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How Much is a Retweet Worth?

Social media marketing is not free—not if time is money. Whether an organization pays an in-house staff member or hires an outside Internet marketing firm, it pays for its social media marketing efforts.  A lot of businesses have chosen, at least for now, to handle the social reigns themselves. Regardless of whose time and money is spent, the big question is: can a business measure its return on this investment?

With the increase in tech-savvy teens, social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are increasingly becoming a significant part of a corporations’ (or small businesses’) marketing strategies. While most anyone with Internet access can set up a Facebook page and attract friends and fans, many question the viability of social media as a marketing tool able to influence consumer behavior.

Although it is nearly impossible to analyze the value of social media marketing in terms of dollars spent versus dollars earned (due in part to its viral nature), there is value now that can be had and measured. As with any marketing effort, the first step is to clearly define the goals of a social media marketing campaign. Rather than thinking of social media marketing’s end result in terms of its effect on product or services sold, businesses should understand that the currency of social media is action. Social media is really about eliciting an active response from the cyber community—responses such as clicking “Like,” sharing links and posting comments.

The size of a company’s cyber following is important. These are critical connections: loyal customers, potential partners and (hopefully) future clients. The rate of growth should constantly be monitored—it is one thing to build a foundation of family and friends; it’s another to continue attracting new fans and followers.

In some cases, tracking numbers is not enough. Some actions may be worth more than others. One legitimate question on a company’s blog from a prospective client may be worth a lot more than 50 retweets of an inspirational quote.

There are many ways for business to quantify the actions generated by their social media tools. Google Analytics is a set of free, user-friendly tools that allow business to track their website traffic and marketing effectiveness, including traffic from web-enabled phones, mobile websites and mobile apps.

 

Facebook offers free analytics of its own. In March 2011, the organization introduced new analytic tools, allowing users to access real-time data from their websites and Facebook pages, showing, for example, the number of times people saw “Like” buttons and the number of times they clicked on them.

There are other organizations that will perform social media marketing analytics on a business’s behalf, like HootSuite, with its “social media dashboard” and Klout, with its “Klout score.” The basic HootSuite dashboard allows users to monitor and post to multiple social networks. It also tracks brand sentiment, follower growth, and incorporates Facebook and Google analytics.

Instead of counting the number of a company’s Facebook fans or Twitter followers, Klout combines several data points and uses an algorithm to calculate the company’s Klout score that signifies “sphere of influence.”

Social media managers should use tools these tools if they help. But they should keep in mind that not every metric has value to a company’s bottom line. Just because HootSuite can track it, does not mean the company should.

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