So you’ve sold your CEO on social media, convinced the director of your nonprofit of the importance of having a presence on Instagram, or are an entrepreneur committed to devoting time and resources to using Facebook to get your business’s name in front of your customers. Fantastic! Social media marketing is EasySocial’s bread and butter and we’re 100% in favor of using every resource available to you. But then you get a few months in, and start to ask yourself the question that you probably should have answered in the first place, “What is social media worth?” How do you measure return on investment for something that is so potentially nebulous.

It’s easy at that point to fall back on standard measurements such as followers, likes, retweets, or what have you. The difficulty is to draw any kind of connection from those statistics to your bottom line. Without a clear link from social media metrics to your business or organization’s goals, actually measuring the usefulness of the work you’ve put in is almost impossible. It’s easy for those of us who are already sold on social marketing to become siloed in our approach, and forget to tie our results to real world measurements. Before we ever invest time and energy into social media there must be clearly defined goals for what we’re trying to accomplish.

That makes “What are you trying to accomplish?” your most important question. Social media can address a number of goals across all the stages of customer acquisition, including customer service after the sale is made, not to mention separate categories altogether such as recruiting. So, the first step is to define 3-5 categories or business objectives that social media can directly impact. These could range from generating interest for an upcoming product launch, generating e-commerce sales, reducing customer service contacts, or recruiting for a new position. It’s important to look beyond just brand reach while identifying your business goals, although that can be a great place to start. Ideally, revisit your social media goals every quarter to confirm that you’re hitting the mark. Then, determine which social tools are best suited to the goals you’ve established.

Now that you’ve defined your business objectives and chosen your tools, next decide what KPIs you can use to measure the success of your work. For example, if you’re trying to drive e-commerce sales, you’ll want to track customers along each step of the sales funnel. Perhaps you’re doing a great job of driving initial interest, but need to do a better job of converting clicks to purchases. Without clear metrics, it’s much harder to refine your process, which is why this is so crucial. Alternatively, if you’re using social media as a customer service