social media how toDo you think social media measurement is only about return on investment (ROI)?

Are you struggling to find measurements that are meaningful to your organization? Do you feel like you’re searching for a needle in a haystack of metrics?

Here are 8 useful metrics that you may not be measuring, but should be.

#1: Conversion Rates

Everyone wants to measure the volume of leads generated to get to the bottom-line ROI of social media efforts. But don’t forget about the value of the conversion rate! While the volume may not be there yet, the propensity to convert may be staring you right in the face.

You’ll need to have a mechanism in place to know when a lead comes from social media. Most people use the combination of a URL shortener and some form of a “cookie” to attach a campaign to a lead. Hootsuite has integrated Google Analytics into their URL shortener for a seamless transition to success metrics in analytics, while some companies are using proprietary shorteners and others are still trying to figure out how to do it.

One of the most important steps in understanding where your lead came from is to know when someone clicks on a social media link and then converts. The most reliable way to do this is to place a “cookie” on the user’s machine with the campaign name for the social media channel that generated the click. Then use your campaign reporting to track the number of leads and conversions you’ve generated.

The number will likely be fairly low in the beginning but by looking at conversions divided by leads, you can get your conversion rate for social media leads. Compare this against other marketing channels to see if it’s higher or lower.

# 2: The Control Group

Some of the greatest metrics I’ve brought forward in my company really didn’t look that impressive when I first got them. The volume of leads generated was pretty low when compared to our other marketing channels.

However, when I compared them against a group of people that had not interacted with social media, I found some amazing stats that not only got my executive team excited about social media, it also showed that social media has a huge impact on our ability to convert leads. This certainly makes it easier to justify budget dollars to integrate social media into the sales process.

To add a control group, run the same metrics you normally run against a group that has never interacted with social media and compare them. Look for how social media compares in areas like lead conversion rates, retention rates and costs.

conversion rates

CareOne has seen that social media involvement in the sales process has greatly improved the rate of those who sign up for a debt relief plan and the propensity for those new customers to make their first payment.

#3: Growth Rate

While you’re building volume, measure the growth rate over time. Being able to show that volume is growing at a healthy rate helps prove that your efforts are generating an impact. The reality is that it takes time to build a sustainable social media channel; thus, setting proper expectations is very important.

#4: Marketing Campaign History

It’s really important to look at how your company reports on “cookies” related to a sale. After doing some digging, I found that my company was attributing the credit for the sale to the campaign that was the first cookie the prospect had received. We can now report on the originating campaign, the campaigns responded to in between, and the converting campaign.

small cookie

This helps us know all of the drivers to the sale and appropriately adjust costs related to the sale to get closer to a true ROI as well as look for that magic mix. Even if your sales process isn’t online, you need to make sure your CRM system allows for tracking to marketing efforts through the entire sales cycle and your teams are appropriately trained to track it.

#5 Customer Acquisition Costs

Everyone is touting how “cheap” social media is, though many of us have realized that is somewhat of a fallacy. However, it is cheaper than many other traditional channels, so measure the full campaign history (as stated in #2) and then assign the cost per conversion and compare it against your control group.

Here are two examples of how this can happen:

  • A person clicks on a link in one of your tweets and goes to your site and converts into a new customer.
  • A person clicks on a paid advertisement on Google and doesn’t convert. Then later clicks on a link in one of your tweets and goes to your site and converts to a new customer.

Depending on your business model and typical advertising expense, in the first example, the cost to generate that customer could be less than a standard customer who comes through paid advertising.

In the second example, the cost will be higher than the standard customer who comes only through paid advertising, BUT even if it’s slightly higher for those who responded to more than one channel for lead generation, the incremental cost of social media will likely be less than trying to replace the unconverted lead with a new one.

#6: Retention Rates

Right behind the ability to convert a customer is the ability to keep a customer. Compare the inclination of new customers to stay customers with and without social media interaction. The theory is that those participating in social media are more engaged and likely retain better.

In order to do this you’ll need to keep all the leads converted in #1 and track them over time. If you have an ongoing fee, measure how long they stay a customer. If you’re more of a onetime sell, measure if they come back and buy something else and how often they do. Then compare this against the control group of those who didn’t interact with social media and see if there are any improvements worth noting.

#7: Customer Saves

Many teams are using social media to help customers online and this often includes managing complaints. Measure how many times your team saves a customer from cancelling, switching or returning your product/service.

#8: Cross-Sells

Are social media customers more or less likely to buy additional services? How much revenue per customer was generated from social media compared to non-social media customers? How much revenue was generated from additional purchases and/or add-on products for social media customers? Compare this to your control group and you’ll be able to tell if social media has an impact on up-selling or cross-selling.

This is certainly not a complete list of metrics, but it gives an overview of some of the most commonly missed measurements that contribute to showing social media’s value to your organization and/or clients.

What would you add to the list? Please let us know what you think in the comments box below.

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  • Very informative post! Thank you for the details on how to measure the benefits of Social Media involvement. These are tools I will put to good use with my clients.

  • Hey Mike,
    I use Amplify for posts like yours a lot and for some reason it will not work on your blog. This has happened a few times and I wonder why that is. Any ideas?

  • Hmm. Not really sure ??

  • I try my hardest to keep track of my company’s social media efforts, it’s not an easy feat but I agree with you when you say it’s definitely needed.
    Even though I do use Hootsuite, I don’t use their internal shortener, but attaching Google utm variables to track each of the links, it worked out good so far for me, even if of course it takes far more time to get proper result than people would like to.

  • This is a very timely post. I am in the middle of producing our website copy, and we have a tab for social media measurement. Also, using url parameters in google analytics helps a ton. Thank you for the reassurance that I am on the right track!

  • silktide

    You mention using cookie,s but what happens when the EU law to ban cookies without consent comes through?

  • The problems with using Google Analytics is that it is difficult to measure directly which posts led to conversions. You can only track which links led to Social Media or how much traffic you’re getting from social media.

    Also, using or for tracking doesn’t work since one URL is attributed to the same destination regardless of what social network you post on.

    Socialblaze solves this problem so you can track which posts led to which conversions. It has a built in tool where you can determine your total conversions from social media, including which posts led to conversions and which ones led to the most conversions.

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Lauren – Thank you so much for the positive feedback. I’m so glad you got something out of the post! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Gabriele – Tracking definitely isn’t easy and does take work. It’s great to hear that you are making progress!

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Nick – I’m so glad the post was timely for you! It sounds like you are working on some amazing things. I’d love to hear the results!

  • Nichole_Kelly

    David – It will certainly be interesting if this comes to fruition. Cookies provide consumers many things that benefit them and luxuries that they actually enjoy, such as sites knowing who they are and personalizing information for them like on Amazon. For us, we only operate in the US so this likely won’t pose a challenge for us unless it becomes a global standard. If it does, than we will have to adjust like everyone else. I wonder if the consumer really wants to have to approve cookies, for me it would probably drive me crazy. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • You know, I saved this article as a .webarchive file on my Mac desktop. If I manage to get through each point and assess what I’m doing, I’ll come back later and leave a comment on my result.

    I can say right now that I’m not tracking conversion effectively, because I don’t have my vision correctly implemented.

  • Great post. I especially like #2: the Control Group. What a great way to show how social media and lead generation are powerfully connected. How can executives discount it’s value after stats like those?

  • Hi Gabriele – take a look at what we’re building at Argyle Social – – integrated/dynamic URL parameters and conversion tracking for the lazy amongst us. ๐Ÿ™‚


  • Great stuff in here Nichole!
    All of these are great metrics that people can actually use. The trick here is finding which ones align with their company’s goals for using social media, but I’m sure most companies can make use of at least one of your metrics.
    I will 100% be sharing this info with people. Thanks!

    Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos (

  • Gstrong

    Perhaps consider a couple of other things – the no: of transactions (i.e. how many times they purchase from you) and the average dollar sales (how much they spend each time they buy). From this you can figure out the lifetime value of the customer for your business. It’s pretty easy to work out – Average Dollar Sale x No: Transactions x Years = LTV. This way you can also see who you’ really making an impact on your business and is a great customer to work on keeping.

  • Addoway, Inc

    Very informative and a very nice read this morning. Thank you.

  • Neat post, NK!

    I found this huge list of social media tool links yesterday. Perhaps your readers would be interested as it’s a nice resource.

    And here is a super tech/social blogger aggregation site – with snippets of the best blog posts of the day:



  • Jessica MckKeown

    Love the cookie photo–only wish you made it clickable or referenced where you got it from as it’s a great example photo to use !

  • Nichole-

    Posts like this are rarely actionable, or they don’t offer enough granularity, but yours is a great exception. Thanks.

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Jessica – Oh my, I’m not sure how that happened as it was included when I submitted. Looks like the link was inadvertently left off, but here you go.

    Cookie Image Source:

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Dave – I am really looking forward to hearing your thoughts after you complete your assessment. If you need any assistance or want to share ideas I’d love to help! ๐Ÿ™‚ N

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Garrett – I agree, the most powerful thing we did was measure against a control group. While we are working to build to a positive ROI it told a great story of where we would have the most impact. Thanks for your comment.

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Sheldon – Wow! Thank you so much, I certainly appreciate you helping to spread the word. My previous posts talk more about metrics that align with company goals whether it is customer retention, customer acquisition or generating brand awareness. Hopefully the combination will be useful for companies working towards a measurement strategy.

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Gstrong – Absolutely! I actually talked about this more in my post on measuring social media for customer retention here Thanks for your comment.

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Thank you so much for your comment! I’m so glad you got something out of the post.

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Thanks Alisha.

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Wow Ian. Thank you so much for the feedback. It means a lot to know that you found the content actionable. It is something I keep in mind before writing any post and it’s nice to know that others are finding it useful. Again, thank you! You’ve officially made my day!

  • i read once about finding measurements and actually i needed to know more , this post made many points clear honestly so thank you a lot for the informations ๐Ÿ™‚

  • I think that this is a pretty cool list for measuring the effectiveness of almost any aspect of marketing- although it is obviously particularly applicable to social media marketing because social media marketing is a new and less proven form of marketing. Thanks for the info.

  • Did you actually make those cookies and take a picture of them for the post? Because that would be awesome.

    Seriously, thanks for the knowledge contribution. LOVE this site.

  • Jessica – If you looked at the bottom of the article you’ll find the attribution for the photo. It’s always been there. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Thanks Sarah! Actually we cited the source at the bottom of the article for those yummy looking cookies.

  • This is excellent. Well, except that I am craving cookies now. ROI and social is a tough one. But, measuring I can do and I am currently doing. Getting my clients to read and measure these things is another story. Curious on what you use to measure retention, is that after a client has already been counted in a CRM tool or just still following the brand on Twitter?

  • I thought the attention to cross sells was a notable one along with the retention rates – could also be known as driving a bit of customer loyalty through a social media channel.

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Rahul – I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks so much for taking the time to share your feedback. ๐Ÿ™‚ N

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Aharon – I totally agree. These are the same stats I have been using for years in marketing, however with Social they are even more important because there isn’t a presumption of effectiveness by executive teams like there is with more traditional forms of marketing. Thanks for your comment!

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Sarah – The picture of the cookies definitely made me hungry too! It is one of my favorite finds on Flickr! Thanks for commenting. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post.

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Lyndi – Thank you so much! I can see where getting clients to measure can be difficult. It may be helpful to layout a way for them to measure through the sales process. It certainly isn’t easy and may require IT involvement, but it is applicable beyond just social campaigns as they can use it for all of their marketing initiatives once it is set up. From a retention standpoint, here is what we do. CareOne helps people get out of debt. This is a process that usually takes 3-5 years for most customers and involves making consistent monthly payments to the company. To determine retention rates, we measure the average number of months a customer stays on a plan. When social media was involved we found that customers retain an average of 11% better than without. Since our goal is for them to be successful and get out of debt this is a very important measurement for us. I hope this helps. Thanks for taking the time to comment. ๐Ÿ™‚ N

  • Nichole_Kelly

    OurManin – Thank you so much for your comment. Cross sells and retention are very interesting to look at when social is involved. We actually look at how well customers retain if they were a prospect that converted from a social media channel and separately we look at how well customers retain if they engaged with social media after the sale, both show really positive results. ๐Ÿ™‚ N

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Michael – Thank you so much for pointing that out. I totally missed it too. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Good article, extremely timely for us. As we were struggling with measurement and tracking and it was getting to be a pain.

  • Nicole, what are you currently using to measure social at your company?

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Nix – That’s the magic question isn’t it! I can’t say our system is applicable to other organizations but I’ll tell you what we are using and a recommendation on the easiest solution I’ve seen to get to ROI.

    We use Omniture for web tracking and have a proprietary CRM tool. The easiest way I could follow people who interacted with social media through our sales process (online) was to create a proprietary URL shortener that had campaign codes set up for each channel, i.e. Twitter, Facebook etcetera. The URL shortener connects to Omniture which then pulls in sales data from the client from the CRM.

    For most companies the easiest solution is to use Google Analytics and Hootsuite. Hootsuite has it’s own shortener which is already integrated with Google Analytics. If you already have your conversion points set up in Google analytics then you will be able to use Hootsuite to feed in the cookied prospects from social media which will then report all the way through in the Hootsuite interface.

    I’d be happy to discuss more with your particular situation if you’d like. Just hit me up on Twitter.


  • Great post Nichole!
    If we were to drill down to a specific social media channel, for example, Twiiter, what would your top metrics be?
    Check out Terametric ( We believe that there is a correlation between inbound customer activity and outbound marketing activities.

  • Wow… you’ve said it all already that I don’t even know what to add. I love your advices here and I think that businesses should focus not only on the number of unique visitors to their sites, but also on how many of those visitors become customers or brand advocates. Thanks!

  • Great,Nichole! One of the best posts about SMM

  • Mark Farmer

    The graph in point #2 makes no sense – what does “social prior to lead form” and “social after lead form” refer to?

  • Metrics are always a prime concern for my clients. Thanks for your post!

  • Armegedia

    The best metric is sales as everyone is using social media some of it tends to be white noise as far as a merchant is concern the best new platform is the citylifecard as it allows merchants to issue direct discounts to consumers and get that their contact info to keep them in the loop on deals but the consumers can opt out at anytime which makesd them play nice. Better than groupon or living social in which your having to do a group buy. Check it out

  • SME

    One thing that still remains unanswered in how does someone whose actual sales takes place offline say an offline retailer, restaurants, accountants and others alike.

    How do they track the return of their social media investments?

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  • Bahadur

    In regards to social media measurement and web campaign analytics, if you are running a campaign for a corporate company or business that receives a large volume of phone calls through their website or other campaign landing pages, it is probably best to use something called the REF Code Analytics ( ) – it is a web analytics tool that permits you to not only track your visitors but also conversions such as those that are by calls straight to your business. REF Code can and actually SHOULD be linked together with Google Analytics and that will allow you to see details of all visitors and their normal navigation path. It is something any company that gets a high volume of calls through their website, should install.

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  • Kelly

    Great info! My question is on item #1. HOW do you attach a cookie to a lead? Is this something I would need a company like Hootsuite to do or is it something an average person can do?

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  • Hi Nichole – so I just came by this post (4 years later) and was curious what tool you are using to implement #4. Obviously it can be cobbled together by a developer but I’d think there’s a simple approach in 2014.