June 23, 2011
How To

Social Media Marketing: 8 tactics to measure and improve Facebook results

SUMMARY: Social media marketing is hailed as an inexpensive way to engage an audience -- but how many marketers know the amount of revenue they've generated from Facebook? Or how much they've invested in the network?

Check out these 8 tactics you can use to measure, improve and justify your Facebook marketing. We've pulled examples from measurement experts, social marketers and industry research to show you how to capture and apply the data sitting at your fingertips.
by Adam T. Sutton, Senior Reporter, MarketingSherpa

Facebook is the top social media platform used by marketers. According to the MarketingSherpa 2011 Social Marketing Benchmark Report, 84% of social marketers use Facebook in some way.

With so much emphasis on Facebook, marketers need to be sure that the network is worth their investment and that their tactics steadily improve. The only way to do that is to measure your results and analyze the data.

Without data, you cannot be sure campaigns are working, how they could be improved, or whether you're generating a positive ROI. This is true for all marketing, whether in direct mail or a social network.

We sat down with social marketing experts and practitioners to uncover the best tactics to measure your Facebook marketing. Listed below are 8 tactics you can use to track your performance, improve your campaigns and justify your investments.

Tactic #1. Start with concrete goals and metrics

Let's start with a reminder: You must clearly define your goals on Facebook before you can measure results. If you do not clearly define your goals, then you cannot clearly identify your metrics, and you can end up chasing irrelevant data and red herrings.

Here are the top two social media marketing objectives reported in the 2011 Social Marketing Benchmark Report:

1. Increase website traffic through social media integration: 56%
2. Improve brand awareness or reputation: 51%

These goals relate to social media in general. Be sure to choose goals that are well suited to Facebook and your audience specifically. For example, are you more likely to increase awareness on Facebook, or are you more likely improve the relationships with customers you already have?

- Assign key metrics to each goal

Once you have concrete goals, you need to select metrics to track your progress.

"Every time I engage with a company or brand trying to make a presence on social media, the first question I always ask is 'What is your goal?' Then the second question is 'How will you be able to measure that goal?'" says Mathieu Hannouz, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Neolane, a marketing technology provider.

For example, if your goal is to increase leads and sales, then you should measure the number of leads generated through Facebook, their conversion rates, and their total value. If you want to increase e-commerce sales, then you should measure the number and volume of sales generated from people who found you on Facebook (more on how to track this data in a moment).

- Be aware of your timeline

If you have a long sales cycle, then the impact of your Facebook marketing might not be immediately visible. You might need to monitor several indirect metrics before realizing your overall impact, says Boris Grinkot, Associate Director, Product Development, MECLABS.

"For example, if your Facebook-driven visitors convert after more than six months, then the correlation of your sales to your Facebook marketing is going to be statistically tenuous -- at least at first," Grinkot says.

"On the other hand, if you are looking at traffic metrics, then you don't have that latency problem and traffic metrics are typically easier to track. This approach may not be as definitive, but it can be much more practical until your traffic volume permits a statistically valid correlation between Facebook activity and sales."

Tactic #2. Set benchmarks to compare channels

You must set benchmarks for your other marketing channels to compare them with your results on Facebook.

If you want to compare the ability of Facebook to generate leads compared to your other channels, then establish average lead-gen benchmarks for each of your marketing channels by calculating their averages over a set period or investment level. You can then compare your results on Facebook to you average results elsewhere.

You can follow a similar process for setting e-commerce benchmarks. First, calculate the average revenue generated in each of your marketing channels over a set period or investment level. Then compare with your results on Facebook.

"You really have to find out where your benchmark is, just to have something to compare it against as you go forward," says Connie Bensen, Director, Social Media and Community Strategy, Alterian.

- Don't forget investment

Setting up a Facebook page is free, but the time you spend building and engaging an audience generates real costs, as does the content you feature and any coding you do to improve your page.

"The biggest misnomer is that social media is free," Bensen says.

Monitoring your results on Facebook is important, but do not forget to monitor your investment. You want to be able to compare your ROI in Facebook to the ROI you receive in other channels and decide if you need to improve your tactics, change your goals, or focus resources elsewhere.

Tactic #3. Connect Facebook marketing to website stats

Offering visitors a custom webpage is a well-known way to increase conversion rates, but it is also an effective way to track your Facebook marketing.

For example, SteelMaster, a steel building manufacturer, has a Facebook page with more than 9,500 "likes" (Facebook "pages" are essentially Facebook profiles for organizations, businesses, celebrities and artists). SteelMaster's marketers direct fans from its Facebook page to custom landing pages. This helps SteelMaster measure traffic from its efforts on the network.

"We control our website and landing pages," says Michelle Wickum, Director, Marketing, SteelMaster Buildings. "So we direct everything through a specific path and naming structure so when it goes into our CRM database, it's very specifically tagged to how that interaction occurred."

Using dedicated custom landing pages to receive visitors from Facebook will help you monitor the amount of traffic you're generating and the behavior of visitors arriving from the network. If the landing page is truly dedicated to your Facebook efforts, then any traffic or conversions it receives should be directly related to your marketing there.

This approach can also apply to marketing channels beyond websites. You can offer dedicated, custom phone numbers and coupon codes on Facebook to monitor responses to your offers on the network.

Tactic #4. Estimate Facebook's contribution to conversions

If you have good website analytics, then you can track the behavior of visitors arriving from Facebook. For example, you will know if a visitor arrived from Facebook, viewed a product, left your site and returned three days later to convert. You would then know that Facebook contributed to that conversion.

But the story doesn't end there. It can be difficult to determine exactly how much of your Facebook marketing contributed to that conversion.

"Attribution is a huge issue," Grinkot says. In the above example, marketers cannot assume that Facebook was solely responsible.

"It's possible that the person visited the site before. They might have come from Facebook, but that might not have been the first touch. It's hard to tell."

Instead, to tease-out Facebook's contribution, marketers can compare the quality of visitors from Facebook (such as their average order values or conversion rates) with the quality of visitors who did not arrive from the network, Grinkot says.

Tactic #5. Leverage Facebook's analytics data

Facebook recently updated its analytics application, Insights, to give marketers more data on their content and pages in the network. Insights is available for all "pages" that have at least 30 likes.

Insights provides helpful data for improving your tactics within the network, such as:

o Page data -- traffic, "likes," comments and other activity on a brand's page

o Content data -- impressions, clickthrough rates, "likes," sharing, comments and other data on your content throughout the network.

o Referral data -- stats on referral links and traffic from Facebook to your website.

o Demographic data -- aggregated data on age groups, sex, language and location for many of the actions listed above.

This data is aggregated in real time. Marketers can view reports for various time periods, such as for the last two days or the last six months.

- The data guide the tactics

Many of the granular metrics in Insights will help you improve the tactics that drive your top-level metrics.

For example, Wickum sees Facebook as an opportunity to engage SteelMaster's prospects and customers. Although comments, "likes," and views are not overall measurements of engagement by themselves -- they contribute to engagement. Her team is able to identify the content, offers and tactics that increase these metrics, focus on those tactics, and increase overall engagement.

Tactic #6. Use "page tabs" to target specific goals

Marketers can also create "tabs" on their Facebook pages that act as mini-pages. Tabs can feature content such as image-rich promotions, buttons to visit websites, embedded videos, and forms to collect user information.

By creating tabs that connect with your overall goals on Facebook, you can measure the channel's performance. For example, if your goal is to increase email subscribers, then you can create a tab to register users and tag them in your database as coming from the network.

Facebook does not offer metrics on interactions within your page's tabs. This is because tabs are created and coded by companies on their own, says Justin Kistner, Senior Manager, Social Media Marketing, Webtrends.

"If Facebook wrote the code, then they can track it. But if they didn't write the code, then you need somebody else," Kistner says.

However, you can use custom landing pages on your website, database tagging, custom phone numbers, custom promo codes and other tactics to measure the response to offers in your tabs.

Tactic #7. Connect to business KPIs

Do not expect executives to get excited about "likes" or page views. The leaders in your organization want to see improvements to the bottom line, mostly likely through increased revenue, increased leads, or decreased costs.

"The challenge a community [manager] or a social media person has is that they really have to be able to speak in the language of the executive level. They really need to express it in charts and numbers that drive business objectives," Bensen says.

This can be difficult for marketers who focus on building reputation, awareness or sentiment on Facebook. These goals can be hard to directly attribute to the bottom-line and you may need to make a correlation.

For example, by targeting wall posts by location, you can focus your efforts on several cities and monitor the response in those regions, Kistner says.

"You can compare the lift that you are getting in those regions to the regions you did not promote to and use that as an indicator of the impact that Facebook marketing is having."

Tactic #8. Gradually improve your marketing

Measuring results on Facebook can help you improve performance and shift your goals when necessary. Here are two examples from SteelMaster:

- Segmenting the audience

Using Insights data, Wickum's team noticed that a significant portion of its Facebook audience preferred Spanish to English.

"If you had asked me beforehand how many of them spoke a language other than English, I probably would have told you the complete opposite," Wickum says.

In response, Wickum's team started posting links to content written in Spanish and targeted them to SteelMaster's Spanish-speaking audience on the network (Facebook allows marketers to target updates based on preferred language and location). This adjustment and others have helped the team increase post views and feedback.

- Shifting the overall goal

Wickum's team ran a "pretty significant" investment in Facebook Ads, but did not see a high enough return.

"We could clearly see where leads were coming from and where sales were coming from ... [And] we weren't able to tie that investment straight back to profitability," Wickum says.

In response, her team scaled back investment in the ads and shifted its strategy from acquisition to engagement. The team now focuses on interacting with customers and highlighting their stories, and controls investment by limiting the amount of time spent on Facebook each day.

Useful links related to this article

1. IdeaPaint - Image-rich promotions in tab
2. KFC - Registration form in tab
3. Delta -- Buttons to visit website in tab
4. Jones Soda - Embedded video in tab
5. SteelMaster - Custom phone number in tab
6. SteelMaster - Spanish content on wall

Social Media Measurement: Moving forward with the data and tools at hand

Social Media Measurement: Big data is within reach

Social Media Marketing: Facebook news feed optimization

How to target Facebook wall posts to specific fans

Strategic social media marketing advice from your peers

Members Library -- Webinar Replay -- Strategic Social Media Marketing: Get your business or agency started with an ROI-based approach

Members Library -- Optimization Summit 2011 Wrap-up: 6 takeaways to improve your tests and results

MarketingSherpa 2011 Social Marketing Benchmark Report

Facebook: Insights

Facebook: iFrames Tabs for Pages

SteelMaster Buildings




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