Social media can be very exciting. For companies who are brave enough to embrace social media and integrate engagement within their communication and marketing strategies, the most daunting part is measuring its impact on the bottom line. And lest you think that you need to be a seasoned marketing professional to really know how to measure social media engagement, think again – it’s something everyone struggles with.

X Marks the Spot

Return on investment (ROI) is a term that’s often used to establish the value of spending time, money and energy on something. For many, ROI is expected to result in actual dollars. What makes social media unique (and overwhelming) is that there has yet to be a definitive equation that says X number of followers or posts or interactions results in Y number of dollars raised or products sold.

So how do you develop an effective social media marketing strategy so that you get the most bang for your buck? And how do you even know what to measure?

The most frequent question social media strategists are asked is “How do I know if it’s [social media] is working?” The usual reply is that definitive goals need to be outlined and established. After all, in order to measure X, you have to know what X is to begin with. It’s very easy to get bogged down thinking that everything you do on social media needs to result in a specific action, but the beauty of social media is that it’s a journey, not a destination.

Develop Realistic Goals

A few considerations to keep in mind when developing your goals include:

Not every Business on Social Media has an Immediate Product to Sell

Sometimes your widget isn’t a product, but an experience. Social media can provide excellent opportunities for organizations, for profit and non-profit, to promote themselves. If you’re a restaurant, you will want to create an online environment where current patrons feel comfortable sharing their feedback (positive and negative) and prospective customers can get a feel for what you have to offer.

It’s all about Creating an Incentive

Before you decide what’s in it for you, you must decide what’s in it for your customers. Like any well developed product or service, your social media presence should solve a viable problem or add value to an experience. Whether it’s providing coupon codes, discounts or an opportunity to by pass traditional customer service channels, users should get something out of their engagement, otherwise what’s the point?

Capitalize on your Strengths

You can’t be everything to everyone. If you spread yourself too thin, you’ll risk losing or creating valuable relationships. If this was a discussion about your traditional marketing approach, strategists would recommend streamlining your business so you’re only doing what you’re good at.