John Wanamaker, considered by some to be the father of modern advertising, left us with this startling perceptive nugget of wisdom before passing off into the sunset in 1922: "Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half." 


And now, almost 100 years later, that issue still remains -- businesses find it exceptionally difficult to track the return on their advertising investments, particularly when it comes to retail establishments. 


But seeing what your return is through digital media -- and particularly social media -- shouldn't have to be a shot in the dark. Here are 3 simple ways to track your social media ROI through social media: 

1. Focus on One Specific Goal.


There are a litany of different reasons for a business to be on social media -- customer retention, decreasing customer service inquiry times, or finding out more about your customer's demographics, among others.


And yet most of the time businesses focus on just one thing: customer acquisition. 


The problem is, customer acquisition is just a small part of what makes social media so successful, and one of the more difficult (and expensive) things to do in marketing. 


The Solution? Focus on measuring the success of just one specific goal. 


Say, for example, you want to increase the efficiency of customer service inquiries. If you were able to drive just 1/4th of those inquiries towards social media, and they took half the amount of time as they did over the phone, you would see an overall efficiency increase of 25%. 


The more focused you make it -- i.e. having a goal of retaining 8 out of every 10 new customers -- the more likely you'll be able to track it, and the easier it will be to see the ROI of your efforts. 


2. Create Social Media Specific Promotions


The challenge with marketing any sort of product or service is that even if your business starts to see an uptick in sales, most of the time you won't be able to determine where those sales are coming from and why they're happening. Is it simply due to your latest advertising push, or a change in the weather? 


An easy way to solve this problem is by creating social media-specific promotions -- ones that you promote solely through your social media channels and nowhere else. 




A great example of this is from the California fast casual chain California Tortilla which presented its Facebook fans with a Facebook-exclusive password that netted them some free stuff. 



Make the variations simple enough that they're not cost-prohibitive, but unique to a specific time period -- i.e. a holiday-themed variation of a popular drink. 


Or simply create a Facebook Offer for a product that rewards your Facebook fans with something that's either inexpensive, or something you would normally give away with to begin with. 


Now, compare the success of that promotion to previous ones to see how they stack up. Was it a flop? Back to the drawing board. Huge success? Rinse, repeat. 


3. Bridge The Gap Between Social Media and The Real World  


The coolest, most successful campaigns that see huge positive ROI through social media often take advantage of the non-traditional nature of the medium. 


For example, a restaurant in Boca Raton, Florida has a parking spot reserved especially for its Foursquare mayor. And this coffee shop in Houston, Texas allows its customers to order online directly through its Twitter handle (and doubled its business). And this company ended up seeing a 500% boost in sales just from quickly retweeting its clients tweets. 


And here are five other big-brand examples just to get your creative juices flowing. 


So think outside of the limitations of traditional marketing -- allow patrons to make table reservations through your Twitter handle, or tally up the number of 'likes' that specific ice creams have gotten through your Facebook page and show that number on the label. 


And undoubtedly, there will be instances in which the likes, pins, and retweets simply won't directly correlate to any sort of positive ROI. But by using these three tips you'll be able to better pinpoint which 50% of your marketing dollars are working for you. 

By: Mike Kilcoyne

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