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As an executive with many demands on your time, you need to justify the investment of time that you put into social media. While you may feel intuitively that it has value, it’s like any other part of your business – at some point you need to show ROI.

There are tools that help companies measure social media results, but they are not designed for individual executives. So how does an individual measure results?

Ideally, when you started doing social media you defined a strategy for each social network – what you wanted to accomplish. Perhaps you wanted to use LinkedIn to generate more leads, Twitter to get more press coverage, Facebook for recruiting.

But you might have started doing social media simply because you felt you had to, rather than with specific goals in mind.

Or you might have intangible goals, such as raising your profile in the industry, being seen as a thought leader, maintaining mindshare, or building relationships.

Define Measurable Goals

If you defined a strategy that has quantifiable results, measuring success is relatively easy. Benchmark where you are now, monitor your numbers monthly, and track the improvement.

If your goals are intangible, your first step is to translate those goals into something that is measurable. For example, being seen as a thought leader could be measured by:

  • Number of times you are contacted by the media for interviews
  • Number of speaking engagements
  • Views of your updates and blog posts
  • Engagement (likes, comments, shares) with your posts

Building relationships could be measured by:

  • Engagement (likes, comments, shares) with your posts
  • Percentage of contacts who respond to your messages
  • Number of quality conversations with key targets

If you are not sure what your strategy should be, just start measuring. Sometimes a strategy will emerge on its own, over time. Or the numbers will tell you what’s working, and you can build your strategy around that.

Track Relevant Data

Once you have your goals in place and have decided how to measure success, the next step is setting up a process for collecting data.

As with anything else, the simpler you can make this, the more likely it is to get done. So choose a handful of key metrics – ideally three, but no more than 12 – and set up a spreadsheet where you can track those monthly.

What to Measure Where

It’s important to note that some of the numbers you want to track will be outside your social media accounts. Much of the benefit of using social media happens outside of social.

Track this data from your social media accounts:

  1. Number of followers on each platform.
  2. Number of views on your updates. You can add up all the views across all updates on each platform. (You might want to separate out status updates from blog posts on LinkedIn.) If you post often and this is too much to track, you might just look at the number of views on your most popular post.
  3. Amount of engagement (likes, shares, comments, favorites, retweets). Again, add up the number across all posts or just track the most popular post.
  4. What were the 3 posts that received the most attention and engagement?

Also make a note of who is engaging with you:

  1. Which customers, prospects, influencers, job candidates, and media viewed your LinkedIn profile?
  2. Which customers, prospects, influencers, job candidates, and media connected with you or followed you?
  3. Who are the top 3 people who engaged with you? Are they in your core audience (customers, partners, employees) or are they vendors?

If you have a small business and access to your website analytics, you will want to see if your activity in social media is translating into increased traffic to your website:

  1. How many people come to your website from each social media network?
  2. How many conversions came from social networks?
  3. What is the average number of page views for visitors from social media?
  4. What is the average visit length for visitors from social media?

You should also track this information outside of social media:

  1. How many quality conversations did you have with people who engaged with you in social media?
  2. How many deals closed with people you engaged with in social media?
  3. Do people mention your activity in social media?
  4. How many times have you been interviewed or asked to speak?

Some of these numbers will be low to start. But the old saying is true: You get what you measure. Over time, what you measure will improve. So take the time to define what you want out of social media, and track those metrics. You’ll be very pleased as you see your numbers increase over time.

Want to learn more about measuring social media results? Here are three interesting blog posts – they are written for businesses more than individual executives, but they do a good job of covering the issues:

The 5 Easy Steps to Measure Your Social Media Campaigns

A List of the Top 25 Social Media Analytics Tools

7 Social Media Metrics That Really Matter – and How to Track Them

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