Vicky Smithee is a public relations practitioner at Dallas-based C. Pharr and Co., a boutique agency specializing in public relations, marketing and social media. Follow her on Twitter at @VSmithee.

Social media strategists and community managers might be making their jobs harder for themselves when it comes to finding return on investment for their social media efforts, according to Nichole Kelly, CEO of Full Frontal ROI Consulting. During her “No Fluff Social Media Measurement” session at Explore Dallas, she explained that defining ROI for social media should utilize traditional metrics, rather than attempting to create special measurements exclusive to social media.

At a time when social media is a fixture in most business strategies but big budgets for it may not be, the bottom-line impacts of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and more have to be clearly articulated for executives, business owners and clients. Advising social media experts to cut the “fluff,” Kelly recommends adopting traditional metrics already understood by the C-suite.

“I can tell you the value of a Facebook fan: zero freaking dollars,” she said. “If it doesn’t correlate to the bottom line, it doesn’t matter.” The value of a relationship, whether social or not, can be measured by aligning it with business goals that already assess the health of a company. The benefits of social media can’t be evaluated in a silo; their success is based on the impacts in other areas of the business.

By estimating the value of social media through its supportive functions in key sales areas like lead generation, brand awareness and client relations, social media managers should quantify its impacts to sales, revenue and cost to the company. By drawing on data extracted from social media networks, Facebook follower count, Twitter retweets or blog comments can be translated into their effects on traditional sales goals such as cost per impression, cost per site visitor or increases to e-mail subscribers.

Kelly provided five quick tips to building a social media strategy that enables numerical metrics and establishes a clear relationship to measurable results:

  1. Set up Google Analytics to see the search impacts of social media activity and benchmark successes.
  2. Consider purchasing a Hootsuite account (or a similar dashboard) to view link or campaign-specific results, in addition to increasing efficiency with content fulfillment.
  3. Measure success by looking at the hard numbers. Look for sales goals that can be impacted by social media leads and decide how to quantify its impacts. Consistently report these to executives to ensure the direct benefits of social media are understood.
  4. Optimize content based on the results you gather. Continue to adapt the type, frequency and method of social media engagement to ensure actionable results from an audience.
  5. Work smarter, not harder. Tweak reporting methods to perfect account management, and keep end-goals in mind when strategically planning.

One more rule to substantiating the value of social media to executives: Avoid committing another disservice against your team by over-calculating social media-related expenses. Don’t add personnel costs to social media expenditures unless you’re doing so in other departments. It’s important to examine results-versus-cost on a fair playing field when comparing social media to other outreach efforts such as public relations or advertising.

To view Kelly’s presentation, visit http://ow.ly/98yYh. Explore Dallas was the first event of 2012 in a series of one-day, intensive seminars designed by Social Media Explorer to help professionals understand a deeper, more strategic approach to digital and social media marketing for their businesses.

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5 Responses to “Social media metrics: Stop trying to reinvent the wheel”

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  3. Awesome job highlighting the core messages for the session. It's an honor to be mentioned an included here. Thank you so much.

  4. Ciaran says:

    Some excellent points here…we all chase the numbers – but sometimes forget about the real true value to the business – what is added to the bottom line v the time spent in engaging in the various social media options. And now with even more pressure to be on more social networks such as Google + and Pinterest – its more important than ever to have a measurable plan and stick to it. Thanks for the share.