It’s easy to measure activities. When you engage with a social media expert, they might promise you, in their proposal, “10 weekly tweets” or “at least 2 daily Facebook postings” (hopefully you will NOT see the latter, as too-frequent postings on Facebook are a surefire way to get fans to UNlike your page).
But is this really what you want to measure?
A better way to measure is to take a look at your Klout score or use tools such as SocialMention.com (free) and Sprout Social (not free, but affordable). These give you an idea of how influential you are in social media. Are people listening to what you say? Are they liking, commenting, retweeting?
Even this measurement doesn’t always work, though, because it basically measures popularity, but there are scenarios where a company is using social media to connect with a select group of influencers, in which case “influence” can be low even if there IS real return on activity in the sense that contact with those influencers is maintained.
Another interesting result to measure is to look at Google Analytics and see how much traffic your main site receives through social media.
Of course, if your sales cycle is short, the best thing to measure is actual sales generated through specific, contained social media campaigns (such as promotions and contests), or even a more general “Have sales increased since we have implemented our social media campaign?” If you want to measure conversions, tools such as Argyle Social are pricey, but are the best way to help you measure actual conversions from your general social media activity, and from specific social media campaigns.
Should you track your number of Facebook fans and Twitter followers? On Facebook I would say that the number of fans is somewhat important, but on Twitter the sheer number tends to be irrelevant, since so many followers are spammers, fake accounts, or accounts that simply play the numbers game and have no real interest in your content.
Whatever you do, you should definitely define the outcomes you’re hoping to get, and then see if you can find ways to measure them, or to get close.
But always measure outcomes – not activities.