even look at them. These metrics listed aren’t really groundbreaking, but are incredibly important for your business. You might be tracking some of these matrices, if not all of them.

Tools to Measure Social Media Impact:

What’s the best tool for measuring reach and engagement on all social media platforms (or at least Twitter, Google+, Facebook)? There are tons of tools (Hootsuite, Slingbot, True Social Media Metrics, SocialMention, Rival IQ and many more). These tools will help you to figure out which metrics will lead to more growth and engagement for your product. Rival IQ in particular monitors your company’s activity on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and even SEO along with imparting insight on competitor tracking and your industry as a whole. You need to set your own micro and macro goals for calculating effect of social media on your business. You can see how many times your post was shared, how many likes, how many thumbs up on YouTube.

You need to focus on improving conversation rate (that is real active engagement of users), competitive analysis (competitors social media campaigns), content analytics (what kind of topics and content are the best at engaging your followers), and audience analytics (find powerful social influencers for your business) for your social media pages. Remember, the right social media metrics can help you to build your digital personality/ community.

Final thought:

Before stepping into the social media jungle, ask yourself; why are you considering social media in your overall marketing campaign? Does your social media platform align with your business goals? Are you able to build a community around your business? Are you able to measure your social media efforts? If your answers are ‘yes’ to these questions, then certainly you should use social media metrics to build a community around your product/ service /business. Community building is not all butterflies, rainbows and stars. It is about dollars. More precisely, it is all about earning dollars by connecting and building relationships.

What do you think? Let me know in comments.

(Image credit: Jason Howie, via Flickr)

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